Every year, approximately 4.4 million people suffer injuries caused by car accidents in the United States, and the financial impact amounts to more than $871 billion, which includes more than $380 million in medical bills alone. If you sustained an injury in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation. An experienced New York car accident lawyer will have the knowledge and expertise to help guide you through the legal maze, protect your legal rights and provide you with support and information along the way.
A car crash is a jarring experience. What you do in the minutes that follow could have a serious impact on your health and your case. If you follow the below steps, you may have a chance at recovering proper payment for the damages and injuries that you sustained in the accident, especially if you experienced physical injuries and pain and suffering.
1. Check Everyone for Injuries and Get to Safety
The first thing you do once the immediate shock wears off is check yourself for obvious injuries. If you have passengers, check them as well. If anyone has sustained an injury, do not hesitate to call for emergency medical service.
Sometimes accidents occur in high traffic areas. If the accident was minor and your car is still functioning, move it to the side of the road and out of traffic. If your car is too damaged to move, leave it and instruct your passengers to get to a safe location while you call the police and wait for officers to arrive.
2. Contact Law Enforcement
In New York, you are not required to contact law enforcement if no one was injured in a motor vehicle accident. However, experienced NYC car accident attorneys would tell you that calling the police is the right thing to do.
There are several benefits to getting officers involved:
- They can keep you safe. Car accidents are never pleasant, and sometimes the other driver does not have control of his or her temper. Having law enforcement there helps keep aggressive reactions to a minimum in most cases.
- They can take control. This is particularly important if the accident happened in a high traffic area. The police can redirect traffic away from the scene. This protects you and any potential evidence as well.
- They help with your insurance claim. A police report details the scene of the accident and includes information on everyone involved, including witnesses. It helps to have a police report that backs up your story. Police also investigate to determine which party is at fault. If they report that the other driver is responsible, that helps when filing car accident claims.
- They help with your lawsuit. If you decide to pursue compensation, a police report detailing your accident and naming the other driver as the responsible party is a vital piece of evidence.
Some accidents present a clear at-fault party, and sometimes it is not that easy. Police are not always able to name an at-fault person on the scene. In a car accident case, the police, the insurance agency, and your attorney all conduct independent investigations to determine fault.
If the police report states that the other driver is responsible for the accident, your insurance agency may come to a different conclusion. They could claim that you are partially or even wholly at fault. In New York, no-fault insurance protects you from paying out of pocket even if you are at fault. However, it could impact your case or even your ability to file a lawsuit. A New York car accident lawyer understands the complexity of New York car accident lawsuits and can guide you through that process.
The Other Driver May Try to Stop You
Even if you are aware that calling the police is the right choice, the other driver may try to persuade you not to call. There are many reasons that someone might want to avoid calling the police.
For example, he or she may:
- Fear being held liable for the accident
- Have a current arrest warrant
- Have a stolen vehicle
- Not have the required insurance coverage
- Is driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- Is driving with an invalid license
In such cases, the other driver may tempt you with promises to pay for the damages to your vehicle. Accepting an offer right away is not always in your best interest. Car accident lawyers know that you may be more injured than you even realize at the moment.
3. Seek Medical Attention
Injuries sustained in an auto accident vary from minor to very serious. Even a small fender bender may result in soft tissue damage, such as whiplash. Even if you feel fine, you may have latent injuries that are not evident in the sudden aftermath of the accident. Car accidents are unexpected and create a shock to your system. The rush of adrenaline that follows is often deceptive, masking pain receptors that let car accident victims know their body is injured. Seeing a doctor immediately after a car accident assures you get the care you need for injuries sustained due to the crash whether you recognize the symptoms or not.
Common Injuries From a Car Accident
The sudden, aggressive stop from even a minor car accident has the potential to cause impact or penetrating injuries. Your body slamming into any part of the car causes impact injuries. Penetrating injuries include scrapes and cuts that could come from almost anything.
Some of the most common injuries sustained in a car accident include:
- Lacerations. Anything lying around your car has the potential to catch air and hit you during a crash. For example, your cellphone, or even your airbag, could hit you in the arm and cause a cut or scrape.
- Leg and arm injuries. The positions of legs and arms while driving leave them vulnerable to injury. Depending on the severity of the accident, you could end up with bruises, cuts, or broken bones.
- Soft tissue injuries. Ligaments, tendons, and muscles make up the soft tissue. Whiplash, an injury caused by the sudden stretching of soft tissue, is common in car accidents. The impact may also cause injuries to the soft tissue in your lower back.
- Head injuries. Any kind of impact on your head is potentially dangerous. Concussions are common in car accidents, but a head injury could even result in brain damage.
- Chest injuries. Bruised or broken ribs are also common. The risk for an internal injury, such as internal bleeding, is very dangerous and needs immediate treatment.
Broken bones and cuts present themselves right away. However, you could go days without noticing soft tissue injuries or head injuries. That is why seeing a doctor right away is so important.
How Seeing the Doctor Can Help Your Case
Seeing a doctor creates a medical record of your injuries. There are even doctors that specialize in car accident injuries and can bill the insurance company directly. If your injuries are serious, call an ambulance and go to the nearest emergency room. Minor injuries might allow you more time to decide. You can schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or a specialist. If you want to get checked out immediately, you can drive yourself to the hospital or urgent care.
Car accident lawyers use medical records to back up personal injury claims. If you try to argue that your injuries were sustained in a car accident but you have no medical record, proving that the accident caused your injuries is difficult. The same is true if you wait too long to go to the doctor.
4. Exchange Information With the Other Driver
The police collect information from the drivers for the police report. However, officers are not always dispatched to minor accidents. In that case, filing at the station or online is another option, and collecting the other driver’s information is left to you.
Ask for name, address, phone number, and insurance information. You can take a photo of the insurance card to keep for documentation. If anyone witnessed the accident, collect their information as well.
5. Start Documenting Everything
If you are able, use your phone to take photographs of the scene, including the surrounding area. Shoot pictures of the damage to your car, the other vehicle, the roadway, and any other property damage. If you have visible injuries, document those as well. If possible, record a video of the scene of the accident. Write down details, such as the weather, the time and date, and the traffic conditions. If you are not using video to document, write down your thoughts on what caused the accident.
The Burden of Proof
In an auto accident personal injury case, the person seeking compensation for damages also carries the burden of proof. This means that you and your car accident attorney must prove, with evidence, that the other party is at fault for the accident.
The evidence must prove that:
- Your injuries were sustained in the accident.
- Your injuries required a course of medical treatment.
- The accident resulted in missed time from and lost wages.
- Your version of the moments leading up to the accident is true.
One of the benefits of hiring an experienced car accident lawyer is that he or she knows what evidence you need for a personal injury lawsuit and how to help you collect it.
6. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Agency
In New York, filing a car accident claim involves both party’s insurance companies. You have to notify your insurance that you were in an accident in order to protect your rights under the no-fault insurance policy. In general, you should let your insurer know anytime your car is damaged.
7. Contact a New York Car Accident Lawyer
You may be tempted to handle your personal injury case on your own, and legally, you can. However, the process is cumbersome and complicated for anyone that does not have experience. Also, the insurance carrier may try to take advantage of you by offering you a low ball deal to close out your claim.
Some benefits to hiring a car accident attorney are:
- Your attorney collects the evidence you need quickly. This includes conducting an investigation into the accident. Car accident lawyers also have access to accident reconstruction experts that can help determine fault.
- Your attorney stops you from making statements that might negatively impact your case. Insurance companies often ask for written or recorded statements, and your attorney supervises to make sure you do not divulge any detrimental information.
- An attorney knows how to calculate your damages. Without experience, you could miss opportunities to collect on things that you didn’t realize qualified as damages, such as pain and suffering.
- Car accident attorneys have negotiation skills. They know when to settle and when to keep pushing back. As a result, they can often get you the best possible settlement.
- You can avoid the intimidation tactics of insurance companies. Insurance adjusters protect the interests of the insurance company first, and they often use bad faith tactics, such as delaying payments, refusing to pay your claim, failing to conduct an investigation, and misinterpreting policy language. They are less likely to attempt these tactics when speaking with an attorney.
- An attorney understands the legal process and handles most of the tedious work for you while you focus on recovering your injuries.
You are in a vulnerable state following a car accident, and you need someone that has your best interest in mind to advocate for you. Additionally, car accident lawyers do not require payment upfront. They work on contingency, which means that they get paid when you get paid.
Damages You May Seek
There are two main types of damages recovered in personal injury cases that involve auto accidents. Most damages fall under the compensatory classification. Compensatory damages include:
- Cost of medical care for injuries incurred during the accident
- Future cost of medical care for injuries that require long-term treatment
- Loss of income caused by missing work while recovering
- Future loss of income or loss of earning capacity
- Reimbursement for property damages, such as your vehicle or any items lost or damaged in the accident
You calculate these damages using existing and estimated medical bills and lost wages and receipts for property repairs.
You may also receive compensation for pain and suffering, including any ongoing pain caused by your injuries. Your attorney knows how to quantify those damages to ensure that they are properly valued in your claim. When the defendant’s actions are excessively appalling, you may ask for punitive damages, which are designed to punish the responsible party, but this is rare in car accident cases.
Important New York Accident Laws
A New York car accident lawyer also has a thorough understanding of the state laws governing car accidents.
There are two important regulations that can impact your case in New York:
- Pure comparative fault. If both parties bear responsibility for the car accident, this rule dictates that a percentage of fault is placed on each party, and that percentage also reflects the monetary amount of damages each person pays. For example, if you are found 60 percent at fault for the accident, you pay 60 percent of the total damages, and the other party pays the remaining 40 percent. Several other states use the comparative fault rule, which differs in that the plaintiff is not eligible for compensation if he or she bears more than 50 percent of the blame for the accident
- Statute of limitations. In New York, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If you attempt to file after that, you can expect that your case will get dismissed.
- Time to File for No-Fault Benefits. A No-Fault application must be filed with the proper No-Fault insurance provider within 30 days of an accident. Also, all medical bills must be submitted to the No-Fault carrier within 45 days of treatment.
Keep in mind that New York is also a “no-fault” state, which means that you are required to have no-fault insurance. You turn to this policy first to cover damages.
8. File Away All Documentation
Request all documentation pertaining to your accident right away. Collecting evidence is often the longest part of the legal process. You save time by starting right away and keeping everything organized for your attorney.
What You Should Keep
We have compiled all the documents you need into one list. These items corroborate your claim and back the request for compensation stated in your demand letter.
The list includes:
- A journal containing all the written documentation of the events leading up to, during, and after the accident. Include day-to-day notes on how the accident has impacted your life as well as the photographs from the accident.
- Medical records showing all diagnoses and treatments, including hospital stays and future treatment plans
- Proof of your vehicle’s value and estimates for repairs to damages caused by the accident
- Proof of income, such as pay stubs or direct deposit records. If you work in an industry that utilizes tipping, provide tip records.
- A copy of the police report.
Thorough documentation often translates into better compensation. The more evidence you have, the less opportunity the defendant or the insurer has to question your claim.
Schedule a Consultation With Experienced New York Car Accident Lawyer Today
The attorneys at The Law Office of Pyrros & Serres have more than two decades of experience in auto accident litigation. If you have suffered an injury from a car accident and need help, we are here to provide answers and direction. Contact us today and let a New York car accident lawyer handle your case.