Can I Sue if I Was Hit By a Car While Walking in a Parking Lot?

It may not come as much of a shock to you to learn that pedestrian accidents are a frequent occurrence in New York. According to the New York State Department of Health, New York emergency departments treat an average of 12,506 motor vehicle-related pedestrian injuries. Of those, approximately 3,000 result in hospitalizations, and another 312 result in death. Compounding these already dismal statistics is the fact that approximately 20% of car accidents across the nation occur in parking lots and parking structures.

Given these statistics, it is not unthinkable that a vehicle might hit you or a loved one while you are walking through a parking lot. If this has already happened, and if you now live with extensive medical bills and other damages, you may wonder how you can recover compensation for your losses. Can you sue the at-fault party?

No-Fault Insurance Is the First Route of Recovery

New York is a no-fault accident state. What this means is that, under New York law, all drivers or persons who sustain injuries in an accident that involves a motor vehicle must pursue compensation through their own insurance policies, regardless of who is at fault. A no-fault system prevents injured parties from filing frivolous lawsuits and ensures an expedited monetary recovery for injured individuals.

What if, however, you, as a pedestrian, do not have no-fault coverage? The good news is that, under New York’s no-fault system, you can file a first-party claim against the policy of the driver who hit you. As a first-party claimant, the law entitles you to the same benefits that the policyholder him or herself may receive. Those include but are not limited to the following:

  • All reasonable and necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses that arise as a result of your accident-related injuries
  • 80% of the wages that you miss out on because of your inability to work, up to $2,000 per month, for up to three years from the date of the incident
  • Up to $25 per day for up to one year from the date of the accident for the reimbursement of accident-related expenses that are necessary and reasonable (transportation expenses, household help, etc.)
  • An additional $2,000 death benefit on top of the $50,000 standard no-fault limit

Given that these benefits are fairly generous, it is unlikely that you will have to sue for additional benefits via a lawsuit.

What If the At-Fault Party Does Not Have Insurance?

The no-fault system seems ideal, until you take into account that one in every eight motorists does not have auto insurance. Though New York has one of the lowest uninsured motorist rates in the nation, at 4.1% as of 2022, the risk that an uninsured motorist will hit you still exists.

Insurance or not, you also have to worry about hit-and-run incidents. In any given year, hit-and-run crashes account for approximately 12% of all traffic accidents and between 4% and 5% of all traffic-related fatalities. A hit-and-run event occurs approximately every 43 seconds somewhere in the U.S.

If an uninsured driver hits you while you are in a parking lot, or if the at-fault driver flees the scene, it is important that you understand your rights and know from where you can pursue compensation. The first course of action would be to go through your own at-fault insurance policy. Uninsured motorist coverage is a necessary component of New York auto insurance and should kick in in the event that the at-fault driver does not have insurance or remains unknown.

If you do not have an auto insurance policy, and if a family member’s policy does not cover you, you may still qualify for uninsured motorist protection and no-fault coverage. To see if you are eligible, you or your representative must file a claim immediately with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation.

When You Can Sue Outside of No-Fault Coverage

New York does recognize a few grounds that allow injured parties to sue outside of its no-fault system. First and foremost, you must establish negligence on behalf of the other party. If you can prove that the other party acted negligently in his or her operation of the motor vehicle that hit you, you must then prove that you sustained a “serious injury.” State law established a serious injury threshold for this purpose.

Per the threshold, a serious injury is one that results in $50,000 or more in economic loss. A serious injury is also one that involves one or more of the following:

  • Dismemberment
  • Permanent loss of the use of a bodily function, member, organ or system
  • Fracture
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent and substantial limitation of a body member or organ
  • The substantial limitation of the use of a bodily system or function
  • Death

Your injury may also qualify as “serious” if, despite its non-permanent nature, it substantially interferes with your ability to engage in all the material actions that make up your typical day. This impairment must continue for at least 90 of the 180 days following your accident.

If you can prove that your injury meets the serious injury threshold, your case may constitute grounds for a lawsuit. However, just because the state may allow you to file a lawsuit does not mean you are guaranteed a recovery. There are several facts you must establish and considerable evidence you must gather if you hope to prevail in court. For this reason, you should consult with a New York pedestrian accident attorney before you decide to pursue any legal action.

Statute of Limitations on a Pedestrian Accident Case

If you hope to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in your pedestrian accident case, you must do so within the statute of limitations. Failure to file a claim by the specified deadline may result in the forfeiture of your rights to file a claim at all. The statute of limitations on personal injury accidents in New York is three years from the date of the incident or discovery of damages. If you hope to file a wrongful death claim for the unexpected loss of a loved one, you have two years.

Say it was a police officer who hit you, however, or another agent of the government who was on-duty at the time of the incident. In this case, you would have 90 days to file a notice of a claim. If you fail to file this notice, you forfeit your right to recovery. If you file the claim within the 90-day window, you have a year — possibly longer — to file the official lawsuit. In all, you have one year and 90 days to file a lawsuit against an at-fault government agent.

Get Legal Help With Your Pedestrian Accident Claim

If a vehicle hits you while you are walking through a parking lot or garage in New York, you may have sustained considerable losses. Fortunately, the law entitles you to recover compensation for your losses via either no-fault insurance or a lawsuit. A New York accident attorney can help you identify your paths to recovery and ensure you take the appropriate steps to maximize the amount of compensation you receive. For this reason and several others, it would be in your best interests to work with a lawyer from day one. Consulting with a lawyer will cost you nothing but may yield valuable insight. Contact Cellino Law to schedule your free consultation today.



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