A car accident is bad enough on its own, but when the at-fault driver refuses to take responsibility, the situation can become so much worse. Owning up to their actions can mean facing potential consequences like increased insurance rates or damage to their driving record. Fearing the potential legal repercussions of causing an accident, the driver may try to defect blame and point the finger at you. What can you do in this situation?
The attorneys with Finz & Finz, P.C. have seen this scenario before. Although you may believe you are in the clear because you didn’t cause the crash, that doesn’t stop the other driver from trying to blame you. What can you do when someone accuses you of doing something you didn’t do? Let’s explore this scenario in detail.
Understanding No-Fault Insurance Coverage
First, you need to understand New York’s no-fault insurance system, meaning your insurance policy is your first source of coverage regardless of who caused the accident. In most states, an at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy provides third-party benefits to the person they hit. In New York, auto insurance also provides first-party benefits to the policyholder.
New York requires all motorists to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. This coverage compensates you for your financial losses after an accident, no matter who caused the collision. PIP coverage typically pays:
- Payment for reasonable and necessary medical expenses following an accident
- Reasonable expenses like household help and transportation to medical appointments
- Up to 80 percent of lost earnings from work
At this point, you might be wondering, if New York is a no-fault car insurance state, why does it matter if the other driver blames you for the accident?
Third-Party Claims and Lawsuits
New York’s no-fault system is meant to provide injured motorists with immediate benefits and decrease the burden on insurance companies and the court system. It does not absolve at-fault drivers for the injuries they cause. Rather, the state allows injured parties to file third-party liability claims or personal injury lawsuits against an at-fault individual in cases where the victim’s injuries meet the serious injury threshold.
The “serious injury” threshold means you may be eligible to pursue a lawsuit against someone when your injuries involve any one of the following:
- Broken bones
- Full disability for at least 90 days
- Permanent limitation of the use of a limb or body organs
- Permanent limitation of the use of a bodily system or body functions
- Significant disfigurement
- A significant limitation of the use of a bodily system of body functions
By blaming you for the accident, the at-fault driver is trying to get out of paying you for the injuries they’ve caused you.
New York follows a pure comparative negligence model in personal injury cases. When a lawsuit goes to court, the judge or jury will weigh the evidence each side presents and assign them a percentage of fault for the incident. The compensation an injury victim can recover is reduced by their percentage of fault.
Here’s a practical example of this system in action. Suppose you’re hurt in an accident and bring a lawsuit against the other driver seeking $100,000 in compensation. The court determines that the figure you’re asking for is fair but that you are 30 percent to blame while the other driver is 70 percent to blame. In this scenario, your award would be reduced to $70,000. As you can see, every percentage matters.
Protecting Yourself Against the Blame Game
Is someone else blaming you for an accident they caused? There are steps you can take to protect yourself and build a strong claim showing that the other driver is at fault. Here’s what you can do:
- Always contact law enforcement – Following a collision of any kind, contact the police. The authorities can manage the scene and help secure medical attention. The subsequent police report produced by the authorities can also be valuable evidence to help establish who may have been at fault for causing the crash.
- Seek medical attention immediately – Do not wait. Get medical treatment for your injuries immediately after the accident. Prompt medical attention can improve your prognosis and serve as robust evidence demonstrating the extent of your injuries.
- Document the scene – Gather any evidence from the scene that you’re able to. That means taking pictures and videos of the damage from all angles. Try to document skid marks, road conditions, and other unique factors that may have contributed to the collision.
- Talk to witnesses – People who saw the accident occur can provide crucial, unbiased testimony of what happened. Try to get their names and contact details for later.
- Contact an attorney – Unfortunately, some of the evidence crucial to building a compelling claim can be challenging to recover when you are significantly hurt. Talk to a New York car accident attorney as soon as possible for help building a solid claim that stands the best chance of proving the other driver is responsible for causing the accident.
- Stick to your treatment plan – Medical records can be vital evidence in a car accident claim. Always listen to your doctor and stick to your treatment plan.
- Stay off social media – Avoid posting anything on social media platforms until your attorney resolves your claim. The opposing side can use your words against you to undercut your claims.
If the other driver tries to blame you for causing the accident, you’ll need strong evidence to push back and prove that they’re really at fault. A skilled attorney can be instrumental in securing this evidence and assembling it into a compelling case on your behalf.
Contact a New York Personal Injury Attorney for Help
Do you need help protecting yourself against the blame game tactics of a careless driver and getting the full compensation you deserve? Then discuss the details of your situation with an accomplished New York car accident attorney with Finz & Finz, P.C. today. We have the skills and resources to protect your rights and seek every cent you’re owed. Contact our New York office to arrange a free case evaluation today.