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When Should You Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in New York?

New York Car Accident

When you’re injured in an accident, the other driver, insurance agents, and even police officers on the scene may downplay the event, making you think litigation isn’t necessary—until your medical bills come in the mail and you realize that you need a lawyer to help you fight for compensation to cover the costs. A car accident lawyer in New York can represent your rights and financial interests, helping you seek maximum compensation for your losses.

What types of accidents are severe enough to require a car accident lawyer in Huntington, NY, and when should you call one following the wreck? Learn when to hire an attorney after a motor vehicle accident so you know how to protect your rights during the overwhelming process.

When to Call a Lawyer After a Car Accident

You should consider hiring a lawyer for any car accident involving injuries or major property damage. While insurance claims for minor accidents involving minimal damage and no injuries are often relatively simple, more severe accidents can lead to low settlement offers that do not cover the full extent of your injuries or losses. If you’re injured in an accident, you may suffer high treatment costs, lost wages, long-term disability ramifications, and more.

If your accident involves any of the following scenarios, you should consider hiring an attorney:

  • Injuries
  • Uninsured or underinsured drivers
  • Serious property damage
  • A hit-and-run
  • Claim denials from your insurance
  • Liability claims against you

Attorneys protect you when someone attempts to take advantage of you. While you may not always realize it, a breach in your rights can look like lowball insurance offers that don’t cover your damages or other drivers attempting to place you at fault.

How Quickly Should I Contact an Attorney?

When to call a lawyer after a car accident can depend on your physical health and emotional well-being. Generally speaking, the sooner you call, you might need some time to recover after the accident because you might be too traumatized to think about your case right away. Once ready, you can call an attorney for a consultation before handling your insurance claim, as many legal advisors will walk you through this process to help you determine lawsuit eligibility, negotiate settlements, and more. 

Understanding when to elevate your insurance claim to a lawsuit isn’t easy, so speaking with an attorney first can help. We’ll discuss the differences between these options in more detail below.

In general, you should hire an attorney before accepting settlements from your insurance so you can discuss your options with an experienced legal advisor. 

4 Steps for Protecting Your Rights After a Car Accident

You likely won’t contact a car accident lawyer in New York the moment after your wreck, so understanding how to proceed before finding legal support can help you build a strong case. The steps you take after a car accident can greatly impact your ability to seek maximum compensation for your losses.

1. Contact the Police

You should contact the police to file a report following any accident, including minor parking lot dings. If you have severe injuries, call 911 for immediate medical attention. When the officer conducts the police report, do not assume liability or speak about your injuries until he confirms your diagnosis. 

Within ten days following your accident, you will also need to report the wreck to the DMV using the Report of Motor Vehicle Accident form. New York state law requires all drivers to report accidents to the DMV, and failure to do so may lead to license suspension. 

2. Seek Medical Attention

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 2.1 million accident victims visited the emergency room in 2020 alone after car wrecks. After your accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

Delaying your diagnosis and treatment can weaken your case, so you want a confirmed diagnosis that links your injuries to the accident. Even if you feel mostly okay, you should go to your doctor to rule out underlying issues, as adrenaline can mask your pain. Moving forward, follow all recommended treatments from your doctor. 

3. Gather Evidence Before Leaving the Scene

Before leaving the accident scene, gather as much evidence as you can:

  • Photographs of property damage
  • Images of injuries 
  • Documentation of the surrounding scene (traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks, buildings, cameras, etc.)
  • Names and contact information of all involved drivers
  • Contact information for any potential witnesses

If you’re physically unable to collect the above items after your accident, your attorney can help you gather evidence after the fact. Finding an experienced and knowledgeable car accident lawyer in New York is critical to developing your case with strong evidence. 

4. Do Not Disclose Anything Without Your Attorney

After your accident, the reporting officer, other drivers, and insurance agents may ask prying questions about your injuries or how the accident happened. Avoid answering any questions surrounding liability, damages, and injuries before consulting your attorney. Answering questions that downplay your injuries early on can weaken your case if your condition worsens. 

When these scenarios arise, say you’re unsure until you speak with your attorney. Your car accident lawyer in New York can guide you moving forward. 

When to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident

Your personal injury attorney can assist you in understanding if a lawsuit is right for your case, though learning New York’s laws on car accident litigation can help you prepare accordingly. Typically, you can file an insurance claim, then sue the at-fault party if your settlement offer cannot cover your medical expenses and lost wages.

Insurance Claim vs. Lawsuit

New York is a no-fault state, which means all drivers must file insurance claims with their own car insurance providers following an accident, regardless of who caused it. Each insurer should cover their party’s damages, including injury expenses and property damages, up to their policy limits. 

Under no-fault law, your personal injury protection may cover up to the following:

  • Your medical expenses up to a reasonable amount
  • Your lost wages up to a maximum of 80% of your income or $2,000 per month for three years
  • Up to $25 per day for necessary costs, like transportation
  • Up to $2,000 in death benefits

Unfortunately, the above figures often cannot cover the full damage extent of severe accidents involving injuries. In 2019, the average settlement for an accident involving injuries was $18,417, while the average three-day hospital stay costs $30,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

New York law allows you to go beyond your insurance claim and file a lawsuit if your accident exceeds the threshold of minor damage. By doing so, you can seek maximum compensation for your full damage amount, rather than dealing with your policy’s limitations. 

The Threshold for Serious Injuries

Severe injuries, serious property damage, and fatalities often lead to significant financial losses. In 2020, fatal car accident crashes caused $430 billion in losses, including all cost estimates and medical expenses. So, what is New York’s threshold for serious injuries allowing you to elevate your insurance claim to a lawsuit?

New York’s definition of serious injuries includes the following categories:


Nonpermanent injuries and temporary disabilities lasting at least 90 days

  • Injuries causing permanent disfigurements or dismemberment 
  • Fatalities 
  • Permanent injuries causing a loss of function in an organ, system, limb, or member
  • Bone breaks or fractures 
  • Fetus losses

Understanding whether or not your injury falls into one of the above definitions isn’t always clear. Your car accident lawyer in New York can evaluate your expenses, diagnosis, and settlement offers to help you determine if a lawsuit is right for you. 

New York’s Comparative Negligence Rule

If you choose to sue the at-fault party, you may become subject to New York’s comparative negligence rule. To seek compensation for your losses, you must prove that the other driver had a duty of care while driving and breached that duty, causing the accident and your injuries. If you can provide enough evidence to prove their 100% liability, you can seek full compensation. 

If the other party provides evidence placing you partially liable, the court may assign you a percentage of fault for the accident. Comparative negligence reduces your compensation earnings by the percentage of liability you assume. For example, if the court finds you 20% liable in a lawsuit seeking $100,000, you may only be entitled to $80,000.

Because of New York’s comparative negligence law, you must find an attorney with experience collecting evidence, navigating liability claims, and establishing fault. 

The Statute of Limitations on Filing

The last thing to consider before finding an attorney and filing your lawsuit is New York’s statute of limitations on car accidents. You have three years from the date of the accident to file. You should find an attorney and begin the process as soon as possible. 

Why Reaching Out to a New York Car Accident Attorney Early On Can Help

A New York car accident attorney can help you navigate all the complexities that arise following a car accident. From negotiating insurance claims to determining whether or not to file a lawsuit, your attorney will have your back, supporting your financial interests and legal rights. The earlier you reach out to an attorney, the sooner they can help you seek compensation while preventing you from accidentally saying the wrong thing while speaking with insurers or officers.

Attorneys provide help beyond severe injury scenarios as well. If your accident involved hit-and-run or uninsured drivers, your lawyer could conduct a deep investigation to locate liable parties and hold them accountable. Your legal team can help handle liability claims against you, claim denials from your insurance company, policy limitations, and much more.

If you’re unsure whether or not you need an attorney, you can often discuss your case for free by scheduling a consultation. During the consultation, you can talk about your case details so your attorney can help you decide how to move forward.

Injured in a Wreck? Call a New York Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you need a New York car accident lawyer, look no further than Silverstein & Kahn P.C. Our team has over 33 years of experience and has recovered over $50 million for clients in Huntington, NY, and the greater Long Island area. 

We charge no upfront fees, so you won’t pay a dime until we win your case. Call Silverstein & Kahn P.C. today at (631) 424-6850 for a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in New York. 

Do you know the primary signs that you need to hire a car accident lawyer? Learn when to call our team.


When Should You Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in New York?

You should hire a car accident lawyer in New York after any accident involving injuries or significant property damage. Your attorney can help you negotiate insurance settlements and decide if litigation is right for your case. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible to begin the process. 

Can You Sue Someone for a Car Accident in New York?

You may sue someone following a car accident in New York only if your damages exceed a certain threshold of severity. New York follows the no-fault law, which means drivers must use their own insurance to settle accident damages, regardless of who caused the accident. The exception to this rule is if your insurance cannot cover your full expenses, like if you suffer severe spinal cord injuries requiring long-term treatments. 

What Should I Do After a Car Accident in New York?

If you have a car accident in New York, you should call the police to file a report, seek medical attention as soon as possible, take photographs of the scene, gather witness contact information, and avoid disclosing any information to officers or insurance agents before speaking with your attorney. Follow all recommended treatments and contact a car accident lawyer in New York as soon as possible to discuss your case.

About The Author

Larry Silverstein, ESQ.

Larry Silverstein, ESQ.

Larry Silverstein, Esq. is a personal injury lawyer in New York. He has been practicing law for over 30 years and has built a distinguished reputation as an expert in personal injury law. Mr. Silverstein is known for his commitment to his clients and his exceptional legal skills, having won many high-profile cases in his career. Throughout his career, Mr. Silverstein has represented clients in various cases, including car accidents, slips and falls, and medical malpractice. 

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