What Kind of Things do New York Personal Injury Lawyers Consider When Assessing a Potential Case? 

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Posted: January 1, 2024

After a motor vehicle crash on New York roads, someone looking to assert a claim for pain and suffering may ask a potential attorney: “What challenges do you foresee in my case?” or “What are my chances of winning the case?”  

These are reasonable questions and different attorneys may give different answers depending on their knowledge, experience, and professional judgment.  

A Valid Cause Of Action 

One of the first things an attorney may consider when seeking to identify potential roadblocks and obstacles is whether the potential client has a valid cause of action. This is a legal term which refers to whether the person looking to assert a claim is legally entitled to some form of relief, which can include money damages.  

Just because someone is injured does not generally mean that another person must pay for damages caused. A cause of action has different elements, or parts, that the injured person must satisfy to establish a claim for compensation. These elements may have been developed over time by judges or at a single moment by a legislative body which has passed a new law.  

For example, the New York legislature has passed a law, often known as the “dram shop” statute, which allows for compensation for injury caused by the illegal sale of intoxicating liquor. The dram shop statute provides a cause of action, so an experienced New York personal injury lawyer may look to see whether a drunk driver was served alcohol in violation of the law. If so, the person or entity who violated the statute, and not just the drunk driver, may be liable for injuries caused. These are the sorts of things a New York personal injury lawyer will investigate early on.  

The negligence cause of action developed over time through judge-made law known as “caselaw.” The basic elements of this cause of action include duty, breach, and causation. These three elements are easy to recite but sometimes difficult to apply in real-world scenarios. Duty refers to our obligation to act reasonably to prevent needless harm to others. New York drivers have a duty to follow the rules of the road. Someone who fails to follow the rules of the road is said to have breached the duty of care, and if that breach caused injury to another, all the elements of the negligence cause of action are satisfied.  

For example, if someone fails to stop at a stop sign in violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, immediately resulting in a collision with a car that had the right of way and seriously injuring that car’s driver, all of the elements of the negligence cause of action appear to be met.  

But the law can get complicated – especially in New York where injured motorists generally only have a claim to assert if they have a “serious injury” as that term is defined in the Insurance Law. For this reason, an experienced New York personal injury lawyer will generally want to inquire not only whether all elements of a valid cause of action were satisfied, but whether the injuries resulting from the breach of a duty of care are likely to rise to the level of a “serious injury” as that term has been defined by the legislature and interpreted by the courts. If not, the attorney will analyze whether any exceptions to the general rule may apply.  

“Winning” A Case 

The chances of “winning” a New York personal injury case can vary. The injured person often aims to achieve maximum compensation under the circumstances, which can include the amount of insurance coverage, the availability of witnesses and key evidence, and whether the liable person has any viable defenses to the cause of action. These defenses can include an emergency situation or an “unavoidable accident.” An experienced New York personal injury lawyer will try to anticipate and respond to these types of defenses early on so that they do not defeat an otherwise valid claim for compensation.  

The attorneys at William Mattar, P.C. have extensive experience helping injured New York motorists after their motor vehicle crashes. If you were injured in a New York motor vehicle crash, please do not hesitate to give us a call. We would be happy to examine the circumstances of your case to identify potential challenges and develop a strategy to help you achieve maximum compensation. 

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