The short answer to this question is no, you aren’t obligated to go to court if you are seeking compensation for your injuries and damages. Most New York auto accident claims are resolved before trial if the insurance company offers a fair settlement. However, certain cases can go to trial if:
- The insurance company does not offer you a fair and equitable settlement
- Both parties cannot agree who was at fault for the accident
- The plaintiff suffered a serious injury as defined in Article 51 of New York’s Insurance Law
- The plaintiff incurred economic losses that meet or exceed $50,000
New York is a no-fault state, so the minimum amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance that you can purchase is $50,000. That’s why an injured person must prove “serious injury” or show economic losses exceeding $50,000 to file a lawsuit after a car accident.
An experienced car accident lawyer at Carner & DeVita will evaluate your case and help you decide the best course of legal action. Call our Long Island personal injury attorneys at (631) 543-7070 today for a free consultation.
Car Accident Settlement Process
Because most New York auto accident claims won’t be heard in court, it’s important to understand the steps of the settlement process.
- First, you will file a personal injury claim with the other driver’s insurance company. You and your attorney will write a demand letter to the insurance company that outlines your claim, injuries, and the damages you want to recover.
- An insurance claims adjuster will conduct an investigation of the accident, including a review of every piece of recovered evidence.
- During the investigation, your Long Island car accident lawyer will help you gather evidence to validate your claim to the insurance company. This evidence could include a doctor’s examination and prognosis or a rendering of the accident scene created by an accident reconstruction expert.
- If the other driver’s insurance company accepts your claim, they will make a settlement offer.
- You and your attorney will then enter into negotiations with the insurance provider. If the offered settlement is not equitable and meets or exceeds New York’s injury and economic thresholds, you can then begin the car accident lawsuit process.
Car Accident Lawsuit Process
If you meet the criteria to file a personal injury lawsuit in New York, you and your attorney will make an initial filing by drafting a complaint and submitting it to the court. It is imperative that you follow New York’s statute of limitations and file your personal injury claim within three years. If you fail to do so, you could lose your legal right to sue.
Our attorneys at Carner & DeVita advise that you file your claim as soon as possible after the accident to avoid the deadline.
After you file a lawsuit, the at-fault driver will be served a copy of the complaint and a summons to appear in court on a given date. The at-fault driver may then begin their defense. If they feel as if the claims made against them are false or inaccurate, they can make counterclaims and file one or more preliminary motions that may impact your case. These include:
- Motion for change of venue
- Motion to dismiss
Unless the judge grants the motion to dismiss, your case will move forward.
The next step in the car accident lawsuit process is called “discovery.” This is when the plaintiff (injured party) and defendant can exchange any relevant information or evidence. Discovery prevents one side from hoarding pertinent evidence that may affect the other’s argument.
Information and evidence gathered in the discovery process includes:
- Doctors’ statements and prognoses
- Witness testimonies
- Evidence obtained by an expert, such as an accident reconstruction professional
After both sides have prepared their arguments and gathered evidence, and if the plaintiff still does not accept the settlement, the case will go to trial. Our auto accident lawyers at Carner & DeVita are knowledgeable and dedicated to getting you the compensation you deserve. We are relentless in our approach and will not stop until you receive a fair settlement.
There are two types of trials for personal injury cases: bench and jury. You and your attorney at Carner & DeVita will decide which type is best for your case.
- In a bench trial, the decision of whether you are entitled to compensation is made solely by a judge with no jury present.
- In a jury trial, the judge has the right to decide which laws apply, but the jury will decide if you are entitled to compensation.
Car Accident Witness Responsibility
Witnesses often have to go to court, even if they weren’t involved in the accident. They often get to decide whether or not they will testify, but if you receive a summons from a judge, you are obligated to appear in court as a witness.
If you have been summoned but do not appear in court, you may face penalties including fines or jail time. If you have questions about testifying or appearing in court as a witness, contact Carner & DeVita today at (631) 543-7070.