Beware of Insurance Adjusters! How to Navigate Your Insurance After a Car Crash

How-an-Insurance-Adjuster-Works-to-Limit-Your-Settlement

If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you’ve probably talked on the phone or in person shortly after the collision with an adjuster from your insurance company or the other vehicle’s insurance company. It’s a confusing time, often with police and ambulances and many other concerns in addition to your car insurance.

But if you have been in a crash, you’ll have to deal with insurance adjusters. They usually appear to be nice people, soothing and sympathetic. They are trying to make you think they are Here To Help You. They reassure you that they are recording your statement about the crash to get your version of events right away, and they’ll process your claim faster this way.

But before you get swept up in the frantic moments after a crash, remember this about insurance adjusters: They’re not your friends. They are doing their job, and that’s to save the insurance company as much money as possible on your crash.

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Here are some great points to remember about insurance adjusters and recorded victim statements:

  • Most crash victims just want to do the right thing and honestly record what happened in their crash when meeting with an insurance adjuster. But when the recorder is running, many crash victims misstate the facts, ramble, and make incorrect assumptions that will hurt them in the long run.
  • They are recording your statement in hopes that once you get talking, you’ll make a mistake they can use later against you in a trial, deny your claim or pay you less money.
  • Most people are not prepared to be questioned by a trained investigator, so it’s best to decline the adjuster’s request for a recorded interview or statement. Once that red light is on on the recorder, you will forget things, or remember something incorrectly, or misspeak in some other way. It happens to everyone in a high-pressure situation. Of course, the adjuster will make it sound like a rejection makes you act like you have something to hide. Don’t fall for that line. Just politely decline and end the discussion. Get a lawyer and be prepared professionally for your statement.
  • If you want to talk to the adjuster, ask to schedule a follow-up call for the statement and take time to read the police report, revisit the crash scene, review the damage to your car, and read any medical records you can obtain. Call witnesses and review the evidence carefully. Finally, be sure to review your insurance policy.

Set some rules for yourself for the meeting with the adjuster:

  • Request that the adjuster take notes and not record your meeting, unless your insurance carrier required it in your contract.
  • Be honest but brief.
  • Focus on each question, briefly answer it, and don’t ramble.
  • Do not volunteer information.
  • Only explain when asked to do so, and do it briefly.
  • If you don’t understand a question, don’t answer it.
  • When it comes to distances and amounts and speeds and items like that, don’t guess or make assumptions.
  • You can’t remember everything. If you’re not sure about something, say you are unsure.
  • Don’t be bullied into answering questions.
  • No absolute words like “never” and “always”.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Never guess. If your answer is a guess, say you can’t answer the question.
  • Ask for a transcribed copy of your recorded statement and review it for accuracy.
  • Memories of collisions get jumbled. Don’t easily admit wrongdoing if you do not believe you were at fault.
  • Bring a witness when you speak to the adjuster.
  • Take notes of questions asked of you by the adjuster.
  • Do not sign anything unless an attorney on your behalf has reviewed it.

If you’re a crash victim and you’re concerned about dealing with insurance companies, contact the Ziff Law Firm to see how we can help you by calling (607) 733-8866 or emailing [email protected].

Be well and drive safely,

Jim

James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Many thanks to the lawyers at the Hepworth Holzer law firm in Boise, Idaho, who contributed to these tips.


When It Comes To Buying Car Insurance, Shop Local, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

Police Captain Speaks on Elmira Shooting- Neighbor Reaction_14723095_ver1.0_640_360

This column was originally published in The Odessa File.

It’s not easy to convince people to invest more money in their car insurance.

I often meet people, and represent clients, who are underinsured, and when I advise them to budget more money for car insurance, I am sure that some wonder, “Why does he want the insurance companies to make more money?”

I represent injured people; I’m not a salesman for insurance companies. I don’t want you to give an extra penny to the insurance companies that you don’t have to, but the reality is, most people are underinsured — and being underinsured can be financially devastating. You need to have enough insurance to adequately protect yourself and your family.

But how do you decide what is enough insurance coverage? That’s the tough question, and the answer depends upon your unique circumstances: your income, your assets, the number of dependents, your health insurance coverage, and so on.

R1-1_MOD__34542.1522940971Because there are so many factors at play, my best advice is to consult an experienced, LOCAL insurance agent. Do NOT buy your insurance online or on the phone. Take the time to sit down face-to-face with an agent who can ask you the relevant questions and who can answer your questions. There are many excellent insurance agents in our area, so ask around and see who your friends and neighbors recommend. You are looking for an agent who will take the time to get to know you and your needs.

I know that the last thing anyone wants to do is spend a lot of time shopping for insurance, and it’s very tempting to just buy the cheapest insurance you can find online but the reality is that, no matter what, you are going to be spending a lot of money insuring your vehicle and home, so it’s important that you spend your money wisely to make sure you get the coverage you need. Take the time to do this important job of buying insurance correctly.

And as an absolute baseline for all New Yorkers, I recommend that you have at least $250,000 in Liability and Supplemental Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage. When a single helicopter flight to the hospital can cost $38,000 (I kid you not!) and a single day in the ICU more than $20,000, anything less in coverage is simply not enough.

Although I appreciate that my $250,000 recommendation is more than the $25,000 New York minimum, I would point out that this minimum coverage has not been increased in over 30 years while medical costs have skyrocketed. I think it’s ridiculous and financially foolhardy that state legislators in Albany have not increased the minimum limits, but regardless, you have the power to do the smart thing by buying enough coverage to protect you and your family. Better safe than sorry.

So get out your current policy and review your SUM and Liability limits. If you have a question about your car insurance policy, email me at [email protected] I will provide a free evaluation.

Be well and drive safely,

Jim

James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Legal News You Can Use: Check Out Ziff Law’s New Summer 2018 Newsletter

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Adam Gee, Christina Sonsire, Jim Reed, and Mike Brown.

 

The Ziff Law Firm debuts its new – and redesigned – free newsletter this week as the Summer 2018 issue arrives in mailboxes and inboxes around the Twin Tiers. It is filled with legal news that you can use – and much more.

Our cover story explains how our popular Veteran of the Game program came home to Elmira this summer.

Then we get to the legal news:

Our lawyers write about some of the key issues they encounter in their practices as they tackle these questions:

  • Do bicyclists in New York State have to operate by the same laws as vehicles? Ziff Law managing partner and noted bicycle law expert Jim Reed educates readers.
  • Is motorcycle insurance the same as car insurance? Partner Adam Gee, a longtime motorcyclist and motorcycle law expert, has some surprising answers.
  • Why does Ziff Law partner Christina Sonsire teach for a statewide legal education organization?
  • How does Ziff Law attorney Mike Brown’s family play a role in his legal practice?

And just for fun, we profile a downtown Elmira shop, a hidden gem that is in the “upcycling” business, in our Business Spotlight.

The owner of Nutmeg Upcycling, longtime downtown business owner Rich LaVere, talked to us about his growing business and why he keeps returning downtown.

We published a short interview in the print newsletter and there is a bonus longer interview with Rich here, where he talks about the challenges facing downtown and how the city can start turning things around. He’s an optimist!

At Ziff Law, we are committed to being environmentally responsible, so if you’d like to receive our free newsletter by email, send an email to us today at [email protected] and we will send you a PDF right away – and as a bonus, add your name for an upcoming drawing for a $50 gift card to Lib’s Supper Club in Elmira.

If you’d like to receive the newsletter by mail, call (607-733-8866) or email ([email protected]) us with your name and address and we’ll send it right out.

Happy reading!

Jim

James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

How Long Will My Car Accident Case Take? Answers from a NY & PA Car Accident Lawyer

Don't let insurance adjusters mislead you about the comparative negligence rule in New York State.

Immediately seek medical assistance and consult an attorney after a car accident.

Jessica Whitton, a freelance writer and paralegal, has written a good summary of the major steps in a personal injury lawsuit.

Before I summarize what she wrote, I want to point out one important factor:

Time is of the essence in IMMEDIATELY consulting a lawyer. There are many insurance companies who are training their employees to immediately contact an injured person with hopes that the can get that injured person to sign off on their claims before that person has a chance to learn the true severity of their injuries or the full extent of their possible claims.

Many times, these claims adjusters will mislead the vulnerable injured person, and accordingly, it is critically important that an injured person hire a lawyer to protect their interests.

Please remember the time for bringing a negligence claim in New York state is three years and two years in Pennsylvania.

Here is Jessica’s step-by-step approach to understanding the typical steps in a personal-injury lawsuit:

  • Seek Medical Attention: Immediately. Go to your doctor or closest hospital and get checked out. Immediately. As Jessica points out, it will give you an edge if your insurance company tries to prove that there was no injury and an immediate hospital visit shows the jury you were hurt.
  • Talk To A Lawyer: Call or email me if you have an accident, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: (607) 733-8866 or [email protected].  If I am not immediately available, I will get back to you ASAP.
  • Commencement Of Investigations: Starts immediately after your lawyer agrees to accept your case. Make sure to provide all pertinent information and be honest about the accident and your medical condition to avoid surprises in the courtroom.
  • Attorney Files An Insurance Claim: Jessica correctly writes that most personal injury cases get settled out of court but to be safe and well-prepared, at ZiffLaw we assume every case will go to trial. We have learned that if you are ready to go to trial, you have substantial leverage to achieve the best results for our clients.  In car accident cases, we submit a comprehensive settlement package to the at-fault driver’s insurance company detailing important information about your claim:  your injuries, lost wages, medical treatment, and any permanent limitations.
  • Attorney Files A Lawsuit: If the insurance company does not settle your claim out of court, your attorney may see no other option than to file a lawsuit.
  • Discovery: The plaintiff and defendant investigate one another using the documents and evidence submitted.
  • Mediation: Following the completion of discovery and before trial, the parties may agree to mediate the case with a trained mediator who attempts to broker a mutually acceptable settlement.
  • Trial: All parties are present as the jury hears the evidence in the case. Most car crash trials are relatively short– 3-4 days– but some more complex cases can take weeks or even months.

At ZiffLaw, we do everything in our power to keep our cases moving as quickly as possible.  With that said, we will not rush any case as we know achieving maximum recovery for our clients often requires us to do things the hard way, not the easy and fast way.  We truly believe our willingness to go the extra mile distinguishes us from other lawyers who are willing to accept an easy and fast settlement rather than do the hard work necessary to get the very best result.

Thanks for reading! Leave me a message below if you have any questions.

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Does Your Car Insurance Carrier Penalize You When You Were Not At Fault?

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The Consumer Federation of America recently released new research that shows that safe drivers often see car insurance increases when they are involved in accidents  caused by other drivers.

car_insuranceAccording to the news release, in this new trend, some insurance carriers are penalizing their own customers when their customer did nothing wrong. It used to be that if you were involved in a collision that was not your fault, your own insurance company would not raise your rates. Makes perfect sense. Why should you be penalized when you did nothing wrong?

However, recently, a number of insurance companies decided to increase their profits by hitting their customers with significantly increased premiums when they had the misfortune to be involved in a crash that was not their fault. Two of the biggest New York carriers, Progressive and GEICO, were among the worst offenders of this new policy.

imagesInnocent drivers who don’t cause accidents should not be charged more because someone else hit them, J. Robert Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance and the former insurance commissioner of Texas, said in the news release. “Most people know that if they cause an accident or get a ticket they could face a premium increase, but they don’t expect to be punished if a reckless driver careens into them.”

CFA urged lawmakers around the country to prohibit penalties on innocent drivers. “Penalizing safe drivers hit by another car is not only very unfair; it also discourages them from filing legitimate claims,” Hunter said. “Lawmakers and regulators need to protect consumers from being punished when they’ve done nothing more than use the policy they have already paid for.”

CFA compared two good drivers – the only differences reflected in their socio-economic circumstances rather than their driving records – and found the following:

  • Higher-income drivers paid $78 more on average after a not-at-fault accident.
  • Moderate-income drivers paid $208 more on average after a not-at-fault accident.
  • Higher-income drivers faced a 6.6% penalty on average after a not-at-fault accident.
  • Moderate-income drivers faced a 9.6% penalty on average after a not-at-fault accident.
  • Excluding State Farm customers, who were never penalized, the average surcharges jumped to $99 (8.3%) for higher-income drivers and $264 (12.1%) for moderate-income drivers.

My suggestion: Contact your insurance agent and ask if your carrier has a policy of increasing premiums in not-at-fault crashes?

If so, I recommend you contact other insurance carriers as there are many carriers who do not increase premiums in this situation.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

___________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


Doctors Struggle To Curb Patients Who Pose Serious Danger To Other Drivers On The Road, Says NY and PA Medical Malpractice Lawyer

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Doctors face a daunting challenge when they are treating a patient who is impaired or has a disability that makes that patient an unsafe driver.

the-information-age-has-enabled-doctors-to-view-patient-data-on-laptops-_1508_608708_0_14091474_500Many doctors will want to get the patients’ keys away from them quickly and without incident, but they have to take great care not to breach that patient’s confidentiality.

Doctors shouldn’t notify the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles without talking with the patient, and with the patient’s permission, notify their family and the DMV, unless the patient has already done so.

Those are some of the key conclusions discussed in a story in the Spring 2016 Dateline newsletter published by the Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co.

According to Donnaline Richmond, counsel to the company, doctors need to document every step they take to protect themselves and their employer.

Doctors know patients will rarely do what’s required and report a disabling condition to the DMV, Richmond said. So doctors need to inform and warn patients of the risk of their medical condition – and fully document those warnings.

According to Richmond, among the steps doctors should document:

  • How medication or a medical condition make it unsafe for the patient to drive.
  • All attempts to communicate doctors’ concerns to the patients and their families, and their attempts to gain consent from patients.
  • All DMV paperwork completed for the patient, once the doctor has the patient’s written authorization.
  • All phone records from calls to patients and their family members regarding the patients’ inability to drive.
  • Patients’ written authorization to release medical information.
  • Reports to the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, if it applies.

Thanks for reading.

Christina Sonsire
[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tracy Morgan Accident Puts Spotlight On Fatigued Truckers Who Pose Real Danger To Other Drivers, Says NY and PA Truck Accident Lawsuit Lawyer

Actor Tracy Morgan is recovering in a New Jersey hospital after almost being killed in a highway accident involving a tractor-trailer.

Actor Tracy Morgan is recovering in a New Jersey hospital after almost being killed in a highway accident involving a tractor-trailer.

The tragic June 7 accident that critically injured actor and comedian Tracy Morgan has led to a renewed focus on the danger on our highways from fatigued truck drivers working too many hours without taking a break.

A friend of Morgan’s was killed when a Walmart tractor-trailer driven by Kevin Roper rear-ended Morgan’s Mercedes limousine at 1 a.m. June 7 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Morgan is now in fair condition in a New Jersey hospital.

The truck driver, charged with Vehicular Manslaughter By Operating A Vehicle Recklessly and Recklessly Causing Serious Bodily Injury, remains free on $50,000 bail. Prosecutors claim Roper went more than 24 hours without sleep before the fatal wreck. The Jonesboro, Ga., man pleaded innocent last week to the charges in the crash.

In a recent Law Talk segment on WETM-TV News at Noon, I talked about the accident and the charges faced by the truck driver.

Q&A 1Question: Who is held responsible when a truck driver is driving for a company?

Answer: The driver and the owner of the truck are both responsible. The driver has the responsibility of driving safely, and if he is not safe, he can be held liable.

If the truck driver works for Walmart and is operating the truck in the course of his employment, then the company is responsible, too.

In this case, there is an allegation that the driver had been awake for more than 24 hours at the time of the crash. That would be a major violation of federal trucking regulations.

Federal regulations are very specific. Drivers are not supposed to operate a truck for more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period, and after those 11 hours, they are supposed to rest for at least 10 hours. They cannot drive more than 70 hours in a week.

The truck driver is also supposed to list the hours he spends on the road in a log book in his truck. There are many log requirements, but I know from handling many truck accident cases that often the log books are incomplete, and in some cases, falsified.

Sen. Schumer is calling for tougher monitoring of truck drivers.

Sen. Schumer is calling for tougher monitoring of truck drivers.

Drivers are trying to get in more hauls because they get paid by the number of miles they travel and so often, we see truck drivers who have broken the law.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, called for “black boxes” (electronic logging devices) in trucks yesterday so trucker hours can be monitored. He cited some startling statistics: 4,000 people are killed and 100,000 injured in accidents involving trucks, and 13 percent of serious accidents are cause by trucker fatigue.

Schumer also wants the federal Department of Transportation to study, and if necessary, increase the insurance coverage level that truck companies are required to cover so victims of accidents receive the compensation and coverage they deserve, he said.

As a lawyer who has handled many tractor trailer cases in N.Y. and PA, I strongly support Senator Schumer’s call for great safety action.

To submit a legal question you’d like answered here on one of our Ziff Law blogs, please send an email to me at [email protected]

Thanks for reading, and remember when you are sharing the road with tractor-trailers, use extreme caution.

Jim
_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 

 


Buckle Up Or Else! Twin Tiers Police Officers Join National Crackdown! Be Smart And Use Seat Belt At All Times, Says NY and PA Car Accident Lawyer

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Police agencies across the nation — including the Twin Tiers — have launched a two-week “Click It or Ticket” high-visibility seat-belt enforcement drive this week, and are reminding motorists to wear seat belts on every trip, day or night.

Buckling up every time you get in a vehicle isn’t just important this month, or because you might get a ticket, but because it saves lives and prevents serious injuries.

We see the results of A LOT of car crashes – take it from us – you are much less likely to be seriously injured in a crash if you are wearing your seat belt. Otherwise, be prepared to meet your windshield face to face at 60 mph. 

0007H“We know seat belts save lives, and while we’re encouraged that national seat belt use is at an all-time high, we won’t stop our efforts until all motorists make the simple yet safe choice to buckle up on every trip,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “If you’re not buckled up, you’ll be ticketed.”

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data show that the use of seat belts in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 12,174 lives in 2012. Seat belts have saved nearly 63,000 lives during the five-year-period from 2008 to 2012, according to an NHTSA news release.

Nationwide, seat belt use was at a record high of 87 percent in 2013. However, nighttime seat belt use continues to lag behind daytime use. More motorists who are killed in crashes at night are unrestrained at the time of the crashes (61 percent) than those killed in crashes during the day (43 percent), the news release said.

This year’s campaign includes the “Fake-A-Rooney” advertisement (above) that airs nationally through May 26. The advertisement conveys the message that driving without a seat belt is not a joking matter, and officers take seat-belt violations seriously and will issue a ticket if you’re caught without being buckled.

There are no acceptable excuses or exceptions. Always wear a seat belt!

Thanks for reading,

Adam
__________________________________________

Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]

 

 


PA Traffic Deaths Down In 2013, But Could Be Much Better, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

1599R-19050Great news for Pennsylvania drivers — traffic deaths on roads in the Keystone State were at an all-time low in 2013, state officials have reported here and here.

Motorists could achieve another all-time low in 2014, too, if everyone could take their responsibility to drive safely more seriously. The major causes of the fatalities are largely within our control and preventable – seat belt use, speeding, DUI, distracted driving and single vehicle crashes – often from falling asleep or inattentiveness.

Don’t drive if you haven’t had enough sleep, if you’ve been drinking alcohol, or you can’t put your phone down long enough to drive safely to your destination.

The total of 1,208 fatalities in 2013 was down from 1,310 the previous year and was the lowest number since traffic records began being logged in 1928.

By the numbers:

Deaths were down:

  • Among those not wearing seat belts (425, down from 503 the previous year).
  • Speeding accidents (193, down from 262).
  • Single-vehicle crashes (566, down from 648).
  • DUI-related fatalities dropped to 342, down 35 from the prior year and the lowest total since 1977, when the state started keeping records of drunken-driving deaths.

More fatalities were linked to:

  • Distracted driving (64, up from 57).
  • Head-on collisions or sideswipes (178, up from 148).
  • Drivers 75 years old and older (142, up from 126).

Don’t relax and think Pennsylvania roads are safer. Accident records go up and down year to year. Just do your part to make the roads safer. Be alert, be sober and be vigilant. Watch for pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists and any other danger in the road, such as potholes.

Never let your guard down when you are driving.

Thanks for reading,

Adam
__________________________________________

Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]

 


Q&A: Don’t Let Insurance Companies Twist State Law After Motor Vehicle Crashes, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

Don't let insurance adjusters mislead you about the comparative negligence rule in New York State.

Don’t let insurance adjusters mislead you about the comparative negligence rule in New York State.

Welcome to the newest feature on our Ziff Law blogs, Questions & Answers.

If you have legal questions, we will try to provide answers here.

Q&A 1While we will answer questions about personal injury, medical malpractice and divorce law, our primary practice areas, we will also be glad to talk about car/motorcycle/truck insurance, medical bills, lost wages, property damage and any legal issue in the news.

If we can’t answer your question, we will refer you to a lawyer with expertise in that particular area.

Submit your questions by email to [email protected]

Today’s question is from a Twin Tiers resident who received misleading information from an insurance adjuster after a minor car accident.

Question: I was in a car accident yesterday evening. A woman failed to stop at a stop sign and pulled out in front of me, and I struck her vehicle on the front driver side.

I just spoke with my insurance adjuster and she indicated that New York State has a shared responsibility law, or something like that, and that the insurance adjusters determine who was at fault and how much fault each party has.

signThe officer at the scene indicated the woman driving the other vehicle was clearly at fault because she failed to stop at the stop sign and pulled out in front of me.

Why should I have to share responsibility in this accident? There was nothing I could do to avoid the accident. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but I still feel that since she was fully responsible for the accident, her insurance should pay for the repairs to my vehicle.

Why should I have to pay the deductible out of my pocket through my insurance and claim this on my insurance if I was not at fault?

Does New York State really have such a law of shared responsibility, even if one driver is clearly at fault?

Answer: N.Y. does have a comparative negligence rule, which basically means that each party is responsible for their percentage of fault. For instance, if the other driver was 100 percent at fault, the other driver is 100 percent responsible for all damages.

Jim Reed

Jim Reed

On the other hand, if a judge or jury determines that the other driver was 80 percent at fault and you were 20 percent at fault, the other driver (and their insurance company) would only have to pay 80 percent of your damages.

Because New York State is what is called a “pure” comparative negligence state, you can collect from the other driver in direct ratio to their percent of fault, even if they are less than 50 percent responsible. (However, there are some exceptions to this general rule, so I recommend consulting with a lawyer.)

This comparative negligence law makes sense and is logical, but the way in which the insurance carriers often try to apply this law to cases is horrible. Even in cases of absolutely clear liability, where the other driver is 100 percent at fault, the carriers will often try to claim that you were 20 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent at fault, and will refuse to pay 100 percent of your property damage. I have had them do this in rear-ender cases, drunken driving cases, and other clear cases, and they are betting that most people just want to get their property damage check and will not fight them on this.

My advice is to NOT let insurance companies get away with this nonsense. Go talk to a lawyer and see if they can help you with the insurance carrier. Sometimes just the threat of a possible lawsuit over the property damage or personal injury claim is enough to have the carriers not jerk you around regarding the property damage claim.

Depending on the amount of your property damage, you can also take the other driver to Small Claims Court, suing them for 100 percent of the damage they caused.

And finally, you can (and should) file a complaint with the New York State Department of Financial Services (used to be called the N.Y. Insurance Department) about the insurance company’s dirty tactics.

File a complaint here.

Good luck and I wish you the best in fighting the good fight!

Jim
_________________________________

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com