Can Someone File a Civil Suit for a Car Accident?

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney

Life can seem overwhelming in the aftermath of a car accident that left you with significant injuries. You probably have a lot of questions right now, such as whether you can file a civil lawsuit for a car accident. In most cases, the answer is yes. Below we answer some of the most common questions that people injured in an auto accident ask our personal injury lawyers at Raphaelson & Levine. 

Our Midtown Manhattan law firm has secured over $500 million dollars in settlements for clients since 1992. After reviewing this FAQ section, we invite you to schedule a free consultation to discuss your car accident case. Please call 212-268-3222 to reserve a time to speak to an experienced car accident attorney at Raphaelson & Levine.

How Does Filing a Civil Lawsuit for Car Accident Work in a No-Fault State

New York is one of 12 states that enforce no-fault laws when it comes to auto accidents. You may also hear this referred to as personal injury protection (PIP). That means each driver's insurance company pays expenses related to the car accident regardless of fault. However, New York does make exceptions for people who sustained a serious personal injury due to the negligence of another person. You may file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver if your injuries fall into one of these categories:

  • Bone fractures
  • Complete disability for 90 days or longer
  • Death of a close family member
  • Disfigurement
  • Dismemberment
  • Loss of unborn baby
  • Permanent body organ loss
  • Permanent loss of a body organ function

What Should I Do Immediately After a Car Accident?

Your safety and that of your passengers and other motorists on the road are always paramount. If possible, move the car to the shoulder of the road and turn on your hazard lights. If the car is unmovable, just turn the hazard lights on. Check yourself and your passengers for injury and call 911 if anyone needs medical assistance. 

You should also call the police to report the auto accident. They will interview you to determine what happened and write up a police report. This is often crucial evidence in personal injury lawsuits. Be sure to exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver without arguing. Taking pictures of your vehicle and injuries can also help prove your civil suit car accident claim later.

What Are the Steps Involved With Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Your car accident injury attorney will walk you through each step of the process when you work together. They are as follows:

  • File a complaint with the local court requesting damages and explaining the reason for your car accident lawsuit.
  • Serve the defendant in your injury claim with the lawsuit.
  • Receive a response from the defendant accepting or denying the facts you presented in your initial complaint.
  • Enter the discovery phase, which is typically the longest part of personal injury cases. During discovery, your auto accident attorney will exchange information with the insurance company representative or the lawyer representing the other party. This allows each side to build their case. Both you and the other party will answer written questions, produce documents when requested, and give sworn statements under oath.
  • The last step is a court trial if negotiations break down when trying to reach a settlement agreement.

Should I Visit a Doctor After the Car Accident?

It's always a good idea to visit a doctor after a car accident, even if you don't think you received serious injuries. Some injuries, such as concussions, whiplash, and soft tissue damage, don't always appear obvious right away. It also lends credibility to your civil lawsuit for a car accident claim.

When Should I Notify My Own Insurance Company About the Auto Accident?

This should be the next call you make after notifying the police. If you delay and try to claim benefits later, the insurance company may deny your claim. Your insurance agent may require you to provide a written or recorded statement outlining the details of the car accident. If so, we recommend that you speak to your auto accident attorney first. You don't want to provide unnecessary information or details that could be interpreted wrong and bring your statement into question.

Can I Still File a Personal Injury Lawsuit if I Share Some of the Blame for My Car Accident Injury?

Yes. New York is one of 13 states in the country that enforces pure comparative fault laws. That means a jury would determine the percentage of fault for each driver. For example, if the jury assigned you 25 percent of the blame and the at-fault driver 75 percent, you would receive 75 percent of the total settlement offer. The pure comparative fault law is just one reason why working with an experienced car accident attorney at Raphaelson Levine is so essential. Your lawyer will argue and present evidence that increases the blame percentage of the other party as much as possible.

What Types of Compensation Could I Receive in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Injury claims provide two types of compensation. The first is for actual damages, also called compensatory damages. This covers things such as:

  • Medical expenses, including past, present, and future
  • Lost wages to cover actual wage loss and compensation for missed promotions, needing to reduce your hours, or take a less demanding job to accommodate your injuries
  • Funeral and burial expenses if you lost a close family member
  • Property damage reimbursement

You could also receive non-compensatory damages. Examples of these include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life or loss of companionship

Learn more: What can you sue for in a car accident lawsuit?

How Much is My Personal Injury Claim Worth?

We can answer this question better as we develop an attorney-client relationship. The amount of the settlement offer depends on several factors such as the other driver's degree of negligence and the severity of your injuries. You can feel assured that your personal injury attorney at Raphaelson Levine will approach settlement negotiations aggressively and skillfully represent your interests as an injured person if your claim goes to court.

Reserve Your Free Consultation With Raphaelson & Levine Today

A motor vehicle accident can turn your life upside down. We understand this at Raphaelson & Levine and are on the side of accident victims. We urge you to contact us well before the New York statute of limitations expires and you have no opportunity to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Research repeatedly shows that those who work with a car accident lawyer receive a fair settlement far more often than those who choose to represent themselves. Please reach out to us as soon as you're physically able to do so at 212-268-3222. You can even contact us from the hospital if necessary.

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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