Generally, car wreck victims are entitled to be in the same position they would have been in had the crash not occurred. No one can turn back the hands of a clock and go back to before the accident. So, money damages are the next best thing.
Unlike a fine in a criminal case, civil damages are usually not designed to punish the tortfeasor (negligent driver). Instead, they’re designed to compensate the victim for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
So, substantial compensation may be available. But a victim needs a very assertive New York personal injury attorney to obtain this money. The insurance company does not simply give it away.
Factual and Legal Nuts and Bolts
As a preliminary matter, New York has a no-fault insurance law. This law limits recovery in “fender bender” non-injury vehicle collisions. But the law only applies in a few situations. Most victims qualify for additional damages under one of the following loopholes:
- Permanent Injury: Most car crash injuries never completely heal. A broken shoulder is a good example. The bone may heal almost completely, but the victim may still experience some limited loss of motion or some occasional mild pain. These conditions, though not serious, make the shoulder injury a “permanent” one under the law.
- 90/180 Rule: After a vehicle collision, many people have good days and bad days for several months. If the injuries substantially impaired daily activities for 90 of the 180 days following the accident, the victim’s injuries were serious.
The additional available compensation is money for noneconomic damages, as outlined above. As a rule of thumb, if your car was not drivable after the crash, you probably sustained a serious injury.
Next, there’s the matter of evidence. Technically, victim/plaintiffs only need a tiny bit of proof to establish liability. But generally, there’s a direct relationship between the amount of evidence, particularly medical bills, and the amount of compensation.
Finally, an attorney must account for any insurance company defenses, like contributory negligence or sudden emergency. If one of these defenses might be available, a trial is much riskier. That risk affects the number of damages available.
Determining a Settlement Value
However, most car wreck cases do not go to trial. In fact, agreed out-of-court settlements resolve about 95 percent of the vehicle collision matters in New York.
Before negotiating with the insurance company, an attorney must determine an accurate settlement value. If the estimate is too low, the victim may not receive full compensation. If the estimate is too high, an attorney might needlessly extend the case by holding out for too much money. Some factors that go into this determination include:
- Strength of the victim/plaintiff’s evidence,
- Any insurance company defenses, and
- Intangible factors, such as the jury’s makeup.
The amount of economic damages is easy to determine. To estimate noneconomic damages, most attorneys multiply the economic damages by two, three, four, or another number based on the settlement value factors.
Settlement negotiations cannot begin in earnest until medical treatment is at least substantially complete. The victim/plaintiff only gets one bite at the apple. If the settlement is not large enough to cover all medical expenses, the victim may have no future recourse.
Count on a Hard-Hitting Attorney
Car crash victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg Esq. P.C. Home and hospital visits are available.