You were minding your own business. You were thinking about what you will have for dinner or where you want to go out with friends.

You are a passenger in your friend's car.

The next thing you know you wake up in the recovery room of a hospital with tubes coming out of your mouth, needles coming out of your arm, machines beeping around you and nurses and doctors coming in and out of your room with great frequency.

You can't understand what you are doing there. You don't really understand where you are.

You're not even sure what day it is and even have difficulty talking and asking questions.

You feel groggy and decide to go back to sleep. You wake up a day or two later and now you begin to ask questions.

What the nurses and doctors are telling you simply don't make sense.

You were just minding your own business having a good time with your friend as you approached an intersection. Your car had the green light. The problem was a careless driver going at a high rate of speed did not recognize that the light for his direction of travel was red.

You are the unfortunate victim of being T-boned in an intersection by a careless driver.

The front of his car made direct contact with the passenger side of your car where you were sitting. The impact was so strong that your car wound up 500 feet away from the intersection upside down.

The firefighters had to use their 'jaws of life' to extract you from the car. The largest bone in your body, your femur, was fractured and sticking out through your skin. You suffered head trauma and were bleeding profusely from your mouth and nose.

You are short of breath and in shock.

Your condition was so severe that the police called in an air lift medical helicopter to evacuate you to the closest trauma center. As soon as you arrive, you are immediately taken to the operating room where surgeons uncovered internal bleeding and the orthopedic surgeons began to work on your leg at the same time.

The doctors anticipate you will remain in the hospital for the next three weeks and then will require at least six weeks of physical rehabilitation. They hope you will make a full recovery. However, the neurologist is not so sure. The traumatic brain injury you suffered may have long-term permanent effects.

It might affect your memory. It might affect your short-term memory. It might affect your cognitive ability to do daily tasks. The neurologist is simply not sure yet.

You had a decent job, and you have basic health insurance here in New York.

With all this overwhelming information about how and where you are right now, the first question you have is “how am I going to pay for all this medical care?”

The answer is that in New York we have a no-fault system of insurance. This means that regardless of whose fault it was for the accident, no-fault insurance will pay your medical bills relating to this accident up to a maximum of $50,000.

“Okay,” you think. But your medical bills are clearly going to be much more than that. "Who's going to pay for all these doctors bills and hospital bills and physical rehabilitation bills?"

Once no-fault insurance has paid its obligation up to $50,000, then your own personal health insurance will kick in to pay for the other bills. The problem that will arise is that your health insurance will not pay all of those bills. In all likelihood they will pay only 80% of the approved charges. There is a good chance that the doctors, hospitals and rehab facility will come to you asking for payment of the balance.

But you say “I didn't cause this to happen. I didn't electively choose to have this done. Somebody did this to me. If it was not for that driver's carelessness, I would not be in this predicament!”

In some instances, an injured victim will have no choice but to apply for Medicare or Medicaid as a result of their serious disability arising out of a traumatic car accident.

It is so ingrained in our culture today that if someone is involved in an accident, they think the next step is to immediately file a lawsuit.

The reality is that you, as an injured victim have an absolute legal right to seek compensation for the harms, losses and injuries you suffered as a result of someone else's carelessness. The law permits you and allows you to do this.

When you go to an attorney to determine if you have a valid case, one of the things we look for is to evaluate whether we can show to a jury that we are more likely right than wrong that what happened to you was careless. If your case goes all the way to trial and a jury determines that the other driver was careless or negligent, then the wrongdoer becomes legally obligated to compensate you for all of your injuries and harm that he caused.

Who pays this?

That compensation is often paid by car insurance or homeowners insurance or an umbrella insurance policy which is specifically designed to help injured victims obtain proper compensation for these cases.

If you choose to go this route and file a lawsuit seeking to obtain compensation for the suffering and harm and medical bills that you incurred as a result of someone else's careless driving, do not be surprised to learn that even if the defense acknowledges that they did something wrong, they will often fight tooth and nail about the value of your injuries.

I'm not talking about actual economic laws including lost wages and your inability to work in the future. Instead, I'm talking about the suffering and pain and indignity you endured from the time of the accident up until the time of trial. I'm also referring to the suffering and disability you can you be expected to have into the foreseeable future.

Some people just don't get it

When I am at social gatherings, I will often have discussions with people who are amazed at some very large verdicts that are obtained on behalf of injured victims. They speak with envy about these large verdicts. They too would like to get that type of compensation.

I tell them that in over 25 years of practice, if any one of my injured clients had a choice between accepting a large amount of compensation from their injuries or never suffering injury to begin with, that every single one of them, without exception, would prefer never to have been injured at all.

If they had a choice, they don't want the money. They want to go back to live their life the way it was before they suffered their permanent and disabling injury.

The same people who speak with envy about these large verdicts and settlements simply don't understand that these injured victims want their lives back. They would rather not have any compensation and not have to deal with the hassle, inconvenience and disruption of their lives.

Critics of our legal system here in New York as well as experienced defense lawyers like to argue that a jury verdict is akin to a lottery ticket. They liken it to going to Las Vegas and playing the slot machines. They think injured victims simply love taking a chance on a roll of the dice.

I have to tell you that those analogies are highly offensive and degrading to my injured clients.

A passenger on their way to work minding their own business who gets hit by careless driver, doesn't want to be in the hospital. They don't want to undergo surgery. They don't want to be told by a doctor that their memory loss is permanent. They don't want their children and family to know that they are now physically disabled from doing small daily activities that they never had a problem with before.

I find it to be personally disgusting when a defense attorney turns to a jury and makes the argument that one of my clients is simply here seeking to hit it big in the lottery. I find it offensive when I read articles about tort reform and people claiming that our society is going to hell because of injured victims standing up for their rights.

What does a personal injury attorney do to help?

Getting your medical bills paid in a car accident is just one part of what an accident attorney does here in New York.

In all likelihood, you are reading this article because you have questions or concerns about your own particular matter. Well, if your matter happened here in the state of New York and you do have legal questions, I encourage you to pick up the phone and call me. I can answer your legal questions. This is what I do every day and I'd love to talk to you. You can reach me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected]. I look forward to your call. 

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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