Rear End Collisions: A Vehicle Struck Mine from Behind. Do I Have a Lawsuit?
A rear-end collision occurs when a vehicle is struck from behind by another vehicle. This often happens while waiting at a red light, or while approaching an exit ramp on the highway. In a rear-end collision, the driver in the back is generally presumed at fault. In cases involving more than two vehicles, this can be more tricky. However, simply being struck in the rear does not guarantee a successful personal injury lawsuit.
In New York State, two basic elements need to be proven:
Liability – that the other driver was at least partially at fault for causing the accident; and
Damages - that you sustained a “serious injury” as defined by the New York State Insurance Law.
Liability: Proving liability means demonstrating the other driver was at least partially responsible for causing the collision. It does not need to be 100% their fault. Police Accident Reports often list reasons that cars are struck from behind such as driver inattention, following too closely, unsafe speed, driver distraction, etc.
Even in rear end collisions, the other driver can explain the accident to make it look like your fault (claiming you suddenly stopped, cut them off, etc.) For this reason it is very important that you consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible following such a collision.
However, even if it is proven that the driver who hit you from behind is at fault, that still doesn’t mean your lawsuit will succeed. You also need to prove that you sustained a “serious injury” as defined in the New York State Insurance Law in order to not have your lawsuit dismissed.
What qualifies as a "serious injury" in New York State? The system is designed to keep fender benders with minor injuries from cluttering the courts. Generally, New York’s No Fault Insurance framework requires your insurance company to cover expenses up to $50,000 following a motor vehicle accident. Some details about No Fault coverage are provided in the next section.
In order to access an insurance carrier’s Personal injury Policy, your injuries must meet or exceed the definition of serious injury provided in New York State Insurance Law Section 5102 (d), which states as follows:
"Serious injury" means a personal injury which results in
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 a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person's usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
Sometimes, it can be obvious whether your injuries qualify – if you broke a bone, lost a limb, or were bedridden for at least 90 of the 180 days immediately following an accident, your injuries clearly qualify. However, in cases involving sprained, strained and torn tendons and ligaments, herniated or bulging spinal discs, and whiplash, it can be less obvious. Either way, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to assess whether or not you have a lawsuit. I can be contacted at 914-500-7990 at any time if you have questions.
No Fault Coverage: Each vehicle insured in New York State carries a minimum of $50,000 in no-fault coverage for each occupant of the vehicle. This includes monthly wage compensation of 80% of your gross wages (up to a maximum of $2,000.00 per month unless your policy is extended to cover a higher amount.) No Fault payments are not taxable.
No Fault should cover various costs associated with your treatment including trips to medical providers, equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs, canes and other medical supplies, household chores your doctor advises that you cannot perform, and other related costs. The $50,000.00 includes payments from all sources, including New York State disability.
If No Fault denies your coverage, it is important to speak with an attorney who regularly deals with claim denials.
Contact: If you are involved in a rear end collision, it is important to speak with an experienced Personal Injury attorney as soon as possible. Our office is very experienced in handling such claims in the Five Boroughs, Westchester, and surrounding areas. I regularly consult with clients at home or at the hospital, so you don’t need to worry about travelling while you are hurt – you have enough to deal with. Do not hesitate to contact me (text messages and phone calls are both fine) at any time at 914-500-7990.