Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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The state of New York is considered a “no-fault” state for insurance purposes. This means that, unless a driver or passenger who is hurt in a Syracuse car accident falls under a limited number of exceptions set forth under state law, he or she cannot recover money damages from the negligent driver who caused the crash.

However, it is important to note that “no-fault” does not completely foreclose the possibility of litigation following an accident. It simply means that the plaintiff must qualify under the relevant statutory framework in order to pursue a claim in court against the responsible driver.

As might be expected, disputes frequently arise regarding whether or not a given case should be litigated or should fall under “no-fault” rules. The trial court is typically called upon to make the initial determination on this issue, but the appeals court may eventually be asked to weigh in, as well.

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A Syracuse car accident can happen in just a few seconds, changing the course of a crash victim’s life in ways from which he or she may never recover. Expensive medical treatment, time off from work, and travel costs back and forth to the doctor can be financially devastating.

It is important to know that, if you are hurt in a wreck that was not your fault, there is the possibility of filing suit against the responsible individual. Of course, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence, and the defendant may be able to assert a defense to the claim.

Assuming that there are genuine issues of material fact presented by the parties, the issues will ultimately be decided by a jury or a judge as the finder of fact. At trial, a judgment will be rendered in favor of one party or the other; if the plaintiff prevails, the judge or jury will probably also award a certain dollar figure in money damages to the injured party.

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The basic question in a Syracuse care accident case is, did the defendant act reasonably under the circumstances? In deciding this issue, the trier of fact is usually given as much information as possible about the circumstances leading up to the collision.

If the defendant was confronted with some type of emergency – such as another car pulling out directly in front of him or her – this fact may be weighed, along with other pertinent information, in deciding whether the defendant was negligent. It is quite possible that a jury could find that, although an emergency did exist, the defendant’s reaction to the situation was not reasonable.

Facts of the Case

In a case arising in the Supreme Court for Monroe County and considered on appeal by the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department, the plaintiff was a woman who was allegedly injured in a car accident. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendant motorist was at fault in causing the accident. The defendant vehicle owner was also named as a party defendant in the lawsuit. The defendants filed a motion asking the trial court to dismiss the complaint against them on the grounds that the facts of the accident should result in the application of the “emergency doctrine,” thus excusing them for liability for the plaintiff’s alleged injuries.

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Filing a Syracuse car accident lawsuit is just one of many steps towards recovering fair compensation for medical costs, lost earnings, and other losses caused by a negligent driver. Because New York is a “no-fault” state, there are certain thresholds that must be met in order for the plaintiff to be able to assert his or her claim in a court of law.

The insurance companies who defend such cases try very hard to keep cases out of court, if at all possible. They have teams of professionals, including medical experts, who work together to minimize the amount of money that is ultimately paid to those who are hurt in automobile accidents.

If you have been involved in a car crash recently, you should talk to a lawyer who can represent your interests in the matter as soon as possible – preferably, before giving a statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Insurance adjusters are well-seasoned in the art of manipulating a would-be plaintiff’s statement, as well as in other tactics to keep the insurance company’s payout as small as possible.

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Timeliness is very important at every juncture of a car accident lawsuit. From the filing of the initial complaint, to responding to pre-trial motions, and on the appellate process, time is of the essence.

Those who fail to timely pursue their litigation against an allegedly negligent party will likely meet with a very harsh result. This can include total dismissal of what might otherwise have been a sound and potentially valuable cause of action.

Speaking with a Syracuse car accident attorney as soon as possible after a motor vehicle crash can go a long way towards ensuring that your case proceeds in a timely fashion. While exceptions are sometimes made for late filings, such is the exception – the very rare exception – rather than the rule.

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New York is considered a “no-fault” state for purposes of automobile accident litigation. However, that does not mean that there is no possibility of filing a Syracuse car accident lawsuit against a negligent driver in which an innocent motorist, passenger, or pedestrian suffers serious personal injuries or wrongful death.

There are several situations that take a vehicular accident outside of the limitations of no-fault. While each case must stand on its own facts, generally speaking the more serious the plaintiff’s injuries are and the more short or long-term disability the plaintiff has due to the crash, the more likely it is that he or she can get past the no-fault threshold and file a traditional negligence lawsuit against the responsible party.

In such situations, the plaintiff may seek payment for his or her medical expenses and lost wages, as well as compensation for pain and suffering and other damages. The injured party’s spouse may also be able to seek monetary damages for loss of consortium.

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Car accidents can happen in so many ways – head on collisions, T-bones, and rear-end wrecks, just to name a few. Some Syracuse car accidents result from “chain reaction” or “multi-vehicle” crashes in which not just one or two but potentially several vehicles are involved.

The challenge in any accident case is figuring out which party was at fault, or, if more than one individual, business, or governmental entity contributed to the cause of the crash, the relative fault between them. This can be an especially challenging task when there was not just one, but perhaps a series of accidents, all happening in rapid succession.

As much as one or more of the drivers involved in a multi-car crash might prefer not to be included as a defendant because he or she believes that most or all of the fault for the wreck should be assigned to others, sometimes it is necessary to include all parties involved in the accident, at least until the evidence has been fully developed. Then, if the case proceeds to trial, the jury can assign fault based on the testimony of the various parties, the physical evidence, the opinions of expert witnesses, and the like.

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In evaluating the potential value of a Syracuse car accident claim, there are several considerations. What were the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s physical injuries? How much were his or her medical expenses? What about lost wages or loss of future income due to permanent disability?

These factors help inform the value of the plaintiff’s claim. However, putting a reasonable dollar amount on a case does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff will receive a check for that amount, even if there is a jury verdict in favor of him or her.

Other factors, including the limits of the negligent driver’s liability insurance policy, are also important. What if the plaintiff’s case is worth more than the defendant’s liability limits? While there may sometimes be the possibility of collecting against the defendant’s personal assets or future income, the more realistic place to look for coverage for the difference is the plaintiff’s uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance coverage, assuming that such coverage exists.

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In addition to proving that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of some sort and that this duty was breached in some manner, the plaintiff in a Syracuse motorcycle accident case must also be able to prove that this breach of duty was the proximate cause of the accident for which he or she seeks to recover money damages. Without proof of the element of causation, the plaintiff’s case will fail.

It is not unusual for the defendant in such a case to attempt to get the case dismissed on the grounds that there are no material facts at issue and that, thus, a jury trial is unwarranted. In such a situation, the defendant is basically saying, “Even if everything the plaintiff says is true, I can’t be held liable as a matter of law.”

A fair number of negligence cases end with just such a motion, but the entry of summary judgment is not necessarily fatal to the plaintiff’s case. The appellate court is there to review the trial court’s decision – and to set an erroneous entry of summary judgment aside, if necessary.

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There seems to be a widely held belief that, in a rear-end collision, the driver in the second car is automatically at fault. While such a driver is usually held liable in such a situation, this is not necessarily the result in every case. It all comes down to the particular facts in the case at hand. For example, what if there was construction ahead and the first driver adhered to signage warning drivers to slow down, but the second driver did not?

What if a large animal (such a deer) ran into the path of the first vehicle, causing her to stop suddenly to avoid a dangerous crash? What if the second driver was on his or her phone and not paying attention? Sometimes such cases must be resolved by a jury, with each side making their respective arguments as to why the other was at fault.

Another potential scenario is that there wasn’t just one accident but several separate accidents that occurred in rapid succession. Who is to blame in those kinds of cases? Unfortunately, the answer is not always clear.

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