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Car Accident

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By A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

In our last column, we outlined the criteria for eligibility to seek compensation or monetary damages for injuries you sustained in an automobile accident due to another driver’s negligence. We also explained the initial steps necessary to make such a claim. Now it is time to discuss how to evaluate your claim and negotiate with the insurance company insuring the at-fault party who caused the accident. 

Indeed, the first question we, and other lawyers, are often asked is, “How much is my case worth?” Although cliché, the answer is virtually always “It depends.” The truth is that there is no simple or easy answer to this inquiry, nor is there a tried-and-true method to develop a reasonable value for a given case. There are simply no established valuations for any particular injury, no charts to refer to, or answers even Siri can provide you. Among the many criteria for estimating a case’s value are the following:

• The severity of the injury itself

• Permanent disability due to the injury

• Age and occupation of the injured person

• If employed, time missed from work

• Ability to perform functions for daily life in the future (i.e., household chores)

• Ability to enjoy recreational activities, such as sports, that you participated in prior to the accident

• Expenses not paid by your No-Fault insurance carrier.

Several additional factors are considered when evaluating a particular claim; however, those enumerated above are the most important. For example, if the injured person is a construction worker who hurts his or her back in a motor vehicle accident, the effect may be a long period of time out of work. A computer operator who suffers a fractured hand or wrist and develops carpal tunnel syndrome may be disabled for longer than someone in a different position. The same goes for a doctor, electrician, or many other professions. In conjunction with these issues, the pain and suffering caused by the injury leads claimant’s attorneys and insurance companies to come up with monetary damage ranges and amounts.

While this is clearly far from an exact science, lawyers who handle personal injury automobile accident cases have many references they can utilize to evaluate these cases. These include publications reporting recent jury verdicts around the state for particular injuries or even significant settlements. Thus, the personal injury practitioner can get a sense of how much a claimant may expect to receive for a particular injury in each county in New York State, or what an insurance company would be willing to pay for such injuries. 

However, the exact amount your case may be worth is highly subjective and unique to your specific circumstances. Therefore, the claimant and their attorney must discuss the above criteria applicable to the case and start negotiating with the insurance carrier. 

It must be understood that insurance companies are under no legal obligation to pay a claim, although if they do negotiate, they must do so in good faith. This basically means that the insurance company runs certain risks if it makes woefully inadequate offers to settle your claim.

Our next column will answer more often-asked questions, like “Why do I need so much automobile coverage, if I have homeowners’ insurance or an umbrella policy?”

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.

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By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

In this column, we have previously discussed several issues concerning, and resulting from, automobile accidents. This included No-Fault Insurance, Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist coverage, the amount of insurance you should purchase to protect yourself, and the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC). Yet, the question occurring to most accident victims is, how do I seek compensation for my own injuries when I was not at fault for the accident?

Under what circumstances can you make such a claim?

New York’s No-Fault Insurance Law governs the criteria which enables you to make a claim or bring a lawsuit. We explained previously that this law has provisions covering the payment of medical bills and other expenses. However, this law, specifically § 5102(d) of the New York State Insurance Law, affords you the right to make a claim when you are injured. This section defines and outlines the criteria necessary to receive compensation (i.e., a serious injury):

— a personal injury which results in (1) death; (2) dismemberment; (3) significant disfigurement; (4) a fracture; (5) loss of a fetus; (6) permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; (7) permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; (8) significant limitation of use of a body function or system; (9) or a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.

What does this definition mean, and how does it affect my ability to bring a claim or lawsuit? If, for example, you sustained a fractured bone, the permanent loss of the use of a body part or organ, or if you meet any of the other provisions outlined above, you have met what is commonly called the “No-Fault Threshold,” enabling you to obtain compensation.

In order to start the process of making such a claim, you must contact the insurance company for the vehicle that caused the accident. The primary insurance company is that of the at-fault driver. You can identify this company from a three-digit code contained in the police report prepared by the officer responding to the scene of the collision.

Please note that if you are physically able to, calling the police at the scene of the accident is extremely important. Notifying the police later on, as soon as you can, is crucial. When you contact the responsible insurance company or that company’s representative contacts you, you will be provided with a claim number to use for all future communications. 

Now you are ready to make a formal claim! In speaking to the responsible insurance carrier, describe your injuries in detail but do not explain how the accident occurred. Remember, whatever you say can be used against you later on if you say too much. Put most simply, you need to advocate for yourself by documenting your injuries and their necessary treatment but be careful what you say at all times. At this point, the monetary “value” of your claim becomes the principal focus and issue. If you have not retained the services of a lawyer at this point, it is strongly urged that you do so.

In our next column, we will endeavor to explain how a claim is evaluated so that decisions can be made as to whether to accept any offers the insurance company may make as a result. 

We, in closing, highly recommend that you precisely document your injuries and follow up with an experienced adjuster, advocate, or attorney to assist you in going forward with your claim.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.

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By A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

After an automobile accident, you should always stop and notify the police. Indeed, under New York State (NYS) law, anyone involved in an accident must stop at the scene, and if the accident caused injuries or significant property damage, it is very important for you to notify your insurance company right away.  

A car accident can have far-reaching consequences on everyday life for you and any other driver or passenger involved. Although an accident may occur within the blink of an eye, the subsequent negative impacts on an injured person’s ability to work and perform daily activities may continue well into the future. This may potentially jeopardize the health and financial security of all parties involved in the accident (driver, passenger, etc.). The property loss that may be sustained may pale when compared to the severe bodily harm from a crash.

As we have discussed previously, New York imposes the following minimum amounts for liability coverage:

• $10,000 for property damage coverage (PDL) from a single accident

• Bodily injury coverage (BIL) of $25,000 per person and $50,000 for all persons injured

• Death coverage of $50,000 per person killed in an accident and $100,000 for all persons killed in an accident

• No-Fault coverage of $50,000

Types of Automobile Liability Insurance

Liability insurance covers damages if someone makes a claim against you for loss or harm as a result of your negligence. Your insurance provider protects you and reimburses the individual who made a claim against you up to the extent of your coverage. In addition to being required by law, liability insurance is crucial to avoid out-of-pocket losses.

If you cause a car accident, your liability insurance, specifically your bodily injury liability policy, will pay for the injured parties’ pain and suffering or permanent injuries after a settlement is reached or a personal injury verdict is rendered. Remember, NYS only mandates that you hold accident coverage of $25,000 per individual. This amount should be increased to protect you and your assets, so paying for a policy that at least provides $100,000 per individual and $300,000 per accident in coverage for all injured persons is essential, and more is strongly recommended 

So how much liability coverage is enough?

As much as you can reasonably afford. Don’t scrimp on liability coverage when deciding how much auto insurance you need. Doubling liability coverage does not mean you will pay twice as much for the additional protection. Low liability limits place your savings and assets at risk should you cause an accident, making it imperative that you purchase as much liability insurance as you can. This is especially so because medical expenses are constantly increasing. 

High liability limits protect you if you cause an accident and prevent you from possibly having to sell your home to cover accident costs caused by a severe injury to the other party. Therefore, it is crucial that you assess whether your liability limits accurately reflect the assets at risk should an accident occur due to your negligence.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.

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By A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

A. Craig Purcell

In our two last columns, we wrote about the necessity of obtaining adequate SUM (Supplemental Underinsured Motorist) and UM (Uninsured Motorist) coverage in the event you are seriously injured in an automobile accident due to the negligence of a driver who has a limited liability insurance policy, or no insurance at all. We encouraged you to ascertain the amount of SUM and UM coverage you have paid for as part of your own automobile insurance policy, to make sure your policy adequately protects you in this unfortunate event.

A question we are almost always asked by our clients who have been injured in an automobile accident, is “how do my medical bills get paid? Are they paid by my health insurance carrier, Medicare if I am over 65 years of age, Medicaid if I am a Medicaid recipient, or in some other way?” Many people simply show their insurance card, Medicare card or Medicaid card when they are brought to a hospital emergency room, go to a walk-in facility or a doctor’s office without further thought.

NO-FAULT INSURANCE

If you are injured in an automobile accident, you should be relieved to know that your reasonable medical bills will be covered by your own automobile insurance carrier under the No-Fault provision of your insurance policy. This is listed on your policy as “PIP” (personal injury protection). The reason this provision in your policy is known as No-Fault Insurance is that your own company is obligated to pay your reasonable medical expenses, even if you caused the accident. 

Many, if not most, hospitals, walk-in clinics and other healthcare providers simply ask the patient or their family for the insured’s health insurance information, even when the provider is told that the injury was caused by an automobile accident. This often leads to confusion and even disputes concerning what entity is responsible for the ensuing medical bills.

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While it may be difficult to provide a hospital emergency room with your automobile insurance information, it is important for you or your family member to provide that information at your doctor’s office or walk-in facility right away. Likewise, the same is true for the offices of your physical therapist, chiropractor, pain management specialists or any other health care provider. 

In addition to the confusion and the possibility of disputes over payment of medical bills arising out of injuries from your accident, certain insurance providers, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, may have a lien on any recovery you obtain for your pain and suffering from the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident. The beauty of No-Fault Insurance is twofold.

First, your medical bills get paid regardless of whether you or the other driver caused the accident and second, your No-Fault Insurance company does not have a lien or claim against any recovery you might obtain.

Finally, with regard to No-Fault Insurance, it is important that you speak to your insurance agent or carrier about the amount of this coverage you have with your policy. The mandatory (minimum) amount of No-Fault, or PIP, Insurance in New York is $50,000. However, if you sustain a very serious injury in an automobile accident, your medical bills may well exceed $50,000.

Therefore, just as in ascertaining how much SUM or UM coverage you have in your insurance policy, you should consider paying for No-Fault coverage above the $50,000 minimum. This would protect you against your automobile insurance company asserting a lien against any recovery you obtain because it paid medical bills in excess of the minimum. It would also often avoid having Medicare, if you are over 65, pay any bills in excess of $50,000.00, which could also result in a lien against any recovery you obtain from the insurance company for the driver who caused your accident.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association

Wheelchairs and walkers are covered under New York's No-Fault Law. METRO photo

By A. Craig Purcell

A. Craig Purcell

We recently wrote about the primary benefit New York automobile owners and drivers enjoy under the New York No-Fault Insurance Law. This benefit requires your own insurance company to pay, at a minimum, the first $50,000.00 of your reasonable medical expenses regardless of who caused the accident. However, there are several additional benefits New York insureds have under their auto insurance policy.

First among these benefits is the No-Fault law’s very important lost earnings provision. You are entitled to recover 80% of your lost earnings from your own insurance company, up to a maximum of $2,000.00 a month for three years. How do you go about obtaining your lost earnings? You must file a No-Fault Insurance Application with your own insurance company within 30 days of your accident. It is your responsibility to notify your insurance company as quickly as possible — hopefully within a day or two — so your carrier can provide you with the application promptly. This is generally done by email these days. In order to qualify for lost earnings, you must make sure that your employer provides proof of your loss of income within 90 days. It is your responsibility to ensure that your employer does this in a timely fashion.

A second significant benefit you may be entitled to is payment of out-of-pocket expenses. These might include Uber or taxi rides to medical appointments, ambulance expenses, damage to significant personal property that was in your automobile, medications and many other associated expenses. Moreover, there may be other applicable expenses that an injured party may incur that should be covered. Just as is the case for obtaining lost earnings, it is equally important that a No-Fault Application be timely filed and that payment or reimbursement be sought as soon as the out-of-pocket expenses are incurred.

Finally, expenses incurred for medical devices is a significant benefit. Items such as wheelchairs, walkers, canes, braces and various types of bandages are covered. These can be very expensive, often as much as visits to a health care providers, so it is important to attempt to have your insurance company pay for such expenses directly in the first instance. Obviously, you may not always know whether you will need one of these medical devices within 30 days of your accident, but it is important to file your initial No-Fault Application within 30 days. 

This benefit, as well as out-of-pocket expenses, is good for one year.

WHO IS NOT COVERED BY NO FAULT?

Motorcyclists, motor-scooter drivers (depending on size of engine), and someone arrested for Driving While Intoxicated would not be covered by No-Fault Insurance. You may have to pay for expenses out of your own pocket as health insurance policies often have excluded these motorists as well.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.

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By A. Craig Purcell

A. Craig Purcell

Why are we at Glynn, Mercep, Purcell and Morrison writing the first of a series of columns at this time concerning automobile and homeowner insurance issues? Because automobile insurance advertisements are more common then ever in contemporary media, and insurance companies are competing with one another more than ever in an effort to encourage customers to switch providers. This competitive industry is spending enormous amounts of money on television ads, social media, radio spots, print media, and online advertising to promote “the lowest rate on car insurance.”

Automobile insurance is unique in that it is required by New York State, as opposed to homeowner’s insurance which is not mandated by law. We are writing today to help members of our community navigate through the confusion caused by the inundation of advertisements across media platforms.

First, let me ask this question: what happens to you when you are seriously injured by a driver of another automobile who has a small or minimal liability insurance policy? Are you limited to the amount of that policy if you seek to recover for the pain and suffering caused by the accident? This first column will explain and emphasize the importance of obtaining adequate SUM coverage (Supplemental Under-Insurance) as part of your automobile insurance policy.

Supplemental Under-insured Motorist Coverage

What is SUM coverage? This is a mandated coverage for all New York automobile owners which can help compensate you for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. This coverage kicks in when the driver who caused your accident does not have sufficient insurance to adequately compensate you for the pain and suffering resulting from your injuries. SUM coverage is therefore crucial if you ever sustain injuries at the hands of a driver who is under-insured; i.e., does not have sufficient insurance to compensate you for your pain, suffering and permanent injuries. 

For example, imagine that you are stopped at red light or stop sign and hit in the rear by another driver, or are going through an intersection with a green light when another driver runs a red light and hits you broadside. If the driver who caused the accident in these situations has minimum or near minimum liability insurance which would compensate you for your injuries, you may look to the SUM coverage in your own insurance policy for additional amounts.

Thus, if the person who caused the accident has a minimum $25,000 liability insurance policy, and your lawyers believe that your case is worth in excess of that amount, you can recover the difference from your own insurance company under the SUM coverage that is mandated by the State. However, you may only recover from your own insurance company if your SUM policy limits exceed those of the other driver’s policy. 

What is significant in this regard is that if you also have minimum coverage, or don’t purchase sufficient SUM coverage to properly compensate you when an under-insured driver negligently causes an accident, you will be limited in most cases to the amount of the negligent driver’s insurance policy. 

However, if for example, you have at least $100,000 in SUM coverage, then you can recover another $75,000.00 to compensate you for your injuries. That is $25,000 from the person who caused the accident and had a minimal policy, and another $75,000 from your own insurance provider. 

As noted above, your insurance provider gets credit for any amount received from the person’s insurance company that caused the accident, thereby limiting your recovery somewhat. It is, therefore, very important to speak to your insurance company or broker to make sure that you have adequate SUM coverage in the event you are injured by a negligent driver who does not have sufficient insurance to adequately compensate you. 

You should be aware of what the minimum relevant insurance policy limits are under New York law: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident for bodily injury coverage (same for SUM); $50,000 in Personal Injury Protection coverage; and $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

Although insurance companies seem to be engaged in a pricing war to offer consumers the lowest policy premium rates, we worry that this trend will severely harm consumers, as lower rates often mean lower policy limits and less compensation if you are injured in an accident.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.

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Suffolk County Police Fourth Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a man in Saint James in the morning hours of Saturday, May 14.

Robert Greene was driving a 2012 Ford Taurus eastbound on Middle Country Road when his vehicle struck a 2022 International tractor trailer backing in to an Acura dealership, located at 780 Middle Country Road, at approximately 3:35 a.m.

Greene, 33, of South Setauket, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the tractor trailer, Azeddine Fridjat, 57, of Enfield, Connecticut, was not injured.

The Ford was impounded for a safety check. The tractor trailer was inspected at the scene by officers from the Motor Carrier Safety Section.

Detectives are asking anyone who may have witnessed the crash to contact the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.

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Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a motorcyclist in Coram Tuesday morning.

Krista D’Angelis was driving a 2021 Jeep northbound on Route 112, making a left turn into 1650 Route 112, when her vehicle was struck by a 2021 Suzuki motorcycle traveling southbound on Route 112 at 7:34 a.m.

The driver of the Suzuki, Brandon Blades, 32, of Port Jefferson Station, was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson where he was pronounced dead. D’Angelis, 45, of Ronkonkoma, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

The vehicles were impounded for safety checks and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You don’t have to look hard to see them alongside the road. They aren’t even always on the sharpest curves or the steepest hills.

There, along the median or over there, by the right side of the road, are the homemade crucifixes, the flowers, the stuffed animals and the personal effects of people who never made it wherever they were going, their lives ending on or near asphalt as other vehicles collided with theirs.

My family recently took a road trip, where we easily could have become another statistic, and our family or friends could have just as easily been visiting the spot where it ended for one, two, three or all four of us.

I was driving during a recent weekend, excited by the open road and eager to remove the family from the neighborhood patterns that have defined our lives for well over a year.

My wife navigated, checked her email, exchanged texts with friends, and regularly asked if I wanted her to drive, if I needed a drink, or if I was hungry.

Our son was napping behind me, his head tilted back and to the left. Our daughter was immersed in virtual interactions with her friends, head down, a Mona Lisa smile plastered on her face.

With my peripheral vision, I traced the flow of the taller and shorter trees that passed by, the familiarity of the Texas, Indiana, Ohio and California license plates on nearby cars and trucks, and the click, click, click of the road that churned beneath our wheels.

Up ahead, the driver of one of the thousands of SUVs that dot the American landscape hit his brakes. My wife instantly saw it and closed her eyes. Unlike me, she typically hits her brakes as soon as she sees the red lights at the back of the car in front of her.

I immediately take my foot off the accelerator, where it hovers over the brake. As we rapidly approached the car in front of us, I applied the brake with some force, coming to an almost complete stop just feet before reaching the bumper.

I exhaled in relief, while immediately hitting the hazards. I wanted the cars behind me to know I wasn’t merely touching my brakes, but that I, and all the other cars around me, were stopping.

For a moment, I chatted with my wife. I have no idea what she or I was saying, when I noticed a truck coming towards at an incredible rate of speed.

“Hold on! This isn’t good!” I shouted, waking my son and drawing my daughter away from her phone.

I reflexively tapped my accelerator and drove my car directly towards the nearly stopped SUV on my right side. The truck, meanwhile, dove into the thin shoulder.

As it flew by, the truck somehow missed us completely. The car next to me honked in frustration, as the driver, who must have moved to her right, glared. I wanted to tell her that a truck might have crushed our family if the driver and I hadn’t each made last second adjustments.

Her lane kept moving, and she likely didn’t give my sudden maneuver another thought. With my hands in a vice grip on the wheel and my breathing rapid, I stared at the truck in front of me. I wasn’t sure whether I would have liked to punch or hug the driver, who didn’t notice me slowing down, see my hazard lights or leave himself enough room to stop. At the same time, though, he — and it could have been a woman, because I never saw the driver — turned onto the small shoulder, finding just enough space to squeeze past me without destroying my car, my family or my life.

For the next several minutes, I struggled to drive, as the image of the speeding truck with nowhere to go in my rear view mirror replayed itself in my head.

“Are you okay? Do you need me to drive?” my wife asked anxiously.

My family and I were okay. We weren’t a part of a sad story that ended on an American highway. Skid marks left on the road weren’t a marker for the final seconds of our lives.

We are grateful for the combination of factors that turned a close call into a near miss. Perhaps this happened for a reason beyond giving us more opportunities to extend the journeys of our lives. Perhaps one of the purposes is to provide a warning to everyone else to remain vigilant, to brake early and to stay sharp and focused on the roads.

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A crash in Shoreham left several injured. Photo from Kevin Wood

A Shoreham teen was seriously injured in a crash at the corner of Route 25A and Miller Avenue the evening of June 13.

Shoreham-Wading River senior Melissa Marchese During an April 22 Softball game. Photo by Bill Landon

Suffolk County Police said Evan Flannery, of Shoreham, was driving a 2007 Hyundai Elantra southbound on Miller Avenue and was turning left into Route 25A when his car was struck by a 2006 Honda Accord, being driven westbound on Route 25A by Michael Troiano, of Ridge, at approximately 6:50 p.m.

A passenger in the Hyundai, Melissa Marchese, 18, of Shoreham, was airlifted via Suffolk County Police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries.  Flannery, 17, and another passenger in the Hyundai, Caroline Tyburski, 18, of Shoreham, were transported to St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson with non-life-threatening injuries. Troiano, 34, was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead with non-life-threatening injuries.

Marchese has been known as a standout softball player in SWR, having been recognized as All-League in the Scholar-Athlete Team in March and is committed to the University of Hartford for softball.

The Shoreham-Wading River Central School District said they have cancelled all high school final exams for June 14 and released the following statement:

“Our hearts and thoughts are with the impacted students and their families. The district’s mental health team will be available in the high school library for student support today.”

A Gofundme for Marchese and her family can be found here.

The vehicles were impounded for safety checks. Anyone with information about this crash were asked by police to call the Seventh Squad at 631-852-8752.

This post has been updated with a statement from the SWR school district.