The aftermath of a car crash can range from a short-term nuisance to a life-altering event for the persons involved. With these high stakes on the line, it is worthwhile to know the post-accident steps recommended by Long Island, NY car accident attorneys. Stressful moments impair anyone’s decision-making ability, and an auto accident of any severity meets that standard with ease. If you are without fault in the accident, being in the right is not enough.
The actions car accident victims take in the ensuing hours and days may dramatically affect their ability to gain compensation for injuries and expenses. As you work through the attorneys’ time-proven suggestions, understand that every accident is unique and will require your common sense.
The well-being of the persons involved in the accident is your first post-accident concern. Individuals who can safely exit their vehicles should do so. If the accident caused a serious injury, dial 911 and obey the dispatcher’s instructions. With a severe accident, the dispatcher may ask you to remain on the call until the first responders arrive.
If possible, avoid moving injured persons before paramedics are on-scene. Cervical injuries are common in collisions, and well-meaning rescue efforts may trigger catastrophic spinal damage. Car accident attorneys strenuously advise that you remain near the accident location until the police arrive. Leaving the scene of an injury-causing accident without the permission of a law enforcement officer is a felony under Section 600 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law and can lead to an arrest warrant.
Take Safety Measures
If visibility is poor, illuminate the accident site to the best of your ability until first responders arrive. If drivers can move their vehicles, New York law requires this action to minimize the hazard for other motorists.
If there are no serious injuries, car accident attorneys recommend calling the non-emergency number for local law enforcement. Performing this step will allow the police to direct traffic around cleanup and towing activities. This step also generates a police report, a necessary component of documentation efforts for car accident cases.
If motorists are physically able, New York law requires the drivers involved in a vehicle accident to display their operator’s licenses to each other and provide these types of information:
- Proof of insurance with coverage amounts
- Vehicle license numbers
Gathering information in the heat of the moment after an accident presents a challenge. As you engage with the other drivers involved in the accident, be courteous, but focus exclusively on gathering the required information. Do not apologize, admit fault or point the finger of blame.
Employ common sense. If another driver becomes abusive or threatening, allow a law enforcement officer to gather these details. If there are witnesses to the accident, ask them for their contact information, but do not discuss the accident. Any effort to color the recollection of a witness may undermine the future efforts of your car accident attorneys.
If you have a smartphone or camera, photograph the vehicles, skid marks, debris, and any possible car accident injuries. An often-overlooked step in the documentation phase is recording the presence of surveillance cameras. These cameras may be municipally owned traffic cams, commercial surveillance systems or even doorbell cameras in a residential neighborhood.
If you choose to pursue legal action in the wake of your accident, your auto accident attorney may be able to obtain this compelling evidence. To complete your on-scene documentation effort, use your smartphone’s dictation app to record your recollections while they are still fresh.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Nearly every auto insurance company requires a prompt notification after an accident. Performing this task further strengthens your hand for both insurance claims and potential legal action in the future. If your policy contains a liability waiver and you can establish that you were not at fault, you can avoid paying the deductible. Depending on your policy provisions, you may also be able to use this call to summon a tow truck or schedule a rental car.
Seek a Medical Evaluation
In the aftermath of a less severe auto accident, you may not realize the extent of your injuries. Auto accidents often cause soft-tissue damage that may take as long as 72 hours to manifest. Concussion victims also may underestimate the severity of their injury. Obtaining a medical evaluation, therefore, heads off long-term health problems.
The best auto accident lawyer will advise you to schedule this visit as quickly as possible. Your physician may refer you to multiple specialists, and the sooner you can work through this cycle, the better for your claim. When discharged, you may receive a thick ream of diagnostic results. Pass the physician’s findings to your insurance provider and keep the documentation for any future claim.
Compile an Account of the Accident
When time allows, find a quiet room and write down your account of the accident. This report should include:
- Names and addresses of involved drivers
- Street names
- The time of impact
- Your speed and direction at the time of the accident
- What you were doing at the moment of impact
- Weather and visibility
- Road conditions
You may augment your account with a hand-drawn diagram of the accident. The document can aid your insurance adjuster’s efforts, especially if safety concerns required moving the vehicles before you could begin your photo documentation. With your accident account completed, photograph the pages to create a time-stamped copy of your efforts. This period is also a good time to copy your photographs from your smartphone to a computer or thumb drive.
Should you post any part of your written account on social media? Ask the best auto accident lawyer in any jurisdiction, and that attorney will answer with a resounding “No.” Attorneys representing the driver at fault has the right to enter your social media posts into evidence and undermine your case. No matter how tempting it is to vent, exercise your self-discipline and avoid sabotaging your auto accident attorney.
File Your Accident Report
If an injury occurs or property damage to at least one driver involved in the accident exceeds $1,000, the Department of Motor Vehicles requires an MV 104 report from all involved motorists. The filing is due within 10 days of the accident, and failure to complete this step may result in the suspension of your driver’s license. The MV 104 form demands extensive detail and may require attachments, so do not leave this filing to the last minute.
Beyond losing your license, not filing the MV 104 may sabotage your efforts to pursue redress in the court system. If you fail to file your report on time, even the best auto accident lawyer will struggle to mount your case.
Understand No-Fault Auto Insurance for New York City Car Accidents
New York is one of the few states implementing a no-fault insurance system for personal injuries. This approach will affect how you file car accident claims and define your path in the court system. In a no-fault system, insurance companies are the first avenue of redress for personal injury. In practical terms, you must initiate a claim with your insurance company before moving on to legal action against the at-fault driver.
As the driver who is not at fault, you are eligible for up to $50,000 in benefits for medical expenses, lost wages, rental car fees, and other related expenses. As you work through your claim, keep an eye on New York’s no-fault insurance filing deadlines:
- 30 days from the accident date for no-fault claims
- 45 days from the first treatment date for medical claims
- 90 days from the accident for lost earnings and other loss claims.
These are hard deadlines, and there are no do-overs for late filers.
Take Stock of Your Litigation Options
If you conclude that the insurance settlement is inadequate compensation, New York law spells out four conditions that open the door to a car accident lawsuit.
- Your total losses exceed $50,000
- The at-fault driver’s insurance falls below New York’s minimum requirements
- The accident caused death among your vehicle’s occupants
- You suffered a serious injury as defined by New York law
Serious injury, the final entry on the list, is a sharply defined standard in Section 51 of the New York Insurance Law. Meeting that test includes these benchmarks:
- Visible disfigurement
- One or more fractured bones
- Permanent organ injury
- Near-total disability for 90 or more days in the six months after the accident
- Permanent impairment in a body function
- Fetal death
- Loss of a limb or an organ
- Permanent limitation to body movement
To deter frivolous car accident lawsuits, New York judges now demand rigorous proof of injury before allowing these actions to proceed. If you can surmount this hurdle, you and your car accident attorneys then confront the state’s complex negligence law. New York applies the comparative negligence rule for awarding damages. With this rule, a judge or jury evaluates the evidence, assigns a percentage of fault to each driver and reduces damage awards proportionally.
Here is where all of your meticulous efforts pay off. As the driver who was not at fault, you want to keep that percentage of negligence firmly pegged at 0%. The comparative negligence rule hammers home the value of careful documentation, timely filings and avoidance of social media. Your post-accident steps hike the odds that your auto accident attorney can negotiate a highly favorable settlement and avoid a lengthy trial.
Bear in mind that New York’s no-fault system applies only to injuries sustained in a car accident. With a property damage claim against the at-fault driver, only the total value of your vehicle limits the award. For personal injury or property damage, should you pursue legal action? The answer lies in locating the best auto accident lawyer you can find and asking the professional.
Consult With a New York Car Accident Lawyer
If you believe a no-fault insurance settlement will fall short of compensating you for your losses due to the accident, you may wish to seek the advice of an auto accident attorney. Nearly every personal injury attorney offers an initial consultation without charge. Bring every scrap of documentation to the meeting and prepare for many detailed questions from the attorney.
Your answers and documents will allow the lawyer to assess the strength of your case, map a strategy and give you realistic odds of success in legal action.
Beyond fielding questions at your consultation, you should come with your queries for the attorney. The firm’s fee structure should be high on this list. Plaintiff’s attorneys typically handle cases on a contingency fee basis. With this arrangement, the law firm takes its compensation as a percentage of the settlement if the lawsuit succeeds.
As you work through the fine points of your attorney’s compensation, take care to understand what costs you may be responsible for whether you win or lose. Typical litigation costs include court filing fees, investigation expenses and expert witness compensation.
As you look to find the best auto accident lawyer for your case, here are some other practical questions:
- What is your firm’s success rate with my type of case?
- What are the odds of success for my case?
- Can you put a dollar figure on the damage award?
- How long do you expect the process to take?
- How often will you advise me of the case’s progress?
- What steps will I need to take in this process?
- Is my case a good candidate for settlement?
Long Island, NY Car Accident Lawyers: Choose Wisely
Serving the Long Island community since 1988, the law firm of Silverstein & Kahn P.C. brings a half-century of combined experience to the needs of our clients. Partners of the firm always handle personal injury cases directly, and we take the time to explain every step of the litigation process thoroughly.
Our firm advances all costs with your car accident case, and we do not recover those costs unless we also recover money damages for you. If you have suffered an injury in an auto accident, we invite you to call us today for a free consultation.
NYBA: LegalEASE: If You Have An Accident
New York DMV | How to file a motorist accident report
NYBA: 5 Things to Know About New York’s Serious Injury Threshold
New York No-Fault Car Insurance | Nolo
Legal Information Institute: Comparative Negligence