When clients come to our White Plains, New York office after suffering personal injury, the first question they ask is the same: “Do I have a injury case or don’t I?” The answer to this question revolves around three basic issues, as well as some other considerations which may be significant. The first question that we need to determine is liability, otherwise known as fault. To use a few examples, in a New York slip and fall case against a homeowner, we must be able to establish that: the sidewalk was in fact broken; or that there was no lighting on the stairway, or that there was ice on the driveway which had not been cleared for some time. In a New York motor vehicle accident case, examples would include establishing that: that the client had the green light; that the other driver failed to stop or yield at an intersection, or that the other driver was driving recklessly or speeding.
The second issue is insurance coverage. In motor vehicle accident cases, there are numerous questions to be asked. Does the other driver have sufficient insurance coverage? Is there the possibility of an insurance company disclaimer due to non payment of premiums, or is there the use of a vehicle which is not covered by the policy–i.e.–was the other driver using his or her vehicle for work purposes when it was only insured for personal use? If the other driver was uninsured or underinsured, does the potential client have underinsurance coverage which protects them against an uninsured/underinsured wrongdoer?
Another area in which insurance issues in New York become particularly significant is in dog bite cases. Frequently, potential clients are injured by New York dog owners who rent rather than own a house, and have no insurance coverage for dog bite injuries. In this instance, we must next look to the assets of the dog owner, but there are many occasions in which the dog owner has minimal assets.
Then there is the issue of the injuries suffered by the client. In slip and fall cases, premises liability, assaults, medical malpractice, and construction accidents, to use several examples, as long as the client has suffered some form of compensable injury, and there is insurance coverage or assets to pursue, the case can be successful. In New York motor vehicle accidents, however, the No-Fault Law requires that the client have one of several specific injuries to have a chance at recovery: a fracture; permanent scarring; disfigurement; dismemberment, death; a loss of a fetus, a “permanent consequential limitation of a body part”; or a non permanent injury which limits the activities of the client for 90 of the 180 days after the accident.