After a New York motor vehicle crash, the clock starts to tick.
How Soon to Make the Claim
Someone looking to make a claim for pain and suffering does not have forever to do so. The claim must be asserted within a limited time, also known as a statute of limitations. The duration of the statute of limitations depends on the unique circumstances, and there may even be additional legal requirements—known as conditions precedent— which must be satisfied before any lawsuit can commence.
For example, if a municipal or governmental entity—like a City, Town, or some State agency—bears responsibility, critical steps must be taken within as little as 90 days. Failure to take those steps can forever bar the claim.
Also, as a practical matter, the longer the delay, the greater the chance that critical evidence could be spoliated, destroyed, or otherwise lost. This evidence can include but is not limited to:
- Even data recorder (EDR) data, relating to the vehicles’ pre-crash operation;
- Surveillance footage from nearby businesses whose cameras might have captured the crash itself;
- The ability to locate potential eyewitnesses, and obtain statements from them; and
- Inculpatory evidence that the at-fault driver may have, including cell phone data, which may be destroyed unless such person receives formal notice of a potential lawsuit.
As you might expect, time is of the essence after a New York motor vehicle crash. Those who choose to wait a long time before hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer run the risk that the case may encounter unnecessary obstacles because of the delay.
After an Attorney is Acquired
Once an attorney is retained, however, it is natural to ask: “What is the typical process for a case like mine? Or “How long do you expect my case to take?”
These sorts of questions about the legal process, and its expected duration, are reasonable to ask. Will this be a monthslong or yearslong endeavor? If you don’t know exactly how long the legal process will take, when will you know? Do I have any control over how long the process takes, or is it totally out of my hands?
The answer to these reasonable questions: It depends. This short answer may seem unsatisfactory, but it is not possible to offer generalized answers on these issues because those answers would be blatant overgeneralizations and thus inaccurate.
The anticipated course and duration of a New York car-crash personal injury case depends on many variables, including:
- Severity of injuries – Often there is an open question as to whether the injured person sustained a “serious injury” under the New York Insurance Law. Generally, someone can recover for pain and suffering only upon a showing that they suffered a “serious injury” which, generally, is a factually sensitive question that depends on the nature and severity of the injury and the degree to which it has affected activities of daily living. An experienced New York personal injury lawyer can explain the “serious injury” threshold in greater detail. Some of the categories, by nature, require the passage of time.
- Amount of insurance coverage – Where there is limited insurance coverage—such as state-minimum insurance coverage of just $25,000 per person—and injuries clearly warrant a tender of the complete policy limits, the case may not take as long. Where, however, there is significant insurance coverage and the parties do not see eye to eye on the “value” of the injured person’s pain and suffering, or the attorney hired by the insurance company believes that there may be a possible defense, the case may take significantly longer and require significant time in court, also known as “litigation.”
- The liability scenario – “Liability” refers to whether another person or entity is required to pay for harm caused to another. A showing of negligence can establish liability. For example, if the other driver very clearly violated the rules of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, the liability question may be straightforward and engender little controversy. In a case where the parties offer conflicting accounts (for example, both motorists coming from different intersecting roads state that they had the green light), the liability question can get complicated and potentially require a jury determination, which takes time.
- Other injured claimants – Some crashes injure more than one person. When that happens, the insurance company for the at-fault motorist may be reluctant to pay out the entire policy limit until it knows whether other potential claimants will be making a claim for pain and suffering.
- Court scheduling – When a New York motor vehicle case must be litigated through the court system, scheduling timeframes will be affected by various factors that are sometimes outside of the injured person’s control, including the assigned judge’s availability for court conferences, motion hearings, and, ultimately, trial. The assigned judge will ordinarily set a “scheduling order” which will help the case move briskly through the litigation process.
If you were injured in a New York motor vehicle crash and you are looking for guidance in determining how long your motor vehicle crash case might take, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. We would be honored to review the circumstances of your case and provide you with direction on that issue.