Car Accident Lawyers in Buffalo, NY
A car accident is something that no one plans for, yet car accidents are one of the leading causes of injury and death in the United States. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of an automobile accident, life as you know it can suddenly be turned upside down. Victims of car accidents are faced with looming deadlines and an increasingly complicated legal process, which is made even more difficult by the opposition of powerful insurance companies and confusing benefit plans.
Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria provides the experience, legal skill, and unmatched commitment necessary to fight for clients in complex, high-stakes car accident cases and secure the best possible results. And no matter how complicated your situation, there is no charge to you unless the firm wins your case.
The information that follows on this page will provide you with details on common causes of car accidents, including texting while driving and drowsy driving, as well as provide valuable insight on types of car accidents such as pedestrian and bicyclist injuries. In addition, this page will provide you with information on whiplash injuries, hospitalization and insurance costs associated with car accident injuries, as well as no-fault insurance.
Lipsitz Green is consistently recognized for leadership in the field of personal injury, including car accident injuries. Whether you’ve been in a car accident involving DWI, reckless driving, texting, or a car defect, or you’ve suffered from a bicycle, bus, motorcycle, truck, or ATV accident, Lipsitz Green can help.
Causes of Car Accidents
Driving a car is something that many Americans do every day, yet few people consider the responsibility that they bear when they are behind the wheel. Despite the consequences, drivers often exhibit carelessness when sharing the road with others. Serious car accidents that can result in injury or death are often attributed to various careless behaviors. Some of these behaviors, the dangers they pose, and potential ways to avoid them are listed below.
Speeding is one of the most common causes of car accidents across the United States. According to the IIHS, speeding is defined as including “crashes in which the driver was issued a traffic citation for speeding or in which driver-related factors included driving too fast for conditions, racing, or exceeding the posted speed limit.” The NHTSA reports that, in 2016, speeding contributed to 27% of all fatal car crashes. In general, fatalities due to speeding occur more often on minor roads than on interstates, freeways, or other major roads and over half of the 2016 fatalities occurred on roads with a posted speed limit of less than 55 miles per hour.
Although seatbelts and airbags do help in decreasing the number of injuries and fatalities that occur from car accidents, they do not work as well at higher speeds. Often, by the time a driver realizes the need to brake they are too close to brake safely, meaning that the crash is harder than it would be if the car were traveling at a safe speed. According to the NHTSA, a crash’s force of impact doubles for every 10 miles per hour a car is traveling over 50 miles per hour. This means that the risk of serious injury or death also increases.
Driving Under the Influence
The NHTSA reports that almost 29 people per day die in alcohol-related car crashes across the United States. Although the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit is .08, a very small amount of alcohol can still negatively impact a person’s ability to drive. In 2016, over 2,000 people were killed in crashes where drivers had a BAC ranging from .01 to .07. Drunk driving is one of the biggest causes of serious, and sometimes fatal, motor vehicle accidents; about one-third of all fatal crashes in the United States involve a drunk driver with a BAC of .08 or higher.
If you are injured in a car accident in New York State, you can sue for pain and suffering if you have sustained a serious injury such as a broken bone or the loss of a limb. In this case, you will need to prove that the other driver was at fault. Field sobriety tests, the results of Breathalyzers and blood tests, and witness statements about the condition of the other driver are all useful evidence in order to prove that the other driver was drunk at the time of the accident.
Distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents. In 2015, 10% of the fatal crashes in the United States were due to distracted driving, and 14% of those fatal crashes occurred while the driver was using a cell phone. In New York State, use of a cell phone while driving is illegal. Prohibited activities include:
- Talking on a cell phone or other handheld mobile device
- Composing, sending, reading, accessing, or browsing any electronic data such as emails, text messages, or websites
- Viewing, taking, or sending photos, and
- Playing mobile games
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to prove that someone was using their cell phone at the time of a car accident. Mobile service providers can be subpoenaed and required to provide cell phone records in order to determine whether someone was texting at the time of an accident. These records will show the timestamps for each text that was sent during that day and can be used to show whether those times coincide with the time of the accident. In addition to text records from the mobile carrier, a demand can be sent to the driver requiring that they provide printout records of all text messages and call logs from the date of the accident. An attorney may also be able to send a preservation letter to the driver demanding that the person preserve all phones, call logs, and text messages from the date of the accident forward. If the driver’s phone is then discarded or the call logs and text messages are deleted, your attorney can argue that the person is guilty of destroying evidence, also known as spoliation. If there were any witnesses present or police officers called to the scene of the accident, their testimony may also be useful to determine whether the driver was texting and driving or otherwise using a cell phone.
Aggressive driving, which is defined as an individual committing “a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property”, is the underlying cause of many car accidents in the United States. From 2003 to 2007, it was found that it factored into 56% of all fatal crashes. Aggressive driving manifests itself in many ways, including:
- Following too closely,
- Changing lanes erratically,
- Driving or passing where prohibited,
- Not yielding the right of way,
- Ignoring traffic signs, officers, or laws, and
- Suddenly changing speeds or otherwise recklessly driving.
If you encounter an aggressive driver, the New York State Police recommend that you remain calm and keep your distance. Do not pass this driver unless absolutely necessary and only change lanes once it is safe. If it is impossible to change lanes, stay where you are and follow all applicable traffic laws; do not respond with aggressive measures, such as hand gestures, as this may escalate the situation.
If you are injured in an accident where the other driver was exhibiting aggressive driving behaviors, be sure to contact the police in order to document the circumstances of the accident. Contacting an attorney may also be beneficial in the event that you are able to bring a civil suit against the other driver. In this suit, you will need to prove that the other driver was negligent and did not use the reasonable care necessary to drive safely and avoid accidents. In order to do this, you must be able to prove what the other driver’s responsibilities on the road were, how the other driver failed to uphold those responsibilities, and how that negligence caused your injuries.
Fatigue can be just as dangerous on the road as drunk driving. Studies have shown that 17 hours of being awake is equivalent to a BAC of .05%. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 71,000 people are injured and 1,550 people are killed in car accidents caused by fatigue every year. In New York State, approximately 2,800 people a year are involved in crashes where police included “fatigued or fell asleep” in the report and about half of those crashes happen between 11pm and 8am. These crashes do not just occur with multiple vehicles. From 2009 to 2016, pedestrian deaths from crashes at night increased by 56%.
Drinking coffee is often not enough to stay awake behind the wheel. Even with the effects of caffeine, the NHTSA reports that you may experience “micro sleeps”, which are brief losses of consciousness that last for up to 5 seconds. If this happens at 60 miles an hour, you have traveled approximately 140 yards while unconscious. The best way to combat drowsy driving is to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, particularly before the start of a long trip. If you observe other drivers exhibiting behaviors such as drifting between lanes or hitting the rumble strip, be sure to drive defensively to decrease your chances of getting into an accident.
Types of Car Accidents
If you are injured in a car accident, there are several things that you can do at the scene in order to document the accident and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Even if there are no serious injuries, it is a good idea to call the police. Your insurance company may want to see a police report, so it is important that you and any witnesses present recount the circumstances of the accident as accurately as possible to the police. Seeking medical attention early on is also important in order to be sure that you are receiving the necessary treatment to care for your injuries. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible will help you to protect your rights throughout the process, from dealing with insurance companies to ensuring that you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Dangerous situations on the road can manifest in a variety of different ways. Below are several examples of common types of car accidents and some information about each.
The increase in pedestrian crashes and fatalities is something to be vigilant about as you share the road. Anyone could potentially be at risk for one of these crashes. There does not seem to be a specific age group that is more susceptible to pedestrian crashes than others; in general, fatalities have increased for pedestrians ages 20 to 69. Auto collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists are extremely dangerous and sometimes deadly to those involved. Pedestrian crashes have become both more frequent and more deadly since the number of pedestrian deaths reached its lowest point in 2010. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released a national study showing that 16% of all crash fatalities in 2016 were pedestrians; this is the highest rate since 1990. According to the IIHS, from 2009 to 2016 pedestrian deaths increased 54% in urban areas, including cities and suburbs. Although many people may associate pedestrian car crashes with inattentiveness at intersections, the number of fatal pedestrian crashes at non-intersections increased by 50% over that same time period.
The lack of clearly marked crosswalks, and sometimes crosswalks in general, greatly contributes to pedestrians crossing streets at dangerous points. Hit and runs are dangerous and potentially deadly to both pedestrians and cyclists alike. According to federal data, one in five pedestrian fatalities is hit and run related. Being aware of your surroundings when walking outside, particularly in urban areas with a higher volume of car traffic, is vitally important to potentially avoiding a crash that could lead to serious injury or worse.
From 2000 to 2012, there was a 64% increase in people biking to work rather than driving. With this increase of cyclists on the road, motorists need to be even more vigilant and attentive when driving. In 2014, bicyclists accounted for 2% of all traffic deaths and 2% of all crash-related injuries. As with pedestrians, the NHTSA reports that the highest number of bicyclist deaths occurred in the evening hours (20%) and in urban areas (71%). In order to decrease your risk of being involved in a crash while on your bike, the NHTSA has several recommendations, including:
- Ride a bike that is an appropriate size for you; the larger the bicycle is, the harder it is to control.
- Ensure that the brakes on your bicycle are properly functioning.
- Wear protective equipment such as helmets, as well as bright and reflective clothing that will make you more visible to others when you are on your bike. Having a white front light, a red rear light, and reflectors on your bike will also assist in visibility.
- Keep both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn, in order to maintain maximum control over your bike.
- Tuck in your pant legs and ensure that your shoes are tied so that they do not get caught in your bike chain.
- Plan the safest route you can when traveling. This may include using a bike lane or bike path rather than riding in traffic. If you do need to ride in traffic, try to choose roads with less traffic and lower speed limits.
Head-on collisions, also known as frontal crashes, occur when two vehicles’ front ends collide. These accidents often occur when one of the vehicles drifts into the opposite lane or enters a one-way street from the wrong direction. Although head-on collisions only make up 2% of car accidents in the United States and seatbelts and airbags have reduced their fatality risk by 61%, these crashes still account for 10% of car accident fatalities across the country. These accidents often happen in more remote areas where both vehicles can travel at fast speeds, making it more difficult to stop when a dangerous situation arises. In 2005, 13% of fatal crashes in rural areas were reported to be head-on collisions, compared to less than 7% in urban areas.
Rear end collisions are one of the most common types of car accidents; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that they account for up to 28% of car accidents in the United States. They often occur when a driver is not paying attention or is following too closely, particularly in heavy start-and-stop traffic, and cannot brake in time to avoid a collision. Although the damage to the cars in these accidents may be minor, the force of the impact can cause serious injury to the vehicles’ occupants, including whiplash or face and head injuries.
Side impact accidents, commonly known as T-bones, occur when one car hits the side of another car. These collisions often occur at intersections when cars do not properly observe the right of way or when a car is turning into oncoming traffic. A 2013 report indicates that 13% of all car accidents, and 18% of all fatal car accidents, are T-bones. They are one of the most dangerous types of car crashes because there is very little separating a vehicle occupant from the oncoming vehicle. Because of this, T-bones can cause very serious injury and are often fatal; more than 50% of all car accident deaths occur in these collisions. This figure has increased by 20% over the past 20 years, partially due to increased travel speeds and a higher number of SUVs and other large vehicles on the road.
A sideswipe collision occurs when two vehicles are next to each other and one drifts into the other’s lane. Often this is because the driver did not look before attempting to change lanes or because the driver was distracted or drowsy. Although the initial accident can be mild, sideswipes can lead to loss of vehicle control due to overcorrection. This often leads to much more serious consequences, such as rollover accidents or colliding with a telephone poll or another inanimate object.
If a vehicle tips onto its side or roof at any point during an accident, it qualifies as a rollover. These crashes, according to the IIHS, often lead to the vehicle’s occupants being partially or fully ejected from the car. Rollover accidents represent just over 2% of all car crashes, yet they account for approximately 1/3 of all passenger vehicle occupant deaths in the United States. These accidents are often speed related, particularly when a vehicle is making a turn too sharply or too quickly. The NHTSA reports that approximately 40% of fatal rollover crashes involved speeding and nearly 75% of them take place in areas where the speed limit is 55 miles per hour or higher.
Single Vehicle Accidents
Although many people focus on the dangers of multiple vehicle accidents, over half of the fatal car crashes in the United States involve just one vehicle. That number is even higher in New York State, where 62% of fatalities in car crashes were single vehicle in 2016. Single car crashes can involve several different circumstances. Run-off-road crashes, for instance, occur when a car moves out of the appropriate lane and hits something or overturns. If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist who has been hit by a car, you may already know to contact an attorney as soon as possible. What is less well known is that, if passengers in these vehicles are injured, they may also be able to file a claim against the driver’s insurance policy. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after an accident in order to determine your options and the best course of action for your case.
When you are injured in a car accident, the injury is not always apparent right away. In fact, pain manifesting days after the accident occurred is extremely common. Even if a car is traveling at speeds as low as 25 miles per hour, an accident can cause low-impact spinal cord injuries such as whiplash, as well as injury to ligaments, cartilage, and tendons. Approximately 10% of people who are involved in rear end crashes get whiplash and about 15% of those people never achieve functional recovery.
Cervical Acceleration Deceleration (CAD) trauma, commonly known as whiplash, occurs when the car and the torso of the occupant are thrown forward but the head stays where it is. This causes the person’s neck to overextend and then, when the torso rebounds and the head moves forward, the neck overextends in the other direction. This entire process takes less than a second, but the effects can be long-lasting and severely impact a person’s life.
Hospitalization and Insurance Costs
Every year in New York State, over 12,000 people are hospitalized because of car accidents. In Erie County, these accidents are the 5th leading cause of injury-related death and the 3rd leading cause of injury-related emergency room visits. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), Americans spend $729 million on hospitalization charges due to car accidents and $350 million in emergency department charges. Hospital fees can be a significant financial burden, particularly if you are unable to work due to injury. In order to qualify for no-fault insurance benefits, you must be able to prove that your injuries were sustained in the accident in question. Insurance companies will often say that if there were no apparent injuries at the scene of the accident and there is no visible damage to the car, then your current injuries cannot be because of the accident. This is despite the fact that serious injuries often occur well after low-impact crashes with minimal to no damage done to either vehicle. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to fight the insurance companies and get you the compensation you deserve for your injury.
SUM and UM Coverage
In the event that you are injured in an accident and the other party involved in the accident is uninsured or underinsured, you may be protected through Supplemental Underinsured Motorist (SUM) or Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. SUM and UM coverage are insurance options that can provide you with coverage for damages that the other driver cannot compensate you for. SUM coverage is triggered when you are in a car accident with someone who has the minimum coverage in New York State. If your SUM coverage exceeds the other driver’s insurance limits, SUM coverage allows you to make a claim for that supplemental insurance. If the other person does not have insurance at all, UM coverage allows you to make a claim against your own insurance company to compensate you for your serious injuries.
You can purchase SUM and UM coverage through your personal automobile insurance coverage. Policy amounts may vary depending on your carrier.
If you are injured in a car accident, you are entitled to no-fault insurance no matter whose fault the accident was. No-fault insurance is designed to help you pay for lost wages, medical bills, and other medically necessary expenses. In order to take advantage of no-fault insurance, you must submit your application for no-fault benefits to your insurance carrier within 30 days of the accident. Your no-fault benefits will cover up to $50,000 of the following:
Each time you receive treatment for the injuries you sustained in the car accident, make sure that the provider treating you has your no-fault information so that your no-fault carrier can be properly billed. All of these medical bills must be submitted to your carrier no later than 45 days after the date of treatment. This will normally be done by medical providers, but, if you do receive a bill, submit it to your no-fault carrier or an attorney as soon as possible.
If you were employed at the time of your car accident, you are entitled to 80% of your monthly earnings up to $2,000 a month. These wages are paid on a monthly basis. Every four weeks, your physician will need to submit a disability statement to your no-fault carrier in order for you to continue to receive your benefits. Unless your employer verifies your employment status with your insurance company, the insurance company will not pay any of your lost wages. If you do choose to claim these benefits, you must also file for short-term disability through your employer by completing a Notice and Proof of Claim for Disability Benefits Form and returning it to your employer within 30 days of your injury.
Daily Accident-Related Expenses
You are eligible for $25 per day for other related expenses, such as hiring a housekeeper and mileage to and from the doctor. If you are making a claim for reimbursement for household assistance, you must both obtain a letter from your physician detailing the need and provide proof of payment to the person who is assisting you. These must be submitted to your carrier within 90 days of the date of service and the expenses can only be claimed within the first year after your accident. If you claim mileage reimbursement for travel to and from your healthcare providers, you must complete mileage log forms reflecting the distance to and from each provider or provide proof of a travel expense. These must also be submitted within 90 days of the date of your appointment.
Many major pharmacies offer no-fault billing and will be able to bill your no-fault carrier directly for your prescriptions. If you do have to pay out-of-pocket, you are entitled to reimbursement. To receive it, submit your prescription slip and receipts to the no-fault carrier within 90 days from the date your medication was dispensed.
Your no-fault carrier will also require you to attend Independent Medical Exams with a physician of its choosing. You must attend these appointments in order to continue to receive your no-fault benefits.
Who to Contact
Ranked a Tier-1 firm for Personal Injury Litigation in U.S. News/Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms,” Lipsitz Green is widely acclaimed for its client service, tenacious approach, and results. With an extensive team of highly skilled car accident attorneys; a large staff, including nurse paralegals; an in-depth network of expert witnesses; and internal groups dedicated to no-fault benefits, Workers’ Compensation, Social Security Disability, Estate Planning, and more, Lipsitz Green’s legal team is among the most respected and comprehensive in the industry.
The firm has also taken the lead in providing helpful, innovative technology to utilize in the event of an accident. Lipsitz Green’s free Accident Toolkit App is a fast, convenient tool to help you gather critical information at the scene of an accident and get the immediate help you need.
Contact the firm that’s ready to fight for your legal rights after the traumatic effects of an accident. Contact Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria today, and learn how our car accident lawyers can work with you and your unique case.