New York Personal Injury Laws

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 How Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in New York?

Personal injury is an injury that one person or entity inflicts on another person’s body, mind, or emotional condition. Personal injury also includes damage to property and property interests.

The injury may be inflicted as the result of negligence. Or it might be inflicted intentionally as a result of an intentional tort, in legal terminology. Car accidents are a major cause of personal injuries in New York, as in many other states. Medical malpractice and defective products also lead to personal injury lawsuits.

A person who has suffered a significant injury usually consults a personal injury lawyer to discuss the possibility of filing a personal injury lawsuit in a state or federal civil court. There are many technical legal questions with which a lawyer could help, e.g., which court should a person file their personal injury lawsuit with.

Other questions would include whether the negligence or intentional wrongful conduct of another person or entity directly caused a person’s injury.

Also, many personal injury lawsuits require the support of an expert witness. For example, even an ordinary car accident case might require the support of an auto accident reconstruction expert to give a professional opinion as to what caused the accident and whether the cause was another person’s negligence. A local New York lawyer would be able to answer a person’s questions about a possible personal injury lawsuit.

If, after analysis, a victim or their lawyer feels that they have grounds for a lawsuit, they must prepare a complaint. In their complaint, a legal document, the victim, the “plaintiff” in legal terminology, states the facts showing that the defendant engaged in actions that caused the plaintiff’s harm.

The plaintiff also claims that they suffered injury and damage as a direct result and what injury and damage the plaintiff suffered as a result. The plaintiff then requests the defendant pay the plaintiff compensatory damages.

The plaintiff must then serve a summons and a copy of the complaint on the defendant so the defendant knows they are being sued. The summons is a form that notifies the defendant of the lawsuit.

If a plaintiff lives in New York City and seeks damages of less than $25,000, then they want to file their lawsuit in the Civil Court of the City of New York. If a plaintiff’s injuries are minor and they do not seek more than a few thousand dollars from the party at fault, they may file their case in small claims court. The dollar limit in small claims court in New York City is $10,000 and lower elsewhere. A person can learn more at NYCourts.gov, or by contacting a local New York lawyer.

What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?

There are time restrictions on how soon after suffering harm a person can file a lawsuit in civil court in every state. Depending on the type of case a person wants to file, there are several deadlines under this type of law, known as a statute of limitations.

Most personal injury cases in New York have statutes of limitations that give a victim 3 years from the date of their injury to appear in court and file a lawsuit against the parties at fault for the underlying accident.

What makes this law so crucial? In essence, if a person does not appear in court within this three-year window, the New York court system is probably going to decline to consider their case at any time in the future.

The person or entity sued in the lawsuit would make a motion to dismiss the victim’s lawsuit, and it would probably be successful. A person would forfeit their claim for compensation.

Most New York cases seeking damages for losses associated with bodily injury are covered under the statute of limitations stated here, but not all of them. Like other states, New York has passed legislation establishing a particular statute of limitations for claims involving harm brought about by medical malpractice.

Finally, it is crucial to remember that circumstances may change or extend the applicable filing deadline. There are 2 exceptions to the 3-year statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit as follows:

  • Victim under the age of 18: The statute of limitations does not start to run until the person turns 18 if they are under 18 at the time they suffer injury;
  • Unsound mind: The statute of limitations does not start to run until a person is restored to a sound mind if they are of “unsound mind” at the time they suffer their injury;
  • Defendant out of the state: The defendant, i.e., the person who has allegedly caused the injury, may leave New York after the incident that caused the injury and remain out of the state for 4 or more months. In that case, the statute of limitations period is extended by the length of time the person is absent from New York.

What Are New York’s Shared Fault Rules?

In some personal injury lawsuits, the person or entity a victim wants to hold accountable for their injuries can counter that the victim was at least partially to blame for the incident that gave rise to their claim. If the victim is found to be partially at fault, it may affect the compensation to which they are entitled from other liable parties.

New York applies the concept of comparative negligence to injury situations involving joint fault. The compensation a victim is entitled to receive is reduced by an amount that is equal to the proportion of the victim’s fault for the accident. If more than one defendant is at fault for causing a victim’s injuries, the relative fault of each defendant and the plaintiff must be determined. The award of damages would be proportional to each party’s contribution to causing the incident.

How Is This Rule Applied in a Real Case?

As noted, responsibility for an incident or accident that causes a victim’s injury may be allocated or apportioned in part to the victim. For example, a victim may be involved in a car accident in which the other motorist turned left in front of them.

But the victims themselves may have been traveling some miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit. In that situation, the victim who was speeding at the time of the accident may be held 10 percent accountable for the collision while the other driver bears 90 percent of the guilt.

If the victim’s losses total $10,000, their compensation would be affected. Their payout would be decreased to $9,000 under New York’s pure comparative negligence law. That would be the $10,000 total less the $1,000 that represents the victim’s percentage of culpability for the accident.

However, when negotiating a settlement with an insurance adjuster, the adjuster may bring up New York’s comparative negligence, or shared fault, rule. But the victim, or their attorney as the case may be, is free to negotiate how that rule should affect their claim.

Is New York a No-Fault Insurance State in Car Accident Cases?

In New York, a person’s chances of obtaining compensation from the person at fault in causing an accident if they suffer injuries in the car accident may be slim. This is because New York is a no-fault auto insurance state.

So, regardless of who is at fault in causing a collision, when a person is hurt in an automobile accident, they first, and frequently only, look to their own auto insurance policy for financial recovery to compensate them for the economic losses they suffer, such as their medical expenses and certain other losses.

If a person sustains injuries while a passenger, they will seek compensation from the no-fault insurance of the driver in whose vehicle they were a passenger.

A person’s claim might fulfill the “severe harm” standard in New York. If so, they may then leave the no-fault zone and make a claim against the at-fault driver whose insurance would provide them with coverage up to the policy limits of their auto insurance.

Injuries of the type that qualify as severe harm are as follows:

  • Serious disfigurement;
  • Bone fracture;
  • Lasting limitations on the use of a bodily organ or limb.

A person’s injuries might meet the standard of severe harm. In this case, they may then file a claim against the at-fault driver to recover damages for all losses, including pain and suffering and other non-economic damages, which are not available in a no-fault claim.

Owner Liability for Dog or Other Animal Injuries

In New York, no explicit law governs personal injury liability for attacks by dogs or other animals. Suppose an injured party can prove that the dog’s or another animal’s owner “should have known” the animal was dangerous. In that case, the owner may be held accountable for any harm the dog or another animal causes. Another name for this is the “one bite” rule.

Are Governmental Liability Claims Possible in New York?

If a government employee or agency caused a plaintiff’s injuries through negligence or intentional wrongdoing, a person can sue the employee or agency or both. This is true whether the situation involves a municipal, state, or federal government. The initial stage of a personal injury claim against a government employee or agency often involves submitting a formal claim to the relevant government agency.

A local New York attorney would be able to explain how a lawsuit against a government defendant would be different from a lawsuit against a private person or entity.

How Can I Get Compensation for Economic Losses Caused by Another’s Negligence or Intentional Wrong?

In New York, the person who brought about the harm may be held accountable or “at fault.” In most cases, negligence or a lack of care is to blame. A person is negligent if they fail to exercise the reasonable care that they should have under the circumstances. Evidence of negligence would include eyewitness accounts, photographs, official accident records, and the like.

Additionally, proof of the plaintiff’s economic losses related to their injury or damage to their property is essential. An award of compensatory damages should cover a person’s medical expenses, any lost wages, the loss of earning capacity, and their property damage, if any, as well.

A plaintiff can prove missed wages and other expenses related to injuries using hospital bills, pay stubs, or receipts. Punitive damages may be awarded in some circumstances, but only if the defendant engaged in grossly reckless or especially egregious behavior.

Locating proof to support the plaintiff’s case, dealing with insurance companies that refuse to pay what they are obligated to pay, and making effective use of experts are issues that may be encountered.

Should I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?

If you believe that you are the victim of the negligence or intentional wrong of another person or entity, you want to consult a knowledgeable New York personal injury attorney. LegalMatch.com can connect you to an attorney who can analyze your case and give you the professional guidance you need through the legal process.

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