Millions of people walk the roadways of New York, either as a primary source of transportation in urban boroughs filled with both amenities and motor vehicle traffic, to reach the bus stop or subway station, for health purposes, or even as a way to fully immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of the state’s most fascinating locations.
However, these pedestrians commonly must walk on roadways that have not been designed for pedestrian safety but move vehicles along as quickly as possible. Many drivers operating these vehicles are distracted, driving too fast, or engaging in other unsafe behaviors. Others are simply unaware of their responsibilities as drivers to avoid collisions with pedestrians and other roadway users.
Pedestrian accidents, even at low speeds, commonly produce serious, catastrophic, or even fatal injuries. When someone is injured due to another party’s negligence, they have the right to seek compensation through the personal injury claims process.
While the process seems simple and straightforward, claimants who pursue compensation without the assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer often find themselves overwhelmed with the complexities of the process and the time they have to file a claim ticking down. Do you need a pedestrian accident attorney in New York? The answer is yes, and here is a look at some of the reasons why.
Reasons Why You Need a Pedestrian Accident Attorney
According to the New York State Health Department, injuries to pedestrians are among the leading causes of injury-related hospital admissions within the state. Around 15,000 people are injured in this type of accident each year, with around 3,000 of those injuries resulting in hospital admissions. Around 300 people will succumb to injuries incurred in pedestrian accidents.
Many of the thousands of pedestrian accidents occurring on New York roadways result from negligent drivers. The victims of those accidents are often eligible to seek compensation through the personal injury claims process. While there is no legal requirement to obtain the services of an attorney, there are many reasons why having one is crucial to the claimant’s ability to obtain the compensation they need.
You Need to Understand Your Legal Options
The simplest reason to talk to an attorney about your claim is that you need to understand the legal options available to you. Not everyone is eligible to file a personal injury claim, and in some cases, there are other avenues for obtaining assistance that would be more appropriate for the claimant.
A personal injury lawyer can evaluate the case for free and tell you about the options that are available in the circumstances of your accident. If you are eligible to file a personal injury claim, the attorney can explain that process in greater detail and tell you about the role an attorney plays in that process.
You Do Not Have a Personal injury Protection Policy
Drivers in New York must purchase a personal injury protection (PIP) policy with at least $50,000 in coverage to legally operate their vehicles on New York roadways. This policy also commonly referred to as no-fault coverage pays for the medical expenses related to treating the injury as well as up to 80 percent of wage loss experiences as a result of the injury by the driver, members of their household, and passengers in their vehicle if they are in a crash.
The policy also provides up to $25 a day to pay for household services that the claimant cannot perform due to the injury and a death benefit of $2,000 payable to the estate of a covered person killed in an accident. This coverage extends to the policyholder and their household members if they are injured or killed in a pedestrian accident.
Because of New York’s no-fault car accident rules, injured parties are encouraged to seek compensation for the expenses of their pedestrian accident injuries. However, many people are pedestrians because they do not own a vehicle and therefore do not have access to a PIP policy. In those cases, the injured party is permitted to seek compensation for their injuries through the personal injury claims process.
Your Injuries Are Serious or Permanent
Injured pedestrians are also permitted to use the New York personal injury claims process if their injuries meet the state’s serious injury threshold, even if they do have access to coverage. The New York serious injury threshold includes injuries that result in death, dismemberment, significant disfigurement, a bone fracture, loss of a fetus, or permanent loss or limitation of a body organ, function, member, or system.
Serious injuries generally result in more medical expenses and more lost wages. Certain types of injuries, known as catastrophic injuries, can result in a permanent loss of earning capacity, as they produce such severe deficits that the sufferer is limited in their ability to earn an income.
Because of these issues, a personal injury claim featuring serious or catastrophic injuries will require a high value to provide compensation that the claimant needs to continue obtaining medical treatment through the course of their life or replace wage loss through the course of their working years.
Higher-valued claims are less likely to be resolved through the settlement process, as the at-fault party’s insurance company will often decide to take their chances with litigation, facing the more expensive legal process with the hope of a jury deciding that the insured wasn’t liable or the claim wasn’t worth its established value.
An increased amount of medical documentation, information from the injured party’s employer, and other documentation is needed to justify the high value of the claim. All of this results in a difficult claims process that needs an attorney’s experience.
The At-Fault Party’s Insurance Provider Says the Accident Was Your Fault
Insurance claims adjusters are insurance company employees whose jobs revolve around protecting their employer’s bottom line so they can keep making money on premiums. They evaluate claims made against policies to determine whether their insured was liable. If so, they will determine how much compensation the claimant owes. They often use several tactics to devalue the claim, and one of the most common tactics is to convince the claimant that they were at fault for causing the accident.
An experienced pedestrian lawyer can investigate the accident thoroughly to determine all liability sources. They can also gather the evidence and witness testimony that helps prove the at-fault party’s liability, and they can manage communication with the claims adjuster to avoid having them convince you of anything about your claim, including liability and the amount of compensation you need.
A New York Pedestrian Accident Injured Your Child
Every week in the U.S., pedestrian accidents injure nearly 300 children, and seven children die from injuries sustained in this type of accident. Children are not permitted to file a pedestrian accident claim because they cannot enter contracts (such as contingent fee agreements with an attorney or a settlement agreement with the at-fault party’s insurer) until they reach the age of majority.
In New York, when a pedestrian under 18 is injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, their parent or legal guardian is permitted to file the claim on their behalf. However, if the parent or guardian decides to settle the claim, the settlement must be reviewed by the court to ensure that it serves the child’s best interest.
Additionally, a judge can order the proceeds of a settlement or court award paid on behalf of a child’s injuries to be held in a trust so that the child has access to these funds when they become an adult.
The injured minor is also permitted to file a claim on their own once they reach the age of majority. New York’s three-year statute of limitations is tolled in child injury claims until they turn 18. They then have until their 21st birthday to file the claim.
A Pedestrian Accident Lawyer: Your Source of Experience and Information
Pedestrian accident lawyers spend years obtaining the education and experience they need to assist injured parties as they navigate the personal injury claims process. They have a deep understanding of the laws that provide claimants with the right to seek compensation and the type of compensation needed after someone has incurred a serious injury in a pedestrian accident. They have a team of legal professionals to help with the legwork involved in gathering documentation, evidence, and knowledge about the type of evidence that can most effectively prove a claim.
Even if an injured pedestrian hires an attorney to assist them with the claim, the major decisions to make in the case are the claimants. The attorney is a powerful source of information about how claims are valued and what constitutes a fair settlement. They can provide this information to prepare the client to make these important decisions.
“I Can’t Afford an Attorney” (Yes, You Can)
Many people hesitate when the suggestion of hiring an attorney to help them pursue compensation after they’ve been injured in an accident, including those who have incurred significant injuries likely to produce permanent impacts on their quality of life. The most common reason for this hesitation is that they are afraid they can’t afford to pay for an attorney. However, because of how personal injury attorneys bill for their services, anyone involved in a New York pedestrian accident can obtain legal assistance, regardless of their financial status.
The contingent fee billing method makes the payment for the services of the attorney contingent upon a successful resolution to the claim. This means that the claimant does not have to pay for their legal team until they receive compensation.
Here is how it works:
- The injured party attends a free case evaluation with an experienced New York pedestrian accident attorney. During this evaluation, they can share the details of their accident and obtain answers to the legal questions they have about their claim. They can also obtain more information about the attorney and the type of services they can offer to assist the injured party with their claim. This information is free of charge, with no further obligation to obtain services from the attorney.
- If the claimant and the attorney decide to work together on the claim, they will enter into a contingent fee agreement. This legally binding document outlines in writing the services that the attorney will provide and designates a percentage of the compensation received on the client’s behalf as payment for the attorney’s services.
- The attorney and their legal team can begin working on the case immediately, without waiting for an upfront retainer, and they can continue working on the claim until its resolution without billing the claimant.
- At the resolution of the claim, either through a negotiated settlement or a court award, the compensation will be sent directly to the attorney from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. The attorney places these funds in a trust account. They then go to work to settle any medical liens placed on the claim by health insurance providers or health care providers. They will also deduct the percentage that was designated as their payment per the contingent fee agreement.
- The attorney and the claimant will finalize the case. The claimant will receive an accounting of the services performed and the payment provided to the lawyer, then receive their portion of the compensation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.