Because of New York’s no-fault insurance laws, you may assume that questions of fault won’t apply after you are in a car accident. In reality, however, there are a variety of circumstances in which you can pursue a fault-based claim. When you do, proving liability is a crucial part of your case.
An experienced car accident lawyer can discuss who may be liable for your injuries and your legal options for recovering compensation. Contact O’Connor & Partners, PLLC at (845) 303-8777 for a free consultation in Kingston, Poughkeepsie, or Newburgh.
Determining Who Is At Fault for the Car Accident
Although fault for the accident may seem clear-cut, it is important to gather evidence that supports your case. Insurance companies are businesses, and they will not pay out quickly or fairly unless you are prepared.
A few key steps can help you prepare your case against the at-fault driver and other liable parties:
1. At the Scene of the Accident
If you are not seriously hurt and you can stay at the accident scene before getting medical treatment, you should:
- Take pictures of the vehicles, including the damage they have sustained and their positions after the crash
- Photograph your injuries and any injuries your passengers suffered
- Make notes and take photos of the surrounding area, such as the road and intersection, weather conditions, etc.
- Speak to witnesses about what they saw
- Exchange information with the other driver
After receiving care for your injuries, consider contacting a lawyer. Bring your phone or camera and any notes you have to the initial consultation.
2. Investigation by Your Lawyer
When you hire an attorney, he or she will review any information you have collected and begin building your case. Your lawyer may take additional steps to investigate the accident and gather evidence against the liable party (or parties), including:
- Reviewing the police report
- Identifying and interviewing additional witnesses
- Inspection of the vehicles involved in the accident
- Subpoenaing the at-fault driver’s cell phone records, if distracted driving is suspected
- Requesting and reviewing other electronic records, such as GPS data
Your lawyer may also hire experts who can review the evidence and offer opinions as to who is at fault.
Liable Parties in Your Car Accident Case
One or more parties can be liable for the injuries you sustain in a car accident. These parties may include:
The Other Driver
In most cases, fault for the accident rests with one or more of the drivers involved. You will need to prove that the other driver was negligent as part of your third-party claim against the driver and his or her insurance company. As such, it is crucial to gather evidence that the other driver was speeding, following you too closely, driving recklessly, etc.
An Automaker or Parts Manufacturer
Defects are another possible cause of car accidents. Whether a defect caused your car or the other driver’s car to malfunction, resulting in an accident, the manufacturer of the car and/or a faulty part may be liable for your injuries as well.
The Driver’s Employer
If the person who caused the accident was driving as part of his or her job, the employer of the driver may also be liable for your injuries. This is often the case in truck accident claims, but it can also be a factor in accidents involving delivery drivers and others whose work puts them behind the wheel.
A Government Agency
Poor road conditions are a common factor in car accidents. If the road on which the accident occurred was poorly designed or maintained, the government entity responsible for the road may be partially liable. Liability may also extend to contractors and subcontractors involved in the construction of the road, if errors on their part resulted in an unsafe condition.
Can I Pursue a Fault-Based Car Accident Claim?
After the accident, you will generally have to start by filing a claim with your own insurance company. However, the New York no-fault law does include exceptions that allow you to take action against the at-fault driver in certain circumstances.
If the cost of your injuries PIP coverage limits or you suffer what is defined as a “serious injury” by New York statute, you may be able to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. Serious injuries include:
- Bone fracture
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system
- Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- The so-called 90/180 Day Rule:
“Medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.”
The serious injury statute also includes injuries resulting in death or loss of a fetus.
Contact Our Car Accident Lawyers Today
Liability in a car accident can be complicated. It is crucial to have an experienced attorney who can help you navigate New York’s no-fault insurance laws and advise you of your options for taking action against the at-fault driver.
Please call O’Connor & Partners, PLLC at (845) 303-8777 today for a free review of your case. Our car accident attorneys serve clients throughout the Hudson Valley, including Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and nearby areas of New York.