Motor Vehicle Accidents

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of serious injury and death in America. These accidents just don’t “happen”; they are almost invariably caused by negligent or careless driving. The Syracuse, New York auto accident attorneys of Michaels & Smolak has recovered millions of dollars to compensate victims of automobile accidents for their financial losses, pain and suffering, and more. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or death in a motor vehicle accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your financial losses and pain and suffering. Please contact us and speak to an experienced attorney who can help you recover for your losses. Read more below.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Car wrecks ruin lives. The victims may be disabled, paralyzed or suffer brain damage. Their ability to live life as fully as before depends in part on receiving the compensation needed to get the right treatment and care. People injured in automobile accidents must be aware of short time limits for filing no-fault and “supplemental underinsurance motorist” (also called “SUM”) claims with the insurance companies. Whether you are in a single vehicle car crash, a two-car collision, a multiple vehicle accident, or are struck as a pedestrian, the rules are similar. If you are on a motorcycle when you are injured, generally you have no “no-fault” insurance coverage, but can benefit from the at-fault vehicle’s “liability” insurance coverage.

Is There Any Such Thing as a Car Crash Where No One is at Fault?

Yes, but it is rare. The most common causes of vehicle accidents are rear-end collisions, ignoring road signs and markings, driving unsuitably for weather conditions, failure to yield the right of way when turning left across traffic, speeding, drunk driving and simple inattentiveness. Even where ice or snow contributes to the driver losing control of the vehicle, the driver usually could have avoided the accident by driving at a more reasonable speed for the conditions. Use of cell phones, text messaging and other electronic devices pose new hazards on the roadway.

Are Accidents Caused by Commercial Trucks Any Different from Ordinary Car Crashes?

Yes. If the culpable party is a commercial truck driver, you must be sure to hire an attorney with experience navigating the complex web of federal and New York State statutes and regulations regulating such drivers and their commercial carriers. We have ample experience with trucking accidents, so don’t hesitate to contact us regarding your trucking accident claim.

Should I Talk to the Insurance Adjuster for the At-Fault Driver or the Owner of the At-Fault Vehicle ?

No. In car accident cases, the other driver’s insurance agent is likely to telephone you to try to get you to give a “recorded statement” about how the accident happened before you have even had time to hire an attorney. Don’t do it! They are not doing this to help you, but rather will try to damage your case, contact us instead. We will talk to the insurance carrier's adjuster on your behalf.

What is "No-Fault" and How Does it Affect my Case?

The purpose of New York’s “no-fault” law, which became law back in the 70’s, was to eliminate a great number of lawsuits stemming from automobile accidents where the injuries were relatively minor. Unfortunately, it has eliminated many injuries that are not so “minor” as well. The law (New York Insurance Law § 5102) essentially says that, unless you have a “serious injury”, as defined under Insurance Law § 5102, you can’t sue the driver or owner of the car that negligently injured you. Instead, you are limited to your “no-fault benefits”, which essentially consist of $50,000 in combined lost wages and medical expenses paid by your own (no-fault) automobile insurance policy (or, if you were in someone else’s car, the no-fault policy of the car you were in or, if you were a pedestrian, the no-fault policy of the car that struck you). No-fault benefits may also include payment for mileage reimbursement for transportation to and from all medical providers, and death benefits in the event of a fatality. You have to file a no-fault claim form within 30 days of the accident, so don’t delay. The no-fault law may not apply if you were on a motorcycle (unless you elected to buy no-fault insurance for your motorcycle) or in certain other cases, so check with your lawyer. If no-fault does apply, and you do have a “serious injury”, you can not only collect your “no-fault benefits”, but you can in addition bring a claim against the negligent driver and owner of the at-fault vehicle that caused the accident for “pain and suffering” compensation, as well as for any lost wages and medical expenses not covered by no-fault (called “excess economic loss”). The issue of what constitutes a “serious injury” allowing you to bring a claim against the negligent driver and owner of the at-fault vehicle can be a complicated issue that requires competent legal analysis. If the accident causes death, dismemberment, loss of a fetus or a fracture, it has, without question, caused a “serious injury” within the meaning of the Statute. But if your injury does not fall into any of these straight-forward categories, proving that you have suffered a “serious injury” is more complicated. For example, if the accident has caused you to be kept out of work, or prevented you from doing many of your normal activities, for more than 90 out of the first 180 days after the accident, then your injury may qualify as serious, depending on the specific facts. Also, if you have a loss (even partial loss) of the use of a body part, such as your neck, back, arm, etc., this may constitute a “serious injury” depending on the facts. If you have a scar from the accident, that could also qualify as a serious injury if it is disfiguring enough. You really need a good personal injury lawyer to look at your medical records and the facts of your case to determine whether you have met the “serious injury” threshold to be able to bring a claim against the negligent driver and owner of the at-fault vehicle for compensation beyond no-fault benefits. If it is a close call, the success of proving “serious injury” will be determined by the skill, experience and competence of your attorney. A good personal injury attorney knows how to ethically present your injury in a way most likely to qualify it as “serious” in the eyes of the law and of a jury. The lawyers at Michaels & Smolak are skilled, experienced and competent at doing just that, so contact us today for a free consultation!

When Should I Call a Lawyer?

If you need medical attention immediately or soon after the accident, you should seek legal advice as soon as you can after getting proper medical attention. Don’t wait. Although the injury may appear minor at first, it might develop into a significant injury. Your lawyer will want to investigate the accident while the evidence is still fresh. Also, some important time limitations for filing certain claims might slip by if you wait. For example, you need to file your no-fault claim form within 30 days of the accident. If there is an issue of negligent road design or maintenance, you may need to file notice of claim against the government agency responsible for the roadway within 90 days. Your lawyer will also want to check your own insurance policy to see if it has “SUM” (Supplemental un/underinsured motorist coverage) to see if there is any “hidden” insurance coverage in it. If a “SUM” claim needs to be filed against your own insurer, your lawyer will need to put your carrier on notice of this as soon as possible. Otherwise, you jeopardize losing such “hidden” insurance coverage. So contact us as soon as you can about your car crash case for a free consultation!

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims in New York?

Generally, 3 years from the date of your injury. However, there are exceptions. For example, if the victim is a child under 18 years old, his or her statute of limitations does not even start to run until he or she is 18, so normally it would expire on his or her 21st birthday. Also, it depends on the defendant. If you sue the State of New York (for example, where a New York State vehicle struck you, or a defectively designed State road caused the accident) you must generally do so within 2 years, and if you sue a "municipality", a "public corporation", or other government agency, your statutes of limitations could by 1 year and 90 days or even shorter, depending on type of government agency you are suing. Further, when suing government agencies, you often need to serve or file a "notice of claim" or "notice of intention of claim" within 90 days of the injury, and sometimes even shorter time limits apply. There are other statutes of limitations and exceptions that may apply to your case. Contact us to discuss your statute of limitations.

What if I Can’t Afford an Attorney?

That’s impossible. A reputable personal injury attorney will not charge you for an initial consultation. Michaels & Smolak will give you a free consultation. If we decide to represent you, we will charge you on a contingency fee basis, which is usually 1/3 of the net recovery we obtain for you, whether from a settlement or from a jury. Since the initial consultation is free, why wait? Contact us today for a free consultation.

The Syracuse, New York auto accident attorneys of Michaels & Smolak have recovered millions of dollars for clients injured in automobile collisions and for other injuries to cover their medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. If you or a loved one has been a victim of an automobile accident, contact us for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and maximize your compensation.