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Steps to Take If You Are Injured in an Car Accident

What to Do If You Are Injured in a Car Accident

car accident imagesMillions of car accidents occur every year in the United States. Accidents can be minor, with few to no personal injuries, or serious, resulting in life-changing injuries and even death. Regardless of the severity, car accidents disrupt people’s lives. From learning to live with life-altering injuries and getting necessary medical care, to missing time at work and repairing the damage to your vehicle, motor vehicle accidents impact the lives of many individuals on a daily basis.

More likely than not, most of us will be involved in a car accident at some point in our lives. As a result, it is very important to know what to do if you or a loved one is involved in a car accident.

What You Should Do After a Car Accident

There are a number of important steps to take after you’ve been involved in a car accident. The following are key things to keep in mind and attend to following a car accident.

Attend to Injured Persons

An ambulance should be called immediately if you or another driver or passenger in either vehicle are injured or are experiencing pain. It is also important that you make sure complaints of injury or pain are documented at the scene by the investigating officer and medical personnel. Don’t delay seeking treatment following an accident. This is important to your health, and could adversely affect pursuing a personal injury claim you may wish to bring to seek compensation for your injuries.

Obtain a Police Report

The police should be called immediately so that there will be a proper investigation undertaken, and report made to document the accident. If you are involved in a car accident that has caused injury to person or property in New York State, you are required to stop and give your name, address and show your driver’s license and insurance information to the other person involved, or to a police officer.

It is important not to let the other driver convince you that there is no need to call an officer to the scene, by telling you that they will “take care of it” or “let’s just go through the insurance.” Stories often change once people leave the scene of the accident and there is no report made. Any report that is not done at the time and place of the accident may make a future claim more difficult.

Protect the Scene

Every effort should be made to prevent any further accidents. For your own safety as well as that of oncoming motorists, flares and reflectors should be set out if available. If the vehicles are in a place where you are in immediate danger, they should be moved. Otherwise, they should not be moved until the police investigate the accident. Passengers should not remain in a vehicle that is in harm’s way, but of course discretion should be used in attempting to move someone who may be injured.

It’s a good idea to keep a camera in your car so that you can take photographs of the accident scene and the vehicles involved. Pictures will help with investigation as useful evidence to help prove the case if the negligence of the other driver is disputed.

Trade Information with Other Drivers

The names and addresses of all other drivers and passengers should be obtained. It is also important to note the ownership, license number, year and make of each car involved in the accident as well as the names of the insurance companies and the policy numbers that cover the other vehicles. There should be an insurance policy ID card in each car, as this is required by law in New York. Additionally, it is important that you not sign any statement as to how or why the accident occurred while still at the scene. However, you should of course cooperate fully with police officers investigating the accident.

Obtain Names and Addresses of Witnesses

Should there be a personal injury claim, and if liability is disputed, it’s important that the identity of witnesses be obtained at the scene. While still at the scene, obtain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of as many witnesses as possible. If a witness refuses to give you this information, write down the license plate number of their automobile. Do not give the names of any witnesses to anyone except the police, your attorney, or your insurance company. The accident should not be discussed with witnesses at the scene.

Write an Accurate Account of the Accident

As soon as possible after the accident, document as many details of the accident as you can, such as the date and time, the road and weather conditions, and the speed and movements of the other vehicles involved. Drawing a diagram of the accident that shows the position and direction of the cars prior to and after the accident is also a good idea. Only share this information with your attorney and insurance company.

Report the Accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles and to Your Insurance Company

If you are involved in an accident in New York State where a person is killed or injured or there has been damage to the property of any person that exceeds $1,000, the law requires that the operator of a vehicle involved must file a written report with the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles within 10 days. Should the operator be unable to make the report, then another person involved must make the report. If neither of these people can make the report then the owner of the vehicle must make the report within 10 days of learning of the accident. Failure to make the report is a misdemeanor, possible grounds for suspension or revocation of the operator’s driving license or certificate of registration for the vehicle.

Your insurance company representative (whether agent or if none, the company directly) should be contacted immediately after the accident. Written notice, which should include the time, place, and circumstances of the accident, should also be sent as soon as possible. The report should also contain the names of all injured persons as well as the names of witnesses. If your insurance company is not notified within a reasonable time, this may be used as a basis for denying the obligation to protect your interests, should there be a claim made against you.

Insurance Claims Following a Car Accident

Car insurance is intended to help you when you’ve been involved in an accident, but navigating the complex requirements and procedures following a car accident can be challenging and overwhelming. The following information will help you as you work with the insurance companies and the other individuals involved in the incident after you’ve been involved in a car accident.

When Claims are Made Against You

When claims are made against you, the persons making the claims should be referred to your insurance company. Do not make any payments or promises to pay. All legal papers served on you should be immediately sent to your insurance company. Should you have inadequate coverage, your lawyer should be consulted immediately.

When You Make a Claim

If you are injured, no matter how minor it might seem, it is important that you see a doctor as soon as possible. Automobile insurance policies include provisions for payments for medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses to operators and passengers of automobiles, and to pedestrians. These payments are made regardless of fault.

New York State No-Fault Insurance Benefits – Under YOUR own insurance policy, assuming it was issued in New York, you have at least $50,000 in medical and wage lost benefits available to you if you are injured as a result of the accident. It’s important for you to know that you have only thirty days to provide your insurance company with the notice of the accident and the fact that you were injured to claim no-fault benefits.

These benefits are available as long as persons injured in the accident are not intoxicated, drugged, or engaged in other specified criminal or anti-social behavior. Benefits are payable regardless of who caused the accident. No-fault benefits include:

  • Necessary medical and rehabilitation costs;
  • Lost earnings of up to $2,000 a month (upon showing of medical based disability) for up to three years from the date the accident, less 20% based upon the assumption that the injured person will receive New York State disability benefits;
  • Up to $25 a day for up to one year for other “reasonable and necessary expenses” incurred due to the accident, to perform tasks that would have otherwise been done by the injured person.

The Right to Sue For Pain and Suffering, and No-Fault – An accident victim in New York has the right to sue a negligent owner and operator of a covered vehicle for personal injury (including pain and suffering and lost wages) in the following cases:

  • When medical expenses and other economic losses exceed $50,000;
  • If the injury results in what is known as a “Serious Injury”, which includes inability to work or perform his “usual and customary daily activities” for atleast 90 days of the first 180 days following the accident, a “significant disfigurement”, a fracture, or other significant injury;
  • If the injury results in death;
  • If the injured person or the person at fault has no insurance that complies with the minimum provisions required by New York State ($25,000/$50,000 personal liability coverage, $10,000 in property damage, and $50,000 in the event of wrongful death. This is in addition to no-fault coverage).

Property Damage – Your own collision or comprehensive insurance policy will cover claims for damage to your vehicle. However, if another motorist causes the accident, you can bring a claim against him for property damage. It is required in New York that an individual carry a minimum of $10,000 in property damage coverage. This is generally handled through the insurance agent or the companies directly. You should consult your attorney if the owner or operator does not have insurance.

Hit and Run – The police must be notified within 24 hours if you or your vehicle is struck by a vehicle whose driver leaves the scene of the accident. Be sure that the police make the accident report and that your insurance company is notified immediately. An attorney should also be contacted to further explain your rights.

Stolen or Uninsured Vehicle – If a stolen or uninsured vehicle strikes your vehicle, the police should be notified and a report made. Your insurance company also needs to be notified immediately, and an attorney should be consulted to ensure your rights are protected.

Should You Talk to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Representative? – There is no legal requirement to cooperate or discuss the accident with the other driver’s insurance company. The other insurance company will likely attempt to contact you to obtain a statement. You should NOT agree to provide a statement, even if there is no question in your mind that fault for the accident lies with the other driver. Work through your own insurance company to address property damage.

Know What To Do After A Car Accident. Contact the Car Accident Attorneys at Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious personal injury in Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Clifton Park, Saratoga or elsewhere in the Capital District, it is important to know what to do – and what not to do after the accident occurred. It’s also important to recognize that following a car accident you may be entitled to compensation.

As practicing attorneys with more than 90 years of combined experience, the legal team at Anderson, Moschetti and Taffany understands how to effectively represent persons who have been injured. We will work hard to obtain full compensation for you or a loved one utilizing our decades of experience.

Call us today for a FREE case evaluation at 518-785-4900, or contact us online for more information. There is no obligation.

David J. Taffany

About David J. Taffany

Mr. Taffany is an personal injury lawyer and a founding member of Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany, PLLC in Albany. He specializes in all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases, including complex medical malpractice, products liability and labor law. Read More About David J. Taffany »