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Automobile Accidents

Automobile Accidents

Auto accidents in New York present unique issues when it comes to the presence of insurance. New York has a mandatory no-fault insurance law under which every New York-registered motorist is required to carry insurance. In the event of an accident, that insurance policy pays the policyholder’s, his passengers’ and pedestrians necessary medical expenses and lost wages up to a maximum of $50,000 without regard to who caused the accident. However, any additional recovery, such as for pain and suffering, must be sought in court. Under the no-fault law, if you were in an auto accident, you are permitted to sue a driver to seek damages for pain and suffering if you suffered serious and permanent injuries due to that driver’s negligence. The law requiring a "serious injury" is laid out in Section 5102(d) of the New York State Insurance Law.

Settling with an insured: Although the decision is yours to make, your lawyer may advise you to settle with the person who caused your injury when there is a reasonable and good faith offer of settlement from an insurance company, even if going to trial might result in a larger judgment in your favor. In such a situation, accepting the sure recovery may be preferable because it will save years of litigation, and in cases where the defendant is of limited means, your ability to collect on a judgment for an amount beyond the insurance coverage may be likewise limited.

Furthermore, insurance companies have the resources to make recovery a long, drawn-out battle. That doesn’t mean that you cannot win against an insurance company; rather it can be difficult and time-consuming. Your personal injury lawyer will be in the best position to advise you as to whether a settlement offer from an insurance company is a reasonable one, or whether it should be rejected.

What if I was injured by a motorist who doesn’t have insurance?

New York law requires that all motorists carry uninsured motorist coverage. That means that if you have auto insurance, and you are injured by a motorist who does not have insurance, your uninsured motorist coverage will cover your injuries. If you do not have auto insurance (because you do not own a car), you will have to pursue a claim against the driver who injured you. If you do not know who injured you (i.e., you were the victim of a hit-and-run), or if the person who hit you is of limited means, you may seek recovery from the New York Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Company, which has established an insurance fund for the victims of uninsured motorists and drivers of stolen cars. However, your coverage under this plan is limited to $25,000 per accident and it is a very lengthy, difficult process. Let our office handle the nuances of these claims.

I was injured by the wrongful conduct of someone who has insurance:

  • Seek medical attention immediately and document your claims as thoroughly as possible
  • Do not talk to any representatives of the company that insures the person who caused your injury
  • Your time to sue is limited; contact our office TODAY. (631) 482-7808.

Construction Site Accidents

New York has special provisions to address the unique dangers faced by construction workers. Workers at construction sites are routinely subject to dangerous conditions and potentially serious injury. When a worker is injured, he/she is covered by workers’ compensation. But that is often not sufficient to cover the severe injuries that occur at construction sites. Furthermore, construction sites are usually occupied by numerous employers (contractors, subcontractors) at a time. Often, one of these third parties will be the cause of an injury to a non-employee who is working for someone else on the site.

Negligence: Under ordinary negligence law, an injured worker may sue a third-party contractor for dangerous conditions that (1) caused the worker’s injury; and (2) that the third-party had control of and knew or should have known was dangerous. A worker’s comparative negligence is at issue in such claims, as in other negligence claims. If you recover by making a third-party claim, you will have to reimburse workers’ compensation that you receive.

Labor Law 240: Under New York’s Labor Law 240, construction workers who perform work necessary or incidental to the erection or repair of a building and who do so at high elevations (on a scaffold or on ladders on tall structures) are entitled to certain safety devices and provisions. If they do not receive such devices and provisions and they are injured in scaffold or other elevation support-related accidents, in addition to workers’ compensation through their employer, they may recover against a third-party that was responsible for supervising the project and providing safety devices (such as general contractor or subcontractor responsible for safety on part or all of the project) if they can prove the third-party knew or should have known there were safety violations. However, if the third-party can prove the worker was solely responsible for the accident, then the defendant is not liable. If you recover by making a third-party claim, you will have to reimburse a portion of the workers’ compensation benefits you received.

Minor repair work and routine maintenance is not considered erection or repair of a building under Labor Law 240.

Examples:

  • You are a construction worker on a scaffold set up by your employer; it falls for no apparent reason. You may recover for any injuries that result.
  • You are a construction worker on the 50th floor of a high-rise project and a floor you were installing gives way. Your employer has provided an old, damaged safety harness, which fails, causing you to fall to the next landing. You can recover for your injuries even though your mistakes in installing the flooring might have contributed to your injury.
  • You are a construction worker. You set up a scaffold, but do it improperly. The scaffold gives way, and you fall, injuring yourself. You may not be able to recover because you were the sole cause of your injury.
  • You are a construction worker repairing a bridge. You have been instructed to use, and in how to use, certain safety lines when scaling the bridge. You fail to use the lines and fall, injuring yourself. You may not be able to recover because you were the sole cause of your injury.

Labor Law 241: This section provides for strict liability where a contractor or other party violates certain safety codes at a worksite, and that violation results in injury. That means the worker does not have to prove the defendant was at fault (negligent) in causing the injury—the violation establishes fault. This section is not limited to injuries that result from elevation-related accidents. If you recover by making a third-party claim, you will have to reimburse a portion of the workers’ compensation benefits you received.

Example: A safety code provides that lights must be placed a certain distance apart in a tunnel a worker is excavating. The lights are too far apart. A worker trips and breaks a leg. The worker may recover by showing the code violation.

I have been injured in a construction accident while I was working on a construction site:

  • Notify the contractor or property owner immediately or ASAP
  • Seek medical attention and otherwise document your claims
  • Your time to sue is limited; contact our office immediately. (631) 482-7808

Premises Liability

When you are injured while lawfully on someone else’s property, the owner is liable for your injuries if the owner’s negligence caused your injury. This is called premises liability. While premises liability includes slip/trip & fall situations, it is broader because it addresses any unsafe condition and resulting injury, whether caused by a fall or otherwise.

What are the elements of a premises liability case?

If you are injured because of an unsafe condition on property, you will have to show that:

  • You were lawfully on the property (i.e., that the owner invited you or hired you to work on the property), or if not lawfully on the property that the owner knew you were trespassing on the property;
  • That the owner of the property was negligent in dealing with the unsafe condition—that is, that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the property and failed to repair it (or if repaired, it was repaired in a way that did not fix it or made the condition worse), rope it off, or warn of the condition;
  • The negligence caused your injury.

Examples:

  • You have been hired to paint the ceiling in someone’s house. You begin to do the work, and the ceiling, which is cracked, falls on you and injures you.
  • You are attending a dinner party at an office building. The building has recently been fumigated for insects; you are overcome by fumes and have to be hospitalized.
  • You are playing catch, and your ball goes over a fence onto someone else’s property. The gate is locked, and a sign says, “Danger–Do not enter; ring bell.” You ring the bell, and the owner opens the gate for you, inviting you to his property. The owner tells you to go get your ball, but doesn’t warn you that the yard is full of broken glass. You go to pick up your ball, and your hand gets cut by glass.

What if I trespassed, and I got injured?

In general, if you trespass on someone’s property, the owner does not owe you a duty of care, and therefore, if you get hurt by a condition on the property, the owner is not liable for your injuries, even if the owner knew of the dangerous condition. There are exceptions to this rule:

  • Trespasser Known to Owner: If the property owner knows a trespasser is on his property and acquiesces to his presence, the owner will be liable for injuries just as would any guest;
  • Children and Attractive Nuisance: This doctrine applies to child trespassers. If there is a condition on property, say an unfenced pool, that would be attractive to children, and a child is injured by the condition, the owner is liable even if the child is an unknown trespasser.

I have been injured by a condition on someone’s property and I was an invited guest or a worker on the property:

  • Notify the property owner immediately or ASAP
  • Seek medical attention and otherwise document your claims
  • Your time to sue is limited; call us immediately. (631) 482-7808

Slip/Trip & Fall (liquids, snow & ice)

A slip/trip and fall case arises when a person is injured because a walking surface (interior floor or outside surface) contains a dangerous condition (water, ice, oil, soap, holes, cracks, other defects) that causes a person to slip or trip and then fall or get knocked off balance.

What are the elements of a slip/trip and fall case?

If you slip/trip and fall and are injured because of a condition on property, you will have to show the owner of the property was negligent in dealing with the condition—that is, that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the property and failed to clean it (or if it was cleaned, it was cleaned in a way that did not fix it or made the condition worse), fix it, rope it off, or warn of the condition.

Examples: In each of the following, if the property owner had notice of the condition and failed to do anything about it (or took action but did so in a way that failed to adequately address the condition), the injured person may be able to recover for slip/trip and fall.

  • You are in a store, and there is water on the floor. The owner knows or should know about the water and has done nothing to clean it. You walk on the water and fall, injuring yourself.
  • You are in the grocery store produce aisle and some bananas have fallen to the ground. Others have walked on them, smashing them and creating an invisible, slick area. Although the store employs people to police aisles for spills, on this day nobody has done the job. You slip on the banana slick and injure yourself.
  • You are in an office building, and the floor has just been mopped with a cleaning solution that makes the floor slippery. There is neither a warning sign, a rope around the slippery area or a carpet to help people avoid that slippery area. You slip, fall and injure yourself.
  • You are walking on a municipal walkway after a snowstorm. The walkway appears to have been cleared of ice and snow; there is no warning that the surface is icy. You decide it is safe to walk on the sidewalk, but as you progress, the walkway becomes patchy with ice and you fall, injuring yourself. (Although slip and fall on ice cases can be difficult to prove and are often considered mere accidents, in this situation the municipality may be liable because it undertook to clean the surface, which was an invitation to walk on it, but did a poor job. This created a dangerous condition for pedestrians.)

Note that in any of the above cases, if the property owner does not have notice of a dangerous condition or could not have known about the condition, it can be difficult to prove negligence in failing to address the condition. And in a snow and ice situation, if snow is falling or has just finished falling when a person slips and falls, it is very difficult to claim negligence.

I have been injured in a slip/trip and fall:

  • Notify the property owner immediately or ASAP
  • Seek medical attention and otherwise document your claims
  • Your time to sue is limited; contact our office immediately (631) 482-7808

Slip/Trip & Fall (unsafe conditions on property)

An unsafe condition is one, such as a hidden hole, hidden break in cement, or a broken handrail, etc., that causes you to lose your balance or trip and fall, causing injury.

What are the elements of a slip/trip and fall case?

If you slip/trip and fall and are injured because of an unsafe condition on property, you will have to show:

  • The owner of the property was negligent in dealing with the condition—that is, that the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the property and failed to repair it (or if repaired, it was repaired in a way that did not fix or made the condition worse), rope it off, or warn of the condition;
  • The negligence caused your injury.

Examples: In each of the following, if the property owner had notice of the condition and failed to do anything about it (or took action but did so in a way that failed to adequately address the condition), the injured person may be able to recover for slip/trip and fall.

  • You are in an office building, and the lobby floor has a crack in it; you catch your shoe on the crack and fall, damaging your knee.
  • You are walking down a flight of stairs in a theatre and lose your balance. You reach for the railing, which is not securely attached to the wall, causing you to fall down the stairs, injuring yourself.
  • You are in a car dealership, where the owner has laid carpet. The carpet is not securely fastened to the floor. You trip on edge of the carpet and injure yourself. You park your car inside a lot in a marked spot. There are no signs warning that the pavement inside the lot is broken and dangerous. When you open your door and step onto the pavement, you land in a hole, spraining your ankle.

Note that in any of the above cases, if the property owner does not have notice of a dangerous condition or could not have known about the condition, it can be difficult to prove negligence in failing to address the condition.

I have been injured in a slip/trip and fall:

  • Notify the property owner immediately or ASAP
  • Seek medical attention and otherwise document your claims
  • Your time to sue is limited; contact our office immediately