In the aftermath of a NY auto accident you may think a lawsuit is the best means of achieving justice and receiving just compensation. Don’t be shocked to hear this from a lawyer, but there may be some compelling reasons NOT to bring a lawsuit.
I’ve been receiving the New York Injury Times online newsletter by Gerald M. Oginski, an experienced accident attorney practicing in the New York City area. Gerald has some great advice and he’s given his permission for me to repost a recent article from Gerald Oginski’s Blog. Be sure to visit www.oginski-law.com to read more of Gerald’s excellent advice on the topic or to request a copy of his book, “Secrets of a New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer.”
‘7 Reasons You May Not Want to Sue’
– by Gerald M. Oginski (originally posted at www.oginski-law.com)
If you were involved in a car accident, there’s an excellent chance that you would bring a lawsuit against the driver of the car that hit you. In this article, I explain 7 reasons why you may not want to bring a lawsuit if you were involved in a car accident:
1. You were not injured. You’d think this was self-explanatory, but it’s not. There are two types of claims you can bring in an auto accident. The first is a property damage claim for the damage to your car. The second is a personal injury claim which would be for the physical injuries you suffered, the medical expenses, your past and future pain and suffering, as well as lost wages and potential lost future wages.
2. Your friends will think you are greedy. Some people feel that the only reason to bring a lawsuit is because you are looking to “make money” off the system, and why not? It’s only the insurance company’s money. Other people don’t look at their injuries as a way to make money. They’d rather go to work and earn money the old-fashioned way by working for their income.
During a trial, a good trial lawyer can make the following argument when asking a jury to understand what his client went through and why he’s entitled to compensation:
Let’s suppose that this morning Mr. Jones put an ad in the newspaper and said he’d give away one million dollars, for free! Just show up at his door, and the first one there will get it. No questions asked. How many people do you think would sprint out their door and race to be the first one in line? Thousands of people would try. But …what if you placed certain conditions on getting that $1,000,000 dollars?
Let’s say now that the ad said that in order to get that one million dollars you had to be involved in a horrific head-on collision that ejected you from the car and you landed 30 feet from the car. How many people do you think would still be waiting on that line? A lot less than started. But what if the ad went further, and said that before you could get that money, you not only had to be involved in this terrible car accident, but you had to have suffered a fractured pelvis, shattered both of your femurs (the largest bone in your body – they’re the thigh bones) had to be placed on a respirator for 20 days, intentionally put into a medically-induced coma for 10 days, and had major reconstructive surgery to fix the broken bones. How many people do you think would still be standing on that line? Not very many, but maybe one or two very desperate souls.
What if we added a few more conditions on to that advertisement, so that in order to get that “free” million dollars, you had to learn how to walk all over again, you had to spend three months in a rehabilitation center, and had to have two more surgeries to fix complications and infections that happened from the original surgery. Then on top of that, explain that their daily activities would have to be forever changed and they could not play sports, run, jog, ski, play basketball, football and everything they liked to do before the accident. How many people do you think would still be standing at the door seeking that “free” million dollars? Nobody.
That’s what a good trial attorney tries to explain to a jury in a significant accident case. The money will help pay for medical bills and modifications to their home to ambulate. It will provide a safety net for the injured victim and their family. Anyone who thinks a seriously injured car accident victim is suing because they’re greedy should read this article. In addition, they should spend at least one day in a victim’s home watching them struggle with daily activities such as tying their shoes or buttoning their shirt. Only by showing someone the tremendous hardships you face will they realize how important it is to obtain full compensation for your injuries.
3. What good will the money do you? This is a famous defense attorney line. This is used during negotiations, and also used during summations. “Plaintiff’s attorney is asking for millions for his client. Think about this … what good will the money do him? He can’t use it. His medical expenses … sure, give it to him, he deserves it. But the millions he’s asking for? No way. His injuries prevent him from going out and spending such huge exorbitant amounts of money.
The reply to this argument is not what you think. As much as you’d like to shake some sense into the defense lawyer, this is a better approach. “Look, your client created the problems that my client suffered. He didn’t do anything to create this accident or his injuries that stem from this accident. My client has incurred medical expenses in the thousands of dollars. Who is going to pay for those expenses? Should he, or his insurance company, have to foot the bill for your client’s wrongdoing? I don’t think so. That only covers his medical expenses in the past. What about future medical expenses that he’s sure to have? You’ve got to cover that as well.
This doesn’t even begin to address the compensation that he’s entitled to for the suffering he’s endured from the time of the accident until today. Don’t forget about the future suffering he’ll have from his injuries and medical care he’s going to need to treat his ongoing problems. This is known as past and future pain and suffering. Thankfully for injured victims in New York, there is no cap on pain and suffering awards.
To answer the question above … it will do a lot for the injured victim and their family.
4. You don’t know a good New York lawyer anyway. If you don’t know a good lawyer, you should keep looking. There are many ways to find a good attorney. Importantly, you want an attorney who has handled many cases just like yours. You want someone with experience. The question of whether you want a big New York City firm, a small firm, or even a solo practitioner is simply a matter of personal preference. Keep in mind that whomever you choose, you must feel comfortable with him or her. Always ask, “Who is going to be handling your case day to day?” “Who will be appearing on your conferences with the Court?” “Who will appear at your deposition, and the depositions of the people you have sued?” “Who will be trying my case if it goes to trial?”
If you don’t mind many different attorneys handling different parts of your case, then you should have no problem going to a large firm. If you want the same attorney to handle your case from beginning to end, you may want a small firm or experienced solo practitioner.
5. The chances of you recovering money are not good unless you have a significant injury. That may be true. If you have a minor injury, then your compensation will likely be minimal. If your injuries are significant, the compensation you may be entitled to may also be significant. Each case will differ. The answer also depends on where your case is venued – that is, which court it’s in. Is it in the Bronx or Brooklyn? Or is it in Westchester or upstate Albany?
If you don’t have any injury, or the injury was minimal, your case may be dismissed without ever getting to trial. Your injuries may not meet the “threshold” that is needed to continue your case. There are specific guidelines relating to the type of injury you must have to bring a case in the Supreme Court of the State of New York – which by the way, is the trial-level court.
6. The driver of the car that hit you will not like you if you sue him. My response is “So what?” Why would you care about what the other driver thought? You shouldn’t. The other driver was careless and his carelessness caused you permanent injury. If you want to live your life worried about what other people think, then you should re-think what you do on a daily basis.
A decision to sue someone isn’t about whether you’re popular or whether someone will or will not like you. It’s about your fundamental right to be repaid something that is owed to you. When a wrongdoer causes harm, he becomes obligated to pay you for your harm and the disability that he has caused. That’s an obligation we as a society recognize, not just in New York, but throughout the United States.
7. Your picture might appear in the newspaper. In most accident cases in New York your picture will not appear in the newspaper. Most cases are not deemed “newsworthy” by the local newspapers. They’re a common occurrence and unless it’s an extremely slow news day, or there’s something unusual about your particular case, it is unlikely your picture or your case will get any mention in the newspapers.
After reading this article you should have a better understanding of whether you should or should not bring a lawsuit if you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of New York.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to Gerald for allowing the NY Injury Law Blog to post his advice!
James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529
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