Personal Injury Lawsuit FAQs

If you have been injured in an accident caused by somebody else's mistake or negligence, the first thing you should do after you've received medical assistance is contact an experienced personal injury attorney. This will allow you to focus on recovering from your injuries and help recover compensation for the medical bills you're facing.

Below we will cover some of the most pressing questions you may have about what the aftermath of your accident will look like, and how the legal process might play out. The best way to receive sound legal advice in the aftermath of a personal injury accident, however, is to contact Block O'Toole & Murphy to receive a free, no-obligation case review from an experienced New York personal injury attorney by calling 212-736-5300.

What are some common personal injury case examples?

Broadly speaking, personal injury lawsuits can be filed when one party is injured by the negligent actions or inactions of another party. The most common personal injury case types that we deal with at Block O'Toole & Murphy are:

Only an experienced attorney will be able to tell you if the unique facts of your case qualify for a personal injury lawsuit.

Do I have a valid case for a personal injury lawsuit?

A personal injury lawsuit or 'tort' can be filed when one party is harmed by something another party did or did not do. Whether or not the lawsuit will be successful depends on establishing a few conditions:

  • That the Defendant had a duty of care, or a responsibility for somebody else's safety, to the Plaintiff
  • That the Defendant failed to uphold this duty because of something they should not have done or were supposed to do
  • That there was a causation or connection between the Plaintiff's injuries and the Defendant's actions or lack thereof
  • That the Plaintiff's injuries and damages are a direct result of the Defendant's actions

The compensation you are eligible to receive from a personal injury lawsuit is separate from any money you receive through worker's compensation or no-fault insurance. The amount of money you are eligible for, however, depends on the facts of your case-only a qualified lawyer can ensure you do not miss any deadlines so you can receive all available compensation.

What kind of damages can I receive in a personal injury lawsuit?

Damages for a personal injury lawsuit are usually compensatory in nature, meaning that they are intended to return you to the state you were in prior to your accident, as much as that is possible. Damages which you can be compensated for in a personal injury accident includes but are not limited to:

  • The costs of your medical treatment after the accident and during your lawsuit
  • Future medical treatment costs
  • Lost wages and potential lost earning power
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of previous life activities due to disabilities
  • Emotional trauma and mental anguish

How much is my personal injury lawsuit worth?

It's impossible to predict how a case will be resolved, and either way, your health comes first. The best thing you can do is treat your injuries as fully as possible (don't assume your pain will go away on its own) and contact an attorney to review your legal options.

Can I still file a lawsuit if I'm receiving workers' compensation?

Yes. Workers' compensation and any money you receive from a personal injury lawsuit are separate from one another.

This is because workers' compensation is meant to provide a baseline of injury protection for employees. If you are injured on the job, whether your employer thinks it's your fault or not, you are eligible to receive a certain amount from workers' compensation, based on your wages and provided you regularly attend medical checkups.

You cannot, however, sue your employer directly. This is part of the "deal" that workers' compensation represents-employees have an accessible but limited financial lifeline in the event they are injured on the job, and employers are protected from lawsuits. But what happens if workers' compensation (which has a limit of $904.74 a week as of July 2018) doesn't cover all of your medical expenses?

That's where a personal injury lawsuit comes in, allowing injured parties to potentially recover all of the expenses which have resulted from an accident. But because you can't sue your employer, a personal injury lawsuit may only be filed against a third-party, such as a contractor, subcontractor, property owner or equipment manufacturer, who is responsible for causing your accident. A good attorney will have a working understanding of workers' compensation laws, and when a personal injury lawsuit can be filed.

What information could I gather that might help my lawsuit?

There are a few things you can do that might be of assistance to your lawyers down the line:

  • Take pictures of the accident scene. This will help definitively establish the conditions your accident occurred in, whether it was a work injury, slip, trip or fall, or car crash. In a personal injury lawsuit, a picture is worth 1,000 words.
  • Get a copy of any reports made. This includes police reports following an accident or a supervisor report following an on-the-job injury. While your lawyer should be able to locate these documents, the process of tracking down these records and reports takes some time.
  • Record all medical treatment and bills. The amount of medical attention your injuries require is directly related to the value of your case. Keeping track of this info in real-time makes your attorneys job that much easier.
  • Gather contact information of witnesses. Witnesses are critical to establishing what really caused an accident. Providing contact information for co-workers, for example, can be especially helpful for contacting witnesses who might otherwise be reluctant to involve themselves in an active lawsuit.

How long should I wait to see a doctor?

If you are in pain, you should consider seeking medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you've been in an accident and are not yet experiencing pain, you should be aware that it is possible adrenaline is masking your injuries. Injuries often surface after an accident even though the victim initially did not experience pain. It might be tempting to wait your injury out to gauge its severity. This is usually a bad idea, however, because in the time you wait, your injury could worsen significantly.

Furthermore, when you wait more than 48-72 hours, an insurance company could decide that you have delayed your treatment, allowing them to argue that your injuries are not severe or that your delay contribute to your injuries worsening. This is due to the types of computer programs and algorithms that insurance companies use to project a certain value range onto your claim. One of the most important pieces of information about your case (from the perspective of the insurance company) is how long after the accident you waited to see a medical professional. Whether it's true or not, the insurance company will interpret a delay in seeking medical treatment as a sign that your injury is not very serious. If you have been injured in an accident, visit a doctor as soon as possible, and do not take any risks with your health.

What should I do if the insurance company calls me?

Do not talk to insurance companies without first consulting an experienced attorney, as insurance adjusters are only looking to resolve your claim with the smallest amount of money possible. Above all, never sign any documents or admit guilt to anybody-it could come back to hurt you and limit the compensation you are eligible to receive.

How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in New York?

In New York, the statute of limitations on a personal injury lawsuit is three years after the date of the accident. If somebody was killed in the accident, the lawsuit becomes a wrongful death action, and the statute of limitations drops to two years. Once the New York statute of limitations expires, the injured victim will be prohibited from filing a lawsuit to recover damages.

How long does it take to settle a personal injury claim?

It varies based on the facts of your case. In order to allow your lawyer to fight for the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to, you must be patient and allow the process to take its course. Particularly when a large amount of money is involved, negotiations could be very involved and time-intensive. The lawyers at Block O'Toole & Murphy prepare every case as if it is going to trial in order to win the maximum amount of compensation for our client.

You should also be aware that, generally, a conclusion to your case will not be reached until medical professionals have determined that you've received maximum benefit from your medical treatment. This way, your lawyer can communicate the full extent of your injuries, and how they have impacted your life, so that you can receive the most money you may be entitled to. While you are waiting for your lawsuit to make its way through the legal system, patience is key.

How much will it cost me to hire a lawyer?

It does not cost anything, because Block O'Toole & Murphy only charges contingency fees, which means your lawyer does not get paid unless and until they win your case.

What should I avoid doing after a motor vehicle accident?

Once the authorities have been contacted, you should be careful about taking any blame for the accident. A driver may feel they are to blame, entirely or partially, but they may be unfamiliar with the legal requirements of the road. Occasionally a driver may feel they are at fault and concede this to the police when the law dictates that another driver is entirely to blame for the collision. The police report made of your accident could be a critical part of your lawsuit. If it includes any statements of you accepting fault for the accident, it could hurt your case down the line.

The other thing to avoid is giving the other party's insurance company any information. Despite what they may tell you, an insurance adjuster's job is to settle your claim as cheaply as possible. Do not give any statements or sign any papers without first consulting an experienced personal injury attorney.

What is a property owner's standard of care?

When you are legally on somebody else's property, they have a basic responsibility for making sure you are safe while you're there. When they fail in this duty of care and you are injured in an accident caused by a property defect or condition which the property owner could or should have foreseen, you may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit.

Common defects which may result in a premises liability claim include:

  • Dirty or wet floors that cause fall accidents
  • Inadequately lit stairs and hallways
  • Ceiling or roof collapses
  • Violations of New York fire code
  • Accidents that occur at school

How does no fault insurance work in New York?

No-fault insurance is the statewide system of automobile insurance used in New York. No-fault insurance in New York is meant to ensure that drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists involved in motor vehicle accidents have up to $50,000 in insurance to pay for their legitimate medical expenses regardless of who was at fault for causing the accident. Medical expenses covered under no-fault insurance include:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Prescription drugs and surgeries
  • Physical therapy and rehab
  • Expenses related to household activities you are temporarily disabled from performing, such as laundry services, cleaning and child care

Notably, one of the things which no-fault will not pay for are damages related to pain and suffering. To recover for pain and suffering, an injured person will need to file a personal injury lawsuit, which is separate from any compensation paid out through no-fault insurance. In fact, no-fault insurance is partly intended to reduce the number of small claims lawsuits made following car crashes. In order to file a lawsuit for personal injury, the injuries you sustained must qualify as serious, which is defined in New York as:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment or significant disfigurement
  • A bone fracture
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system
  • Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system, or
  • An injury or impairment which prevent the injured person from performing their typical daily activities for at least 90 days within 180 days of the accident

Note that the window to file for no-fault compensation is short, only 30 days after the initial accident. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit, meanwhile, is three years. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, there are deadlines you must meet and applications you must fill out, all of which might seem insignificant in the wake of a serious injury. That is why you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, so that you can focus on your health while ensuring that you do not miss out on the compensation you are legally entitled to.

Can I sue a government or municipal agency?

Yes, although it depends on the facts of the case. If it can be proven that an agency had a duty of care to you, failed in that duty and you were injured as a result, there may be a valid case. Here are just a few lawsuits that Block O'Toole & Murphy has won versus New York government agencies:

  • $8,800,000 settlement after a car crash caused by a stop sign which was obscured by an overhanging tree that the City of New York consistently neglected to trim and maintain
  • $3,500,000 settlement for a bus operator who was seriously injured when he was rear-ended by a city-owned sanitation truck in Brooklyn
  • $3,400,000 settlement after a man was struck by a vehicle owned by the New York City Parks Department while he was refereeing a basketball game in Central Park
  • $3,000,000 settlement for a motorist in Manhattan who suffered numerous severe back injuries after he was rear-ended by a city-owned snow plow
  • $2,800,000 settlement for a car accident which was caused when an NYPD vehicle drove through a red light at an intersection, despite the fact that they were not involved in an emergency situation at the time
  • $2,270,000 verdict after the driver of a New York City Transit Authority bus rear-ended a tanker truck in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
  • $2,000,000 settlement for the family of a man who was killed due to an icy road condition which the City of New York failed to address, even though they had significant prior notice
  • $1,500,000 settlement for a motorcyclist who was struck by a city-owned fire truck which was attempting to make a left turn at an intersection on Governors Island
  • $1,500,000 settlement after a fatal car crash which occurred due to improper drainage on a major New York highway. Although the State of New York was found to be responsible for fixing this drainage issue because they owned the road, they failed to do so, resulting in tragedy