General Questions About Personal Injury Law
A personal injury lawyer represents those have been injured in due to negligence or intentional wrongdoing by another person or entity. Personal injury lawyers often practice in a wide variety of in cases such as car, truck or motorcycle accidents, slip and fall cases, construction site injuries, medical malpractice and defective products claims.
If you’ve been in an accident and have suffered a serious injury, a personal injury attorney can help. While there are no specific deadlines for contacting an attorney after an accident, the sooner you reach out, the better they will be able to assist. At McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C., we offer a free consultation to review your claim. During this consultation, we’ll answer any questions you may have, review paperwork, and discuss how we may be able to help. Contact us today.
Personal injury cases occur when a person or people suffer harm from an accident or injury and another person or entity may be responsible for that injury. If the responsible party is found negligent or was found to cause harm intentionally, the injured party may be able to get financial compensation for the claim. Personal injury cases can be a result of many different types of accidents and/or injuries including car, truck or motorcycle crashes, dog bite injuries, medical malpractice, and more. See our personal injury law practice areas for a complete list of how we can help.
"Serious injury" is a term of art that has a defined legal meaning under the New York Insurance Law. The phrase typically is used in the context of a personal injury case arising out of a motor vehicle accident ("MVA"). In an car or truck accident case, the injured person can make a claim or sue the negligent driver only if the injured person has in fact suffered a "serious injury."
Some injuries clearly meet this standard. Under New York's Insurance Law, any fracture qualifies. Death, dismemberment, significant disfigurement and loss of a fetus also qualify. More challenging to analyze and define are the other categories that constitute a "serious injury":
- permanent loss of use of body organ, member, function or system
- permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
- significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- a 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
In preparing your car or truck accident case, we obtain and analyze the medical records prepared by the doctors and other health care providers that you have seen for treatment of your injury. We also talk with you about what you have experienced in the weeks and months following the accident. We then use this information to make a determination of whether you have sustained a qualifying serious injury.
Attorneys and vehicle insurance adjusters sometimes use the phrase "no-fault threshold" to refer to whether or not the injured person has in fact sustained a "serious injury." If the injured person has suffered a "serious injury," we might refer to that as "getting over the no-fault threshold."
Even if you did not have a qualifying "serious injury" in an car or truck accident, you are still entitled to so-called "no-fault benefits", which are sometimes referred to as "first party benefits." These include:
- payment of your reasonable and necessary medical expense for doctors, hospitals and other health care providers
- payment of a portion of your lost wages
- certain other incidental expenses
What you are precluded from doing if you do not have a "serious injury" is making a claim against the negligent driver for monetary compensation for your physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Car Accident Questions
If you’re in a car accident, first and foremost, try not to panic. Make sure to stop – never leave the scene of an accident. Check yourself for injuries and if any passengers, check on their well being. If in any immediate danger, get yourself to safety immediately. Call the police, or if you are unable to, have someone else contact them – even if it’s a minor accident – and file a report. If in an accident with another person, exchange information including insurance and other personal information. Read more detailed do’s and don’ts after a car accident or 6 things to do after a car accident. If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury because of a car accident, contact a personal injury attorney to see if they can help.
In New York State, if there is a car accident resulting in death, injury, or severe damage to the vehicle, the accident must be reported within 10 days. If not reported within this time frame, the consequences could cost you. Because it’s difficult to determine how much a repair can cost and can vary greatly depending on the vehicle, it is recommended to report even minor accidents. In addition, a car accident injury may not be realized immediately, so it’s important to document the accident.
If you or a passenger was injured in a car accident, call 911 immediately. File a police report and if another party was involved, be sure to get their insurance information and personal details including name, phone, and license number. If the injury was due to the negligence of another party, you may be eligible for financial compensation. We offer free consultations for personal injury cases due to car accidents and can help determine if you have a case. Contact us today.
If you are involved in a car accident, it’s important to document as much as possible. If the accident involves another party, be sure to get their name, phone number, license number and insurance information. Make a note of the date, time, and location of the accident. If anyone witnessed the accident, try to document any statements they make that may be of help and get their contact information. If possible, take photos of the scene to document damage. And make sure to get a copy of the police report and of any tickets that may have been issued for the accident.
In New York State, those who have sustained a “serious injury” in a car accident may seek compensation for economic loss, including medical expenses and lost wages, as well as past and future physical and emotional pain and suffering.
They may try to contact you, but be sure to check with a personal injury attorney first before responding. You may be forced to say too much or unintentionally admit guilt. Let an experienced car accident attorney guide you through your discussions with the other insurance company.
Do not sign the paperwork for medical expenses until you have first consulted with a personal injury attorney. The insurance company may try to take advantage of a confusing and frustrating situation. If you sign paperwork at the request of an insurance adjuster, you may sign away important rights.
No-fault benefits are paid by the automobile insurance company of the owner of the car you are in at the time of the accident -- even if the driver of that car (whether you or someone else) is not at fault -- hence the term "no-fault benefits."
In other words:
- If you are driving your own car, your insurance company is responsible for your no-fault benefits.
- If you are a passenger in a car, the insurance company for the owner of that car, whether that owner is you, a family member or someone else, is responsible for your no-fault benefits.
- If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist struck by a car, it is the insurance company for the owner of that car that is responsible for your no-fault benefits.
Motorcycle Accident Questions
Under current New York law, there are no "no-fault benefits" for an injured motorcyclist. However, there is also no "no-fault threshold" for an injured motorcyclist, and thus you can bring a claim for recovery of medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering against another negligent driver without needing to have a qualifying "serious injury."
It has been our experience that motorcyclists are seldom at fault in an accident, and are usually the injured victims when the driver of another vehicle "doesn't see them." Unfortunately, motorcyclists struck by cars typically do suffer a "serious injury," even though they have a claim for even non-serious injuries.
If you or a passenger is injured in a motorcycle accident, call 911 immediately. File a police report and if another party was involved, be sure to get their insurance information and other personal information such as name, phone number and license number. If the injury was due to the negligence of another party, you may be eligible for financial compensation. We offer free consultations for personal injury cases due to motorcycle accidents and can help determine if you have a case. Contact us today.
New York State law requires that all motorcyclists and passengers wear a helmet. This is regardless of age or experience on a motorcycle.
The most common causes of motorcycle accidents are similar to those in other motor vehicles such as speeding, impairment while driving, or dangerous driving conditions. In addition, there are some accidents that are more unique to motorcyclists which can include driving between two lanes of traffic, open car or truck doors, and motorcycle defects.
The best way to avoid injury on a motorcycle is to actively try to reduce the risk of an accident. Following are some tips to help try to prevent a motorcycle accident: be alert – be aware of other drivers and your surroundings including areas of the road that may be hazardous; be seen – make sure that your lights are on when riding and try to wear light colored clothing; avoid speeding and dangerous driving such as going between two lanes of traffic; keep a safe distance from other vehicles and check your mirrors often. Read more motorcycle safety tips.
Truck Accident Questions
If you are involved in a semi-truck or other truck accident, call 911 immediately. File a police report and if another party was involved, be sure to get their insurance and truck company information. If the injury was due to the negligence of another party, you may be eligible for compensation. We offer free consultations for personal injury cases due to truck accidents and can help determine if you have a case.
Depending on who is at fault, the trucking company may be liable in an accident with a semi-truck or other truck. If in an accident with a truck, it’s important to document as much as possible about the accident and be sure to get information from the other party including insurance information, license number, and name of the truck company. If injured in a truck accident, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact us for a free consultation.
Common causes of truck accidents are like those of other motor vehicles including speeding, dangerous road conditions, and impairment while driving. There are some causes of accidents that are more frequent with trucks including distracted driving or driving while fatigued, overloaded cargo that can make a truck prone to tire blowouts or tipping over, and truck equipment failure such as brakes or other issues.
Dog Bite Injury Questions
If you have been bitten by a dog, go to a safe place away from the dog and if the bite is severe, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Depending on the severity of the dog bite, infections such tetanus and rabies need to be a consideration. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog bite, you may be eligible for financial compensation. We offer free consultations for personal injury cases due to dog bites and can help determine if you have a case.
Dogs can bite for several different reasons and most often dog bites are not malicious in intent. Dogs often bite if they are scared, feel threatened, are being protective, or have been startled. They may also bite if they are sick or in pain. Puppies often bite during play as they are learning boundaries. However, despite whether intentional or not, a dog bite can cause serious injuries. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a dog bite, contact us for a free consultation and we can help determine if you have a personal injury case.
According to a 2019 study done by the American Animal Hospital Association, the following dog breeds were found to bite the most: pit bull, mixed breed, German shepherd, terrier, and Rottweiler. However, any dog can pose a risk for a dog bite. If you or a loved one has been severely injured by a dog bite, you may be eligible for compensation. We offer free consultations for personal injury cases due to dog bites and can help determine if you have a case.
Construction Accident Questions
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the top four most common causes of injury on a construction site include getting struck by an object, falls on a construction site, electrocutions, and getting caught in or in between construction machinery, tools, or other on-site equipment. If you have been injured in a construction accident, you may be eligible to compensation. Contact us for a free consultation.
Bicycle Accident Questions
If you are involved in a bicycle accident, the steps to take are very similar to other motor vehicle accidents. Call the police immediately and obtain name, phone number and insurance information from the driver. Make sure to document what happened and if there are any witnesses, be sure to get their details and contact information. Learn more about bicycle accidents. If you have been seriously injured in a bike accident, you may be eligible to compensation. We offer free consultations for personal injury cases due to bicycle accidents and can help determine if you have a case.
Due to more congestion of cars, other motor vehicles, and people, bicycle accidents most often occur in urban areas. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 78% of bicycle accidents occur in urban areas compared to 22% in rural areas. In addition, bike accidents most often occur in the evening between 6pm and 9pm due to decreased visibility in the dark. Some things you can do to help prevent serious injury from a bicycle accident include: wear a helmet and other protective equipment; make sure your bike has lights and reflectors; wear lighter colored clothing; and be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you have been seriously injured in a bicycle accident, contact us for a free consultation.
Slip and Fall Accident Questions
If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident, it’s important to remember a few key steps. First and foremost, if injured, seek medical treatment immediately to ensure proper care and to document any injuries. Make sure you report the accident to the manager or owner where the slip and fall occurred. Document all interactions related to your slip and fall including date and time, where it occurred, who was there, conditions at the time of the fall, and any other pertinent information. If possible, take photos of the exact location of the fall and if there were witnesses, get their contact information as well. And, if considering taking legal action due to a serious injury, contact a personal injury attorney to find out your options. Learn more about slip and fall injuries.
In New York State you generally have three years from the date of the slip and fall to file a personal injury claim due to a slip and fall injury. However, it’s best to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the fall to collect key evidence and determine if you have a case. If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact us for a free consultation.
These are the two documents we prepare to start the lawsuit against the defendant -- the person or entity that we allege to be responsible or liable for your injury. When the Summons and Complaint are filed with the appropriate County Clerk, or the Federal District Court Clerk, the lawsuit has been commenced. The Summons and Complaint are then "served on" (that is, delivered to) the defendant by a law enforcement officer, or private process server.
The Summons tells the defendant how many days they have (typically 20) to formally respond to the Complaint.
The Complaint consists of a series of numbered paragraphs that lays out the basic facts of who you are, who the defendant is, how and where the accident happened, and what injuries and damages you suffered as a result of the accident.
An Answer is a formal legal response to the Complaint, typically prepared by the attorneys hired by the insurance company for the defendant. The Answer admits or denies each numbered paragraph of the Complaint, and describes any defenses that the defendant is going to assert.
A Statute of Limitations refers to the period of time in which a lawsuit must be commenced, before it is "too late" and untimely. In a personal injury case, this period of time is usually computed starting with the day of the accident.
The Statute of Limitations is not the same for every type of case. For example, the typical New York personal injury case based on negligence must be commenced within 3 years from the date of the accident. But New York personal injury cases based on medical malpractice have a 2.5 year statute of limitations. Claims for wrongful death have a 2 year statute of limitations from the date of the fatality.
The status of the parties also affects how the time period is computed. For example:
- An injured person under the age of 18 generally reckons the Statute of Limitations from the time he or she turns 18 -- and not from the date of the accident.
- When the defendant is a governmental entity, such as a municipality, the State or Federal government, or an agency, the time within which to commence the lawsuit is much shorter, and typically requires a formal Notices of Claim, or other prerequisite to the lawsuit.
One of the first things we will do in representing you in a personal injury claim is to determine exactly what type of case you have, and what the statute of limitations is for you and your particular case.
Discovery refers to the stage of the lawsuit after the Complaint has been answered, where the lawyers for the plaintiff and the defendant explore the claims and defenses asserted by the opposing party. This Discovery process allows the parties to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case, and thus either sets the stage for settlement discussions, or a trial of the case.
The New York and Federal practice rules provide a variety of tools that the lawyers may utilize to probe the claims or defenses of the opposing party. These tools include:
- Demands for Production of Documents
- Demands for Bills of Particulars
- Notices to Admit
- Depositions (also referred to as Examinations Before Trial, or "EBTs")
- "Independent" Medical Examinations
Which tools are used, and how they are used will vary depending on the issues involved in the case. You will required to assist the personal injury lawyers in preparing and responding to the various types of Discovery demands.
Settlement represents an agreed resolution of the personal injury case, when the lawyers and insurance adjusters satisfy themselves that a particular amount of money paid in settlement is an acceptable alternative to the risks and uncertainties of a trial outcome for their clients.
A jury or judge trial is how cases are finally resolved if the parties are not able to reach a settlement. We prepare every case as if it is going to go to trial, so that the facts and evidence are fully developed and understood, and can be presented in the most effective way on your behalf.
As a practical matter, many, if not most cases, do in fact settle sometime along the way before a trial. In some cases, if there is clear liability on the part of the defendant, and reasonable medical certainly about the nature and extent of the injuries, settlement might occur through a series of negotiations before a lawsuit is even commenced. In other cases, disagreement about liability or uncertainty about the extent of the injuries may mean that the case does not settle until after the completion of discovery, or even during the trial itself.
No settlement takes place without your involvement and agreement. While we act as vigorous advocates on your behalf in dealing with opposing counsel and the insurance companies, our responsibility as your lawyers also requires us to objectively assess your case, present to you the risks and uncertainties of your particular case, and recommend to you what we feel would be a reasonable range for settlement.