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What Is Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law is an area of civil law in which an individual was injured in an incident caused by careless, reckless, or intentional behavior exhibited by someone else.

This area of the law focuses on establishing liability in the accident and awarding compensation for injury related expenses, including:

  • Medical expenses such as ambulance transport, emergency department services, surgery, hospitalization, medication, rehabilitation, and the provision of mobility assistance such as wheelchairs or crutches.
  • Future medical expenses in cases involving ongoing treatment or permanent disability.
  • Repair or replacement of property that was damaged in the accident, such as a vehicle damaged in a car accident.
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses, including the provision of home modifications to accommodate the injured individual or the cost of renting a car or taking a taxi to attend medical appointments.
  • Lost wages due to being too injured to work or missing work for medical treatment.
  • Loss of future earning capacity in cases involving injuries that are so severe that the injured individual is unable to continue doing the same type of work as he or she did before the accident and is forced to take a lower-paying job, or the person’s injuries result in permanent disability, rendering him or her unable to work at all.
  • Non-economic expenses to compensate the injured individual for the emotional toll that the injury has on his or her life, such as pain and suffering, or loss of enjoyment of life.

To obtain compensation for expenses that are due to an accident that resulted in injury, the injured person (plaintiff) must establish liability on the part of the at-fault party (defendant).

This is done by proving that:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This duty of care depends on the type of accident involved. In car accidents, the duty of care would likely be to drive a motor vehicle safely and lawfully. In medical malpractice cases, the duty of care would be to provide the level of care that a reasonably prudent doctor would in similar circumstances. In premises liability cases, the duty of care would be to keep one’s property safe from hazards that may cause injury to guests.
  • There was a breach in the duty of care. Again, the breach is dependent on the case, but this is the negligent or intentional behavior that placed the plaintiff in danger of experiencing an injury.
  • The breach led to the accident, which resulted in the plaintiff acquiring an injury and resultant expenses.

Upon establishing legal liability for the accident, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer will attempt to obtain compensation for his or her client by either negotiating a settlement with the defendant’s insurance carrier or by pursuing a court judgment.

What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?

A personal injury lawyer provides your best chance for obtaining fair compensation for your injuries.

Not only does a personal injury lawyer provide you with guidance as to the legal options that are available to you, but they can provide other services as well, including:

  • Establishing a value to the case based on the expenses you face and the impact your injuries have had on your life.
  • Examining your case to determine all potentially liable parties and insurance resources.
  • The use of experts such as those knowledgeable in accident reconstruction and medical professionals with experience in treating the type of injuries you sustained to strengthen your case.
  • Skilled negotiation with the goal to obtain the highest settlement possible in your case.
  • The timely filing of a personal injury lawsuit if a fair settlement is not offered.
  • Aggressive representation in court, including the pre-trial, trial, and post-trial phases.
  • Assistance in collecting your award or settlement.

How to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you need a personal injury lawyer, you can find one by asking a trusted friend or acquaintance for recommendations, or you can conduct an internet search.

Ensure that the lawyer you’re interested in hiring is licensed to practice in your state, and check to make sure that he or she has not been subject to any disciplinary actions by checking with your state bar. Many states provide databases with this information that is accessible online.

Carefully read the postings about the lawyer on review sites, and peruse the lawyer’s website to read what he or she has posted about representing victims of accidents like yours.

Many New York personal injury lawyers will provide a free consultation for prospective clients. This is a time for you to share with the attorney the details of your case as well as to ask any legal questions you may have.

It is also a job interview of sorts, in which you can decide if you’re comfortable with this lawyer representing you. You should prepare questions to ask during this consultation.

After you’ve attended one or more meetings and have decided which lawyer you want to hire to represent you, the lawyer will likely provide documents for you to sign outlining important information such as the payment of fees and the scope of services to be provided.

Be sure that you read these documents and understand them fully before signing. If you have any questions about what the document states, be sure to ask the lawyer.

Some questions you will want to ask include:

  • How much experience do you have with representing cases like mine? Do you normally handle cases like this?
  • How many cases have you obtained a settlement for? What is the highest settlement you have negotiated?
  • How many cases have you litigated?
  • Have you won any awards or honors? Are you a member of any legal organizations?
  • Who will be working on my case? Will you be the attorney who represents me?
  • Who is my contact with your firm and how will communication be handled?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my case?
  • What are your fees and how are you paid?
  • What case-related costs am I responsible for?
  • How many cases do you represent at a time, and how much time do you have for my case?
  • What is my case worth?
  • What is my role in the lawsuit?
  • Do you have any referrals from past clients that you can provide to me?

Asking for referrals from a personal injury attorney you’re considering hiring to represent you isn’t any more unusual or awkward as an employer asking a potential employee for referrals. Most attorneys expect to be asked to furnish referrals to prospective clients.

Just what is personal injury law in New York, anyway?

Personal injury is an area of legal practice that focuses on obtaining compensation for people who have sustained injuries because of someone else’s wrongful decision or actions. A New York personal injury lawyer represents injured people in the process of seeking that compensation from anyone who did them harm. Your New York personal injury lawyer’s job is to serve the injured clients’ best interests, which usually involves taking legal action in and out of court to obtain the most money possible for the clients.

How do personal injuries happen in New York?

New Yorkers can sustain serious injuries anytime, anywhere, in any number of circumstances caused by someone else’s wrongdoing. New York personal injury lawyers represent clients who have gotten hurt in a wide variety of scenarios.

Some common ones include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents involving passenger cars, commercial trucks, rideshares (Uber and Lyft), taxis, public buses or train systems, motorcycles, electric scooters, bicycles, pedestrians, watercraft, or aircraft.
  • Dangerous incidents on construction sites, including falls, building collapses, and electrocutions, that injure workers or bystanders.
  • Use of defective goods and products (kitchen appliances, toys, automobiles, medicines, etc.) that lead to serious injury.
  • Falls, drownings, and other harmful, preventable incidents on someone else’s property.
  • Professional malpractice, especially medical errors by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers.
  • Nursing home neglect and abuse.

These are just a few of the types of incidents that can harm New Yorkers. No matter how you suffered your personal injury, an experienced lawyer can assist in obtaining the compensation you need and deserve.

Who owes me compensation for my New York personal injury?

Generally speaking, in New York, anyone whose unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions caused the incident that injured you may owe you money as damages.

All New Yorkers owe each other what lawyers call a duty of care. What that means is that we all must take reasonable care not to put other people in harm’s way. Anyone who violates that basic duty, even if by mistake, owes damages to anyone their actions harm.

What constitutes reasonable care depends on the situation. Drivers have a duty of care not to speed, ignore stoplights, and road rage, for example, because any of those actions could put someone else in danger of an accident. Property owners have a duty of care to warn visitors about dangerous conditions on their properties, like a hole in the stairs or a slick tile floor, that could cause a visitor to slip and fall. Doctors and nurses have a duty of care to provide a minimum quality of healthcare services to patients.

Talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer is the most reliable way to identify who breached a duty of care to you, and caused your injury as a result.

What kind of damages can I recover in a New York personal injury lawsuit?

Every personal injury claim is different, so there are no guarantees about what kind of damages you might recover. However, as a general matter, in New York, people injured because of someone else’s wrongful actions can take legal action to obtain what lawyers refer to as economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages refer to out-of-pocket expenses that result from a personal injury.

They often include:

  • Current and future costs of medical treatment;
  • Current and future non-medical costs resulting from the injury;
  • Lost current and future income; and
  • Costs of repairing or replacing damaged property.

Non-economic damages refer to negative impacts a New York personal injury has on the victim’s life. These impacts do not come with a price tag attached to them, but they still deserve compensation.

They include:

  • Physical pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life; and
  • The trauma of living with disfigurement or disability.

Sometimes, personal injury victims in New York also have the right to receive punitive (also called exemplary) damages, which aim to punish the person who harmed the victim, and to deter future wrongful action.

Talk to a skilled New York personal injury lawyer today to learn about what compensation you might receive for your injuries.

What is the average New York personal injury claim worth?

There is no average amount of money a personal injury claimant can expect to receive. Every case is different.

Factors that can affect the size of a personal injury claim include:

  • How much money the parties who owe compensation have available to pay the victim with, usually through insurance or their own assets.
  • The severity of the injury. Severe injuries usually result in higher medical expenses as well as greater impacts on a person’s life.
  • The victim’s age and state of health at the time of the injury.
  • The victim’s income at the time of the injury, and the impact of the injury on the victim’s ability to earn an income in the future.
  • The victim’s personal financial circumstances; that is, whether the victim needs money now, or has the staying power to hold out for the best possible outcome to a legal claim.

Contact an experienced New York personal injury lawyer at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, today to discuss the factors that might influence the size of your personal injury claim.

How much time do I have to take legal action for my personal injury in New York?

In most New York personal injury cases, not nearly as much as you might think.

A law known as the statute of limitations sets the amount of time you have to in which to take legal action for your injury. In New York, you generally must file a lawsuit seeking damages for your personal injury within three years of the date of the injury. However, lots of exceptions can apply to that time limit that either shortens or lengthens it. Calculating the time you actually have can get complicated, and usually requires the assistance of an experienced New York personal injury attorney. In some cases, you could have just months to act before you risk losing valuable legal rights.

Remember, also, that the statute of limitations is the outside time limit for taking legal action. It is virtually always in your interest to contact an experienced New York personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an injury, to give yourself the option of taking advantage of the full statute of limitations period to build a case. Waiting can cost you dearly in terms of money and legal rights.

If I file a New York personal injury lawsuit, does that mean I am going to court?

Not necessarily. Filing a lawsuit often prompts the party who owes compensation to enter into negotiations to settle your claim. Many New York personal injury lawyers end in a settlement—in which the victim receives money, and in exchange releases the other party from liability—long before they see the inside of a courtroom.

That said, however, experienced New York personal injury lawyers prepare every case as if it will end up in a full-blown trial, and have the skill and street smarts to make your case to a judge and jury if that’s what it takes to get you the money you deserve.

I got injured at work. Can I sue my employer?

It depends. Many workplace injuries in New York are covered by the workers’ compensation insurance. Regardless of who caused the injury, workers’ comp pays benefits to the injured worker for medical expenses and some portion of lost wages. Usually, receiving workers’ compensation benefits bars injured employees from also suing their employers. Should you need to file a lawsuit, you probably will file it against the workers’ comp insurance company.

However, that is not always the case. Some construction employees may yet have a claim against their employer under New York labor laws, for example. Also, employers can face liability if they intentionally harm their employees.

Finally, even if you do not have the right to sue your employer, you may still have the right to sue someone else. A third party (someone other than your employer or co-worker) who caused your workplace injury can have legal liability for your injuries independent of whether you receive workers’ comp benefits. For example, if a tool you used at work was dangerously defective, and it injured you, then you may have a claim against the tool’s manufacturer.

Bottom line: Contact an experienced New York personal injury lawyer at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, to discuss your rights after suffering any kind of injury, even one that happened at work.

My husband died in an accident caused by someone else. Can I file a New York personal injury lawsuit?

You probably can. The legal process for seeking compensation for the tragic death of a loved one is called a wrongful death lawsuit. Speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney today to learn about your and your family’s legal rights.

Do I have to pay taxes on the money I get for my New York personal injury?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, most personal injury compensation is not considered income and therefore is not taxable. However, if you claimed your medical expenses as a tax deduction on your previous year’s tax return, then you may have to repay that amount. Also, some categories of personal injury damages are sometimes taxable, such as damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.

Do not simply assume that you owe no taxes on your personal injury compensation. Instead, speak with an experienced New York personal injury attorney right away to avoid making a mistake in your taxes.

Do I really need a New York personal injury attorney to help me get money for my accident?

Yes, you do.

Attorneys provide advice and services that you cannot reasonably expect to handle yourself, such as:

  • Investigating the facts of your claim to determine who owes you compensation;
  • Developing a strategy that has the greatest chance of obtaining you the maximum compensation available as soon as possible;
  • Calculating the full scope of the damages you suffered, so that you seek the most money allowable from the parties who harmed you;
  • Preparing, filing, and pursuing legal action in New York courts;
  • Negotiating with defense attorneys and insurance companies in pursuit of a fair and reasonable settlement of your claim; and
  • Collecting the money owed to you, if necessary.

Few New York personal injury victims have the knowledge, resources, or time to handle these tasks on their own. Everyone once in a while, someone tries to go it alone without a lawyer. In our experience, that is always a bad idea that costs the victim dearly.

How much does a New York personal injury lawyer cost?

It costs nothing to meet with an experienced New York personal injury lawyer for the first time to discuss your case. Virtually any lawyer you hire will also work for you on a contingency fee basis. This means that you and the lawyer will agree in advance on the lawyer receiving a percentage of any money recovered on your behalf as a fee.

You pay nothing upfront, and the lawyer only receives money if you also receive money.

That way, you get top-notch legal representation without having to take on new expenses, and you and the lawyer have the same goal: getting you as much money as possible, as soon as possible.

Have questions about a personal injury that you or a loved one suffered in New York? Contact our experienced New York personal injury lawyers today for a free case evaluation.

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