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Your New York Personal Injury Case: The Basics

It's a jungle out there. Every New Yorker has either personally suffered or knows someone who has suffered a personal injury. Stoops get slippery, and handrails become loose. Drivers are sometimes reckless, cyclists zoom through traffic, while pedestrians jaywalk.

Thankfully, the Empire State helps people recover for the many possible injuries you can sustain. New York personal injury law helps people fairly recover the cost of lost wages, medical care, pain and suffering, burial costs, and other amounts associated with their injuries or another's bad conduct. With the right help and information, there's a decent chance that you can handle just about anything.

Case Basics

A "personal injury" is the physical harm suffered because of another party's negligence or intentional bad conduct.

Time Limits for a Lawsuit

In the legal world, you have a limited amount of time to file a law suit if you've been harmed. The laws that limit your time are called "statutes of limitations."

General Rule: Three Years

In The Big Apple, everything moves fast, including the law. Generally speaking, you have three years from the time you learned-or should have learned-that you suffered an injury to file a legal claim, or lawsuit. To illustrate how this works: if you are walking to work and a bike messenger runs into you, knocking you into a coma, you have three years from the time you wake up to sue the messenger (or anyone else related to the accident). At the same time, if you spill coffee on the subway and burn your neighbor's lap, he/she only has three years to file.

Wrongful Death: Two Years

If the worst were to happen, loved ones of a deceased person only have two years to pursue a wrongful death claim.

Special Rules: Time limits may vary

The time limits can be different in special circumstances. For example, if you plan to sue a medical or dental professional, you generally only have two and one-half years to file a claim. Even then, there are exceptions to the rule two and one-half years rule. The best thing to do is to see a NYC-based legal professional for clear advice on your statute of limitations. The State of New York posts the statutes of limitations online. Use the website to find which statute may apply to your case.

Finding a Lawyer

In some boroughs, lawyers may seem to outnumber the rats. But here are some helpful tips for finding the right attorney to fit your needs.

Contingency Fees for Plaintiffs

If someone injured you, and you plan to file a claim, you are a "plaintiff." Many of the City's lawyers specialize in plaintiffs-side legal work. These lawyers often work for a "contingency" fee. Clients pay nothing up front or during a case, but the lawyer gets a percentage of any winnings or settlement.

Insurance for Defendants

If someone goes to court and claims that you harmed him/her, then you are a "defendant." Defense attorneys can be very expensive. When looking for a defense attorney, the best place to begin is with your insurance provider. Often homeowners' insurance will provide legal defense for the homeowner's unintentional acts that cause harm - sometimes even away from the home. Your car insurance will likely cover at least some portion of your legal defense if you are sued after a collision.

Common Situations

Auto Accidents

It's true that most people don't drive to get around the City. You still might consider finding an auto accident attorney, however, if you are injured by someone else's car. As New Yorkers know, a tragedy could happen to anyone. If you are injured as the result of a collision, you may want to look into local attorneys specializing in auto-related injuries.

Workplace Accidents

In New York, Workers' Compensation provides cash benefits and/or medical care to workers who become injured or ill because of their jobs. It doesn't matter who is at fault, as long as the injury was not the result of the worker's intent to cause an injury or his/her intoxication. You should notify your employer as soon as possible so that you can get the help you need. You could lose your right to benefits if you fail to inform your employer within 30 days. Visit the New York State Workers' Compensation Board online for more information.

Premises Liability

You may sustain an injury on someone else's property, or a guest may sustain an injury on yours. Legal liability will depend on one or more key facts including: whether the injured person was a social guest or a business guest; whether the venue complied with various codes; and several other factors.

Products Liability

Some consumer products-gadgets, auto parts, medicines, foods, and many other everyday items-unfortunately prove to be unsafe. New Yorkers become injured or ill from spoiled food, faulty brakes, asbestos, lead and magnets in children's toys, batteries catching fire-you name it. Whether the product is unsafe as designed or just poorly made, talk to a products liability attorney if you've been injured.


You may become hurt in any number of different ways. If you are injured, or fear that you may have harmed someone else, it's a good idea to talk to an attorney. Handle the matter soon because putting it off may limit your ability to recover.

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