Experienced Hudson Valley Attorney Answers Frequently Asked Questions about New York Personal Injury Law

Below are answers to some of the questions attorney Peter Cordovano frequently encounters as he advises and represents victims of car accidents and workplace accidents in the Hudson Valley. If you have other questions, or if you need to speak with a lawyer about a personal injury matter, contact Peter M. Cordovano, P.C. in Highland for a no-cost, confidential consultation.

Q. What happens if the driver who hits me is uninsured?

A. New York does boast one of the lowest rates of uninsured drivers in the country, but still more than one in twenty drivers on New York roads are uninsured, and more than 15,000 crashes annually may involve drivers without insurance. What if you are seriously injured in an accident, but the other driver is uninsured? If you are one of the drivers who carries liability insurance like you are supposed to, then you also have uninsured motorist coverage. You can access this coverage to make a claim against your own insurance policy for your damages, up to your policy limits.

Even when you are dealing with "your" insurance company and not the other driver's, you can still benefit from legal representation. Insurance company adjusters try to value claims as low as they can, while the companies look for ways to avoid covering your claim at all if they can. Having an experienced auto accident attorney on your side will help ensure that you are treated fairly by the insurance company.

Q. The insurance company says I was partially to blame in causing the accident and is only offering to pay half of my damages. What can I do?

A. It is true that in New York State, any percentage of negligence or fault attributed to you will reduce your damage award proportionately. What you can do in this situation is make sure you have an experienced personal injury attorney representing you. The insurance company may be overstating your role in the accident in order to reduce the amount they have to pay out. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company and make sure you are not unfairly saddled with any of the blame for the accident which does not belong to you. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, you can take the case to trial, and a jury will decide whether you are partly to blame and how much, not the insurance company.

Q. Can I get punitive damages from the defendant in my personal injury case?

A. Most damages recoverable in a personal injury case are compensatory damages, meaning they are meant to compensate the injured victim for the costs of the injury. For example, compensatory damages typically include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the defendant, to keep the defendant from doing it again, and to serve as an example to others about the kind of conduct that society will not tolerate. Punitive damages, therefore, are usually reserved for cases where the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff or acted so recklessly as to show a high level of disregard for the consequences of his or her actions. Car accidents caused by drunk driving or drag racing are examples of when punitive damages might be in order. Some laws also specifically allow punitive damages in certain situations, such as nursing home neglect under New York Public Health Law 2801-d.

Courts generally require a higher level of proof before they will award punitive damages. Even though it takes more time and effort to get punitive damages, attorney Peter Cordovano will commit himself to recovering punitive damages for his clients in appropriate cases.