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Automobile Accidents in New York
An automobile accident is sometimes a simple routine case or at times can be a very complex matter. It all depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident, types of insurance coverage available, whether an accident reconstruction expert needs to be retained and whether the case also involves defects in the cars involved. A case could also be complicated if the injuries sustained by the parties deal with multiple complex injuries to the joints, involving surgery and other procedures.
TIMELY GATHERING OF INFORMATION IS IMPERATIVE
The statute of limitations, which is the time limit in which a lawsuit has to be filed, varies. It can be three years or less, depending on the defendant. For example, if the defendant is an employee of the State of New York, or other municipal employee, the time to file a claim is 90 days. If the defendant is a private individual or corporation, then the statute of limitations is three years. If the case involves death then the time limit is two years. There are also time limits insurance carriers require for coverage. Any claim for no-fault requires a notice to the insurance company within 30 days. In addition, if one makes a claim under the SUM coverage (supplementary uninsured underinsured motorist coverage), then notice also needs to be made within 30 days. Finally, if there are parties that have no insurance coverage, an individual will have to file a claim with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation and that claim needs to be filed within 180 days. Other factors such as location of witnesses and obtaining statements while the incident is fresh in their minds are also important. The vehicles involved also need to be thoroughly examined, photographed and sometimes stored for evidentiary purposes.
SERIOUS INJURY THRESHOLD MUST BE MET
Automobile cases are further complicated by the serious injury threshold set forth in the New York State Insurance Law. In the mid 70’s New York became a no-fault state which meant that all occupants of motor vehicles involved in car accidents had up to $50,000 in lost wages and medical coverage regardless of fault. Prior to passage of this law you had to sue the other driver for medical bill payments and lost wages. However, the tradeoff with this $50,000 in coverage is proving you had a “serious injury” before recovering for pain and suffering resulting from the injury. A “serious injury” is defined as fracture, death, dismemberment, loss of use of a body organ function or system, significant limitation of body organ function or system or an inability to perform substantially all of one’s daily activity for a period of 90 out of 180 days following the accident. The criteria can at times require significant knowledge of the law and significant work up of the medical evidence in order to meet the requirements of the threshold.
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