Driving down the Grand Concourse or any of the roads in the Bronx is not without its share of risks. Another driver can pull out in front of you at in intersection or from a parking lot and cause an accident that injures you or someone you love.
Most of the time, the driver who pulls out in front of you is at fault, and you may obtain compensation for your injuries and vehicle damage. However, exceptions do exist, and certain factors can lead the insurance company or court to determine you were at fault, or at least share some responsibility.
You need to understand New York’s law regarding fault and what factors go into determining fault in vehicle accidents since these factors can affect how much compensation you will receive. You need to arm yourself with as much information as possible to establish the other driver’s fault and defend yourself if the insurance company tries to deny liability or blames you for the crash.
Complex processes determine fault and obtain compensation, and you need an experienced Bronx car accident injury attorney to review your claim, advise you of your options, and help you get the compensation you deserve.
What Makes Finding Fault for an Accident so Important?
New York’s civil justice system and insurance companies rely on fault to establish liability and allocate monetary damages and other forms of compensation to those hurt because of someone else’s wrongdoing.
Another factor closely linked to fault is the concept of causation. Insurance companies and the courts will usually determine fault on who was most responsible for causing the accident. Insurance companies and civil courts will also find fault in terms of percentages. For instance, the insurance company may find you 25 percent responsible for causing the accident.
New York’s No-Fault Insurance Laws
New York is a no-fault state, meaning that insured motorists may obtain reimbursement for damages from insurance companies no matter who was responsible for causing the accident.
As such, New York requires drivers to have the following minimum liability insurance coverage on their vehicles:
- $10,000 for property damage
- $25,000 for bodily injury of one person, and $50,000 for two or more people
- $50,000 for the death of one person, and $100,000 for the deaths of two or more people
Drivers must maintain these coverages on any registered vehicles in New York, even if they don’t drive them. (Motorcycles have certain exceptions.) The insurance company must be licensed in New York and certified by the New York DMV.
The state does not accept out-of-state insurance coverage. The coverage must be in the name of the vehicle registrant, and if you do not have vehicle insurance coverage in New York, the state can suspend your vehicle registration and driver’s license.
No-Fault Benefits and PIP
Liability coverage protects you in the event someone else files a claim or lawsuit alleging you were at fault for causing the accident. Drivers in New York must also have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, or no-fault insurance, to cover the driver and any injured passengers in the other car regardless of who was at fault. PIP insurance also covers pedestrians struck by vehicles, and basic coverage pays up to $50,000 per person.
Depending on the coverage, no-fault benefits will pay for:
- Medical bills
- Transportation to and from medical treatment
- Related daycare or housekeeping expenses
- Lost wages
No-fault insurance does not cover vehicle or property damage, only injury claims. However, the coverage will pay first and promptly, and its purpose is to reimburse injured victims as soon as possible to help them restore their health and productivity.
You only have 30 days from the date of your accident to file a claim for no-fault benefits from the insurance company, so you need to act quickly and discuss your matter with an attorney immediately.
Who Decides Fault if Someone Pulls Out in Front of You?
On the surface, you might think that determining fault if someone pulled out in front of you would involve a straightforward process. After all, you were just driving along safely down Fordham Road on your way to the Bronx Zoo when the other driver suddenly entered your path, and you had no time to stop or swerve to avoid a collision.
However, several parties’ opinions will decide fault, such as:
- The police. When police officers respond to an injury accident, they will take witness and victim statements, and make observations as to the probable cause of the crash. They will include this information in the accident report and file a copy with the state. Although the accident report helps determine the accident’s cause, the report represents only one person’s opinion and does not fully settle the issue of fault. The report may give the officer’s impression of who caused the crash, but it is not an official or final decision. Nevertheless, the insurance company and the court will likely give a lot of weight to the officer’s report.
- Insurance companies. Virtually all car accidents involve insurance, and the insurance companies will use fault to decide whether they will accept a claim and how much they will pay. The company will schedule an adjuster to investigate the claim, and the adjuster will collect evidence to determine who caused the accident. However, their decision is not legally binding, and you may dispute their finding and take them to court if necessary.
- Attorneys. Your lawyer may also have an opinion as to who was at fault, and the opposing party’s attorney will likely have their own opinion, which likely will not agree with your lawyer’s opinion. Regardless, your attorney will collect evidence and make arguments as to who bears responsibility for the accident and your injuries, and they will fight to prove the other party was at fault.
- Judges and juries. If your case does go to court, the judge or jury will determine who was at fault. The court is really the final authority on the matter, and they can ignore police opinions and overrule an insurance company’s decision.
All parties will consider a lot of factors to form their opinions and reach decisions, and you need an experienced Bronx injury attorney to help you prove you are not at fault and advocate for you to help you get the compensation you deserve.
What Factors Determine Fault in a Bronx Car Accident?
Insurance companies and the courts will consider evidence from many sources to establish liability.
Although the police report won’t necessarily determine fault itself, it will provide important information such as:
- Statements from all drivers and passengers involved
- Eyewitness statements
- The vehicles’ points of impact
- Diagrams and reconstructions of how the accident happened
- Physical evidence in the road and surrounding areas
Furthermore, the report will take into account the actions of all drivers involved. New York recognizes that both drivers may share responsibility for the accident, even if one driver pulled out in front of the other.
Police officers will look at several things during their investigation, and some evidence may show the insurance company or the court that you bore responsibility for the crash, including:
- Speeding. Speeding drivers may not be able to stop in time if someone pulls out in front of them. If officers determine you were speeding, you may receive some or all the blame for causing the accident.
- Distracted driving. If police conclude you were looking at your cell phone or reaching for something in the back seat just before the crash, the insurance company or court can point to your distracted driving as the reason for the collision.
- Driving while impaired. If you were driving drunk or high when the accident occurred, the court and insurance company can use that information to blame you for the crash. Also, you will likely experience criminal repercussions.
- Driving drowsy. You may have fallen asleep behind the wheel or taken medication that made you too tired to drive safely.
- Failing to brake. Sometimes, drivers have no chance to react when someone pulls out in front of them, but if officers determine you had time to brake but didn’t, you could receive blame for the accident.
Other factors include whether one driver ran a red light or stop sign and whether either car was in proper working order to avoid a collision.
Determining fault is a multi-faceted, complex process, and many times, it relies on interpretations of facts. The other party’s insurance company will likely try every avenue to reduce their policyholder’s culpability while making you appear more at fault. Therefore, you need an experienced Bronx car accident injury attorney to gather evidence for you and challenge the insurance company’s claim you caused the accident or bore a significant amount of fault.
What You Should Do and Not Do After the Accident
What you say and do after the accident is important, and you never want to admit fault at the scene or even apologize for the accident. You may feel a lot of stress and the rush of adrenaline, but you should never say anything that others could take as your admission of fault or guilt. You should not speak to the other driver except to exchange insurance information, and you do not have to say anything to the police without first consulting an accident attorney.
If you are able, you should also document as much evidence as you can at the accident scene. You should take pictures of your vehicle damage and your injuries, the other driver and their vehicle and injuries, along with their insurance information, driver’s license, and license plate. You should also jot down details about the wreck while they are fresh in your mind and get statements from any witnesses.
Most importantly, you need to get prompt medical attention for your injuries, no matter how minor, and keep copies of all your medical records, bills, body shop estimates, and receipts for related out-of-pocket expenses.
Take Care When Talking to the Insurance Company
You want to submit your claim to the insurance company as soon as possible, and they will likely ask you questions regarding the accident and require you to submit forms to them. However, they may ask questions in ways that could lead you into inadvertently accepting blame for the accident, and they can use anything you say against you in court.
If the other driver did not have insurance, you will have to submit a car insurance claim to your insurance company. New York requires all drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage, and makes underinsurance coverage optional.
These policies cover you against uninsured drivers or if their policy did not fully cover your losses. However, deal carefully with your own insurance company so as not to admit any blame for the accident, Have your attorney deal with the insurance company for you.
What Types of Compensation You Can Get
The accident severely damaged your car and left you with serious injuries. After reviewing your case, your attorney may show you didn’t cause the accident, and you deserve the maximum amount of compensation allowed.
In New York, you can recover economic damages for things like your medical bills, lost wages, vehicle damages, and other out-of-pocket expenses. You may also receive non-economic damages for things like pain and suffering, disfigurement, mental distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Contact an Experienced Bronx Injury Attorney immediately
New York has a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits, and the statute drops to two years for wrongful death—so you need to file your claim quickly. If New York City bears responsibility for the accident, you will need to consult an attorney right away for advice on how to pursue compensation since you have only 90 days to file suit against the city and will likely have to jump through a lot of hoops.
The insurance company may blame you or refuse to cover your injuries and losses. Settlement negotiations can be long and exasperating, and if your case goes to court, you will certainly need a car accident attorney on your side for help. You have no time to delay in filing your claim and building your case, so contact an experienced Bronx car accident law firm immediately for assistance.