Every motor vehicle accident case is different. These differences can arise from the type of vehicles or parties involved in the crash. They can also arise from how the crash occurred or the nature and extent of a victim’s injuries.
As you move forward after your crash, it will be important to work with an Albany car accident lawyer who has experience handling your specific type of accident.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, our motor vehicle accident attorneys have many decades of experience with representing auto accident victims in Albany and throughout New York.
We know how to identify and overcome issues that commonly arise in a wide range of accidents, including the following:
Experienced Auto Accident Lawyers in Albany
If a careless driver has caused you to suffer serious injury or lose a loved one in a car accident in New York, you have legal rights that must be protected. You should contact our Albany car accident attorney as soon as you are ready to take action.
You may be entitled to go beyond your No-Fault (or Personal Injury Protection) auto insurance coverage and recover just compensation for your losses. You may also be able to seek a recovery through other insurance policies.
The car accident lawyers at Powers & Santola, LLP, have years of experience in helping motor vehicle accident victims and their families in Albany and throughout New York. Our record includes:
- $7.3 million recovery for a young man who suffered permanent brain injury after being struck by a department store truck that missed a stop sign
- $6.3 million recovery for a boy who suffered brain injury when a truck with a defectively designed snow plow unit collided with the vehicle he was riding in
- $4.5 million recovery for an 18-year-old boy who suffered paraplegia when the car he was riding in as a passenger left the road and struck a utility pole head-on, fracturing his spine.
Each case is different. The amount that can be recovered in your case will depend on many factors. Our firm can assess your case and explain the options available to you in a timely and free consultation. Contact our Albany car accident lawyer today to get started.
What Are Your Legal Options After an Albany Car Accident?
Your legal options following a car crash depend on a variety of factors. The first is the severity of the crash. If you were in a minor fender-bender with no injuries, you may not need a personal injury lawyer to get a fair settlement from your insurance company. But a collision involving a serious injury makes a case more complex under New York’s auto insurance laws.
The type of accident also matters. For example, the liability and insurance laws are different if a motorcycle is involved. A crash involving a truck or other commercial motor vehicle will bring a host of federal laws and regulations into play. If you were struck in a hit-and-run accident, you may be entitled to file a claim under the New York Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Act if your damages exceed your own insurance policy limits.
Once all of the legal questions are identified, the goal will be to obtain a full and fair settlement offer based on your physical, financial and emotional losses. Most of the time, this can be managed out of court. Our lawyers will draft a demand letter requesting compensation and submit it to the appropriate insurance carriers. They have an option to accept it, make a counteroffer or deny it altogether. Your legal options will evolve from there, which could mean reaching a relatively quick settlement or taking your case to trial if negotiations fail.
Dealing with multiple insurers and policies can be challenging even under the best circumstances. Trying to manage it while injured is a heavy burden to carry. The Albany car accident attorneys at Powers & Santola, LLP, can manage all contact with insurance companies and fight to protect your rights to the compensation you need to recuperate and get your life back on track.
What Is No-Fault Insurance?
If you have registered your vehicle in New York, it means you have at least “basic” No-Fault insurance. This is also called Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.
Your No-Fault insurance will cover your “basic economic loss” up to $50,000 per each person who has been injured in the crash. You, all relatives who reside in your home and any passengers in your vehicle at the time of the crash are covered.
No-Fault insurance covers only losses arising from bodily injury. It does not apply to property damage. It also does not cover pain and suffering damages.
Basic No-Fault Insurance will provide “first-party benefits,” including:
- Necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses
- 80 percent of lost work earnings (capped at $2,000 per month and limited to three years)
- $25 per day, maximum, for up to one year after the crash for other reasonable and necessary expenses
- $2,000 death benefit (in addition to the $50,000 basic no-fault limit) to the estate of a person killed in a motor vehicle accident.
A car accident attorney can review your auto insurance policy to see if you have additional coverage. For instance, you may have purchased supplemental PIP coverage.
When Can a Car Accident Attorney Go Beyond No-Fault Insurance in New York?
You may be entitled to bring a claim for additional economic losses and/or pain and suffering damages against the negligent driver(s) who caused your crash if:
- You have suffered basic economic loss that goes beyond $50,000, or
- You have suffered a “serious injury.”
In contrast to a No-Fault Insurance claim, you must establish that another driver was at fault. You will turn to the other driver’s liability insurance policy for your recovery, not your own policy. In New York, drivers must carry liability insurance in the following minimum amounts:
- $25,000 for bodily injury/$50,000 for death of one person
- $50,000 for bodily injury/$100,000 for death of two or more persons
- $10,000 for property damage.
If a driver who caused your crash has no insurance, or if you were injured by a driver who fled the scene (a hit-and-run driver), you can turn to your own uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.
In New York, your insurer must also provide UM coverage. The insurer must provide it to you in the same minimum amounts as liability coverage. Your UM policy will cover only your losses arising from bodily injury, not property damage.
If the other driver had liability insurance, but it does not fully cover your losses, you may be able to rely on your own underinsured motorist (UIM) policy. This insurance will cover losses that exceed the other driver’s coverage up to the amount of UIM coverage you have purchased.
As you can see, many different insurance policies may need to be reviewed in your case. An experienced car accident attorney from Powers & Santola, LLP, can sort through these policies while you focus on getting better after your crash. Furthermore, if you were involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, such as a truck accident, there may be additional parties who can be held liable for your injuries.
What Is ‘Fault’ in a Car Accident?
Fault means that a driver caused an auto accident through his or her careless or reckless actions. The legal term for this behavior is “negligence.” The types of fault that our car accident lawyers typically encounter are:
- Speeding – Exceeding the posted speed limit or failing to follow a safe speed for conditions such as snow, ice, fog and rain
- Drinking and driving – Driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher or any amount of alcohol that prevents one from being able to safely operate a motor vehicle
- Drugged driving – Being impaired by illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs
- Distracted driving – Texting, talking on a cell phone, interacting with passengers or allowing any other distraction to interfere with safe operation of a motor vehicle (this is common among teen drivers)
- Fatigued driving – Driving while overly tired or falling asleep at the wheel, which is often linked to alcohol or drug use
- Reckless driving – Tailgating, making frequent lane changes and ignoring traffic signals are common forms of aggressive driving
- Faulty car parts – Often the result of a flawed design and manufacturing process or the result of faulty maintenance. Defective tires, wheels, brakes and steering columns frequently cause crashes. Vehicles may also be prone to rollovers due to their design
- Road conditions – Poor design, construction and maintenance of roads and dangerous work zones can be factors in crashes.
You may also be at fault for your car accident. However, New York is a pure comparative fault state. You would not be barred from a recovery even if you were partially to blame for the crash. However, your recovery would be reduced according to the percentage of fault assigned to you.
If the other driver engaged in conduct that could be deemed “gross negligence” – a conscious or reckless disregard for the safety of others – you may be entitled to seek punitive damages in your legal claim. These damages are meant to punish and deter such conduct. Drunk driving is an example.
What Is considered a Serious Injury?
You cannot bring a claim for pain and suffering damages against another driver in New York unless you (or your loved one) meet the “serious injury threshold.” In other words, the bodily injury must have resulted in one of the following:
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of the use of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of the use of a body function or system
- Medically determined injury/impairment that keeps you from performing your usual or customary activities for at least 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the accident.
Several types of injuries may meet this threshold, including:
Amputations, traumatic brain injury (TBI), severe spinal cord injury (SCI), internal organ damage and burns may meet this threshold. However, a cut, bruise or minor soft-tissue injury that does not result in a “total loss of use” may not meet it. An attorney from our firm can provide a frank assessment of your case.
What Types of Challenges Do Injured Victims Face from Insurers?
Car accident injuries can be life-altering. While many of the most devastating injuries are apparent at the moment of impact, that’s not always true. Some very serious injuries have delayed-onset symptoms. Concussions, internal organ bleeding and whiplash are common examples. Signs of these injuries may not emerge for days or even weeks after a car accident. But because they take time to develop, insurance companies may use the delay as a reason to deny or limit coverage. They may argue that you didn’t report an injury at the accident scene or failed to seek medical treatment in a timely way. Or they may suggest that you are exaggerating or faking your symptoms. The longer you wait to get a medical evaluation, the more likely these challenges will be.
However, it’s well known that many injuries have symptoms that emerge with time. The body itself can make it difficult to identify injuries after a wreck. A sudden trauma causes the body to automatically release endorphins, a natural painkiller. Endorphins, combined with adrenaline at the shock of the accident, can mask the presence of an injury. A person may not even feel soft tissue injuries back strain or whiplash until the protective power of endorphins wears off.
Similarly, a concussion is classified as a traumatic brain injury, but MRI and CT scans immediately following collisions often show no signs of damage. Even as long as months after a car crash, a person can begin exhibiting symptoms of a head injury, such as memory loss, blurred vision and cognitive decline. The lifetime costs associated with brain injuries can number in the millions of dollars — a figure that no insurance company wants to pay.
Knowing this hazard, adjusters will try to protect their profits by pressuring accident victims to settle quickly and sign a release of liability before medical complications have time to surface. You shouldn’t do this until your doctor states that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). That means that you have recovered as much as possible given the extent of your injuries and that no future healing is expected.
Car accident victims with pre-existing conditions that were aggravated by the crash may experience similar disputes from insurance companies. During your case evaluation, our lawyers will explain legal strategies to combat this tactic used by so many insurers.
What to Do If You Are in an Upstate NY Car Accident?
The moments after a car accident are jarring, confusing and scary. New York law requires that you stop and exchange information with the other driver(s) involved in the crash. If you hit a parked car and cannot locate the owner, you must leave your information on the vehicle or contact the police.
There are other things you can do to protect your legal rights in the aftermath of the crash if you are not too injured. Here is a list of suggestions:
- Check for injuries to yourself and anyone else involved in the wreck. Seek immediate medical treatment.
- Call 911 or the police for assistance.
- Exchange information with the other motorists. Get as much as you can — names, driver’s license numbers, VIN numbers from the vehicles, car make and model, names and addresses of insurance companies, insurance policy numbers and passenger and witness contact information.
- Take photographs of the accident scene from every angle or make a written diagram.
- Photograph damage to your vehicle and any injuries.
- Be cooperative with law enforcement. Answer their questions but do not admit blame for the crash. Even an apology could be used against you in a legal claim.
- Do not refuse an ambulance ride to the hospital if recommended.
- If your injuries do not require immediate treatment or you do not think you were hurt, seek a full medical exam as soon as possible. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Report your crash to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. You must report any car accident to the DMV if someone was injured or killed, or if the damage to the vehicles exceeded $1,001. The MV-104 form must be completed within 10 days of the crash or you risk license suspension. You don’t have to notify the DMV if the vehicles have property damage only, but you still need to exchange information with the other driver(s).
- Report your crash to your insurance company within 30 days in order to claim no-fault benefits.
- Contact Powers & Santola, LLP, for a free consultation to review your legal rights to compensation.
Frequently Asked Questions about Car Accidents in Albany
How long do I have to file a car accident lawsuit in New York?
The time limit varies somewhat depending on the circumstances of the case. In general, you have three years from the date of the accident. However, the timeline shortened to 90 days if your claim involves a governmental or public agency. It is also different if the claim is for a child. Because of these variations, it is important to speak with an attorney so that the appropriate defendants are identified before any time limits expire.
I know that I must notify my insurance company of the accident. Should I talk to a lawyer first?
You have 30 days to notify your insurance company. Sometimes they ask tricky questions. It is a smart idea to talk to a car accident attorney first to make sure that you don’t say anything to jeopardize your claim.
Why do I need a lawyer if I’m just working with my own insurance company?
There are no guarantees that your insurance carrier will cover your car accident claim. In addition, the skyrocketing cost of medical care means that expenses can quickly exceed no-fault policy limits. A qualified attorney can advise you on whether to pursue a separate claim against the negligent driver to get full compensation.
Who determines fault for the accident?
The police report will indicate fault based on the officer’s assessment. However, there could be other contributing factors that affect liability. The police do not have final say in determining civil liability for the crash. Checking with an attorney is the best way to verify that fault is assigned properly in your accident.
What if I missed the 30-day deadline to notify my no-fault insurance carrier?
Generally, there are no exceptions and you will not be able to make a claim. Extensions may be granted in rare instances with written proof.
Are there any other deadlines I need to know?
Yes. In order to receive compensation for a medical bill, you must submit a Proof of Claim within 45 days of the service. You have 90 days to submit a Proof of Claim for Work Loss to collect lost wages.
How do I get money for wage losses if I am self-employed?
You will need to provide proof of your earnings to the no-fault insurance carrier. Usually that involves providing tax returns to show your income.
Are there circumstances where my no-fault benefits will not apply?
Yes. There are exclusions for several actions: drunk/drugged driving, racing, fleeing to avoid arrest, driving a stolen vehicle or intentionally injuring someone with a car. Motorcycle drivers and motorcycle passengers are also ineligible. If your vehicle was uninsured or you were driving your spouse’s uninsured car, there is no coverage. Most of the time, non-New York residents cannot obtain no-fault coverage.
The other driver’s insurance company keeps asking for a recorded statement. Do I have to do it?
No. Insurance companies use recorded statements as tools to look for inconsistencies in your story. You will probably have explained your side of the story to multiple people in the wake of the accident, including the police, doctors and your lawyer. The insurance company will hone in on any discrepancies and use them to challenge your claim.
Should I sign a medical authorization from the insurance company?
No. A medical release allows insurance carriers to access any medical records that they wish. That means they can view your entire medical history, not just documents related to your car accident injury. They will look for any “evidence” to withhold or minimize your claim, or even try to assert that you are fabricating your condition.
I am a pedestrian and was hit by a car in Albany. Who compensates me?
No-fault benefits from the driver’s insurance company would pay for your medical and accident-related expenses. If the driver was uninsured, you may be able to seek compensation under your auto policy’s uninsured motorist coverage.
I was injured while riding by bicycle. Do I use my car’s no-fault insurance coverage to get compensated?
No. You would apply for benefits from the insurer of the car that struck you. You must have made physical contact with the motor vehicle to be eligible for coverage.
My accident occurred while I was on vacation out of state. Am I still covered?
New York residents who have insured vehicles in the state are generally covered by no-fault insurance anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.
What happens if someone other than a driver is at fault for the accident?
It’s certainly possible to have multiple defendants in a car accident claim. For example, if the vehicle had a defect that caused the crash that injured you, you might be able to sue the car’s manufacturer. Or if you were hit by a drunk driver just after he or she left a bar, you might be able to bring a claim against the business itself under New York dram shop laws. An experienced Powers & Santola, LLP, lawyer will explore all avenues for compensation while preparing your case.
My car accident aggravated a pre-existing condition. Could this meet the “serious injury threshold” in New York?
Possibly. Qualifying for a serious injury under New York auto accident law requires objective medical proof. If a certain test or image can show that your condition was substantially worsened by a collision, it could meet the serious injury threshold and enable you to pursue additional compensation from the negligent party.
I’ve been going to physical therapy for three weeks. I’m supposed to go for another month, but I feel fine. Is it OK to stop?
It’s not a good idea. Your doctor determined the appropriate treatment plan following your accident. If you start skipping appointments and the insurance company finds out, your claim could be in trouble.
How much is my case worth?
That’s a common question with no precise answer. Every car accident case is different. An attorney can give you an estimated value on your claim after reviewing the facts of the accident. However, there are no guarantees that you will receive that result. In general, you can reasonably expect that the size of the settlement will be based on the severity of the injury, the amount of fault shared by each party, the cost of medical bills, lost wages and lost earning potential, pain and suffering and the insurance policy limits of the at-fault parties.
What will a car accident case cost me?
Powers & Santola, LLP, works with clients on a contingency basis. That means that you will not pay us unless we recover money on your behalf. All of the fee arrangements will be outlined during our first meeting.
Will the case go to trial?
It’s possible that the best resolution for your case will come at trial. But most car accident claims are settled out of court. It’s cost-efficient for everyone involved. However, it’s important to know that you are always in control of your legal case. If you do not wish to go to trial, you can always tell your attorney that you will accept the insurance company’s final settlement offer.
How do I select an attorney?
Choosing a car accident lawyer is a very important decision. The good news is that initial case reviews are always free at Powers & Santola, LLP. You can meet with a lawyer to discuss your case, but you can also think of it as your way to interview him or her for the job of representing you.
How Can an Albany Car Accident Attorney Help You after an Auto Accident?
The car accident lawyers of Powers & Santola, LLP, can put its many decades of combined experience to work for you. Our service can include:
- Conducting a thorough investigation of your case
- Helping to ensure you get the medical care you need while your case is pending
- Reviewing all insurance policies that apply in your case
- Consulting with qualified experts, including accident reconstruction experts, engineers, doctors, rehabilitation specialists and economists
- Making sure all claims in your case are accurately and timely filed
- Negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf
- Presenting your case in court
- Resolving any liens on your recovery.
Contact a Albany Auto Accident Attorney
When you are ready to take action after a vehicle accident in Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, or the surrounding areas in Upstate and Western New York, make Powers & Santola, LLP, your first call. We can bring to your case our extensive experience with handling many different types of accident cases. We can get to work for you right away and pursue the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. Our initial consultations are always free.