When you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone else, seeking legal help from a car accident lawyer is likely the last thing on your mind. After all, you might feel certain the evidence points to fair compensation for you. Sadly, the process of getting the compensation you need can be long and frustrating. Knowing what to do after an accident can set you on the right track.
What to Do Immediately After the Crash
Panicking after a car crash is normal, but giving in to that panic could cost you. Take a deep breath and gather your thoughts. Every accident is different, so consider the following items as general best practices instead of steps you need to follow in a specific order.
Move the Vehicle Off the Road
Most states have laws that explicitly require you to move your disabled vehicle off the road as soon as possible after an accident. Moving the vehicle reduces the risk of blocking traffic or causing another accident. If you have dashcam footage, then this might preserve the evidence and show what happened.
In cases where you do not have a lot of traffic on the road and visibility is clear, you might have a few seconds to take some quick pictures. However, be aware of the risks.
Check on Other People Involved in the Accident
The first order of business is to make sure everyone involved in the accident is okay. If you feel that you can move and have suffered no real injuries, you may need to provide assistance to other people. This includes checking on the other driver and passengers, as well as pedestrians and other road users.
Note that most states have laws requiring you to remain at the scene after a car crash in certain situations, including when a person is injured or killed. Failure to do so could result in legal problems.
Call Emergency Services
In New York City, calling the police is mandatory in the following situations:
- Property damage totals $1,000 or more for any one person.
- It involves a parked car and you cannot locate the owner.
- A person or a domestic animal suffers fatal or non-fatal injuries.
Failure to report the accident in these instances could result in a driver’s license suspension. When you report the accident, the dispatcher determines what emergency services to send based on the details provided.
Seek Medical Attention
Adrenaline floods your body in high-stress situations, such as a car accident. This fight-or-flight hormone triggers your survival mode and can dampen the effects of injuries. As a result, you might not even know you suffered injuries until days or hours later. Failing to seek medical attention after an accident can also cause small injuries to spiral into chronic pain or even long-term disabilities.
Should you later decide to go to court, you could become liable for worsening the problem while the defendant is only responsible for creating the original injury. This could leave you with thousands of dollars in unpaid bills and without the resources to make a full recovery.
Call an Auto Accident Attorney
An attorney can walk you through the process of what to do after a crash to preserve evidence and ensure you do not say or do anything that complicates your case. In some cases, the attorney could visit the scene of the accident. When you involve an attorney from this early on, he or she has the unique opportunity to gather direct evidence. This might include the following:
- Photos and video footage of the scene of the accident
- Contact information for all witnesses
- Dashcam footage from drivers who witnessed the incident
- Camera footage from nearby businesses
Collect Information and Evidence
Your car accident could be so serious that you have no opportunity to gather evidence yourself or call an attorney. You could lose consciousness or suffer such serious injuries that you need to focus on your health.
However, if you have the opportunity to do so, collect the same information identified above. Here are some additional examples:
- The other driver’s name, contact information, and insurance information
- The names and contact information for everyone else involved in the accident
- The year, make, model, and color of the other driver’s car
- The license plate of the other driver’s car
- The name, badge number, and contact information of the responding officer
Watch What You Say
After a car crash, it is not your job to determine who caused the accident. Even if you think you might have some fault in the matter, let the police officer and insurance companies handle this. Your role is to provide the evidence they need to come to a conclusion.
Some people panic at the scene of an accident and begin to apologize or take the blame. When they later calm down, they might realize they did not cause the accident. They only said this out of an overwhelming sense of responsibility.
However, once that goes on record, you might receive the blame. Speaking to an attorney as soon as possible can reduce this risk.
Call the Auto Insurance Company
Notify your car insurance company as soon as possible. Failure to do so could result in a car insurance claim denial. The car insurance company of the other driver will likely also call you to collect information. Ideally, you allow your New York car accident attorney to take the call.
Always remember that the negligent party’s insurance company has one main goal: to minimize payouts so it can maximize profits. Consequently, it will look for anything to reduce or dismiss your claim.
How To Tackle Medical Care After an Accident
In the best-case scenario, you sought medical attention immediately after the crash. If you do not, the sooner you tackle this task, the better. Note that this is only the beginning of your recovery process.
Follow the Doctor’s Guidelines
If you suffered injuries, your doctor likely provided treatment and follow-up instructions. You might feel tempted to disregard these instructions, especially if you feel fine or fear losing paychecks. However, failing to follow the instructions given could come back to haunt you.
Consider Payment Options
Your car accident lawyer will contact the car insurance company of the at-fault party to find out what it can cover and under which limitations. You might also consider filing a personal injury lawsuit to seek additional compensation for your medical expenses.
During negotiations, you might need to find an immediate solution to your medical bills. Consider the following options:
- New York laws require personal injury protection (PIP) coverage as part of your insurance policy, so use this to cover medical expenses.
- If you are not from New York or a state with PIP coverage, review your health insurance policy.
- Confirm whether you had a short-term disability life insurance plan at work or independently.
- If your accident occurs during open enrollment or a qualifying incident occurs, you might become eligible for Obamacare.
- Find out if you qualify for financial aid and apply.
- Some companies provide loans or special credit cards to cover medical expenses, but it is often better to owe the health facility than a bank.
Ask for a Discount
Sometimes, insurance companies want to negotiate and settle as soon as possible. The more serious the accident, the more likely they are to avoid going to court. This is especially the case when damning evidence exists that could lead to punitive damages.
However, if negotiations drag out for some time, you might not know for sure when you will get compensated and how much. In these instances, talk to your attorney about whether you should ask for a discount on your medical bills.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of Working
Most everyday Americans cannot afford to miss a paycheck. However, if the doctor advises you not to go to work, disregarding the advice could hurt your health and your case. In some cases, your boss might be able to make ADA adjustments so you can work in a different capacity. Speak with your doctor before making a decision.
Seek Recovery Options
If you suffered emotional distress because of the accident, seek out mental health services. Even if the accident itself does not negatively impact you, adjusting to the aftermath likely does. Many people suffer depression and anxiety while adjusting to serious injuries or long-term disabilities.
Your doctor might also recommend physical therapy to help you get back on your feet as soon as possible. Prioritize these opportunities to improve your chances of making a full recovery and returning to your regular life.
Who the Potential At-Fault Parties Could Be
Before filing an insurance claim or proceeding with a personal injury lawsuit, your New York car accident lawyer must first identify the at-fault party. At the scene of the incident, insurance companies or law enforcement may attribute blame to one or more road users, including you.
Your car accident case could quickly become a product liability case if a manufacturer contributed to the accident. For example, your vehicle could have manufacturing defects that caused the brakes to fail. Similarly, parts used on your vehicle could fail prematurely and cause an accident.
When you bring your vehicle in for servicing, you rely on the expertise of mechanics. Most mechanics take pride in the quality of their work, but some bad apples do exist. These professionals deliberately do shoddy or unnecessary work to increase the likelihood of customers returning. If these lead to accidents, your attorney might decide to sue the shop.
Your Insurance Company
Sometimes, your own insurance could end up as your opponent in a courtroom. Consider, for instance, a crash caused by an uninsured driver. You file a claim to use your uninsured or underinsured coverage to pay for damages, but your insurance company denies the claim. Your attorney might decide to pursue a case for a bad faith claim.
If a dog runs into the path of a vehicle, the driver’s reflex response will likely involve swerving to avoid the dog. Whether you or another driver swerved and crashed, the dog’s owners could become liable. In some cases, insurance companies might represent the pet owner under a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
What to Claim Compensation for During Negotiations
Even minor car accidents can cost you thousands of dollars. This doesn’t just stem from injuries or vehicle damage, but also from not having a vehicle to go to work. These are some of the many things you might receive compensation for.
When car accidents occur, vehicles end up with dents and scratches. Some car crashes entirely total the car or cause so much damage that repair costs far outweigh the resale value. In these instances, you deserve compensation from the at-fault party to cover your losses. You have a right to claim for vehicle repairs as well.
Due to car accidents, you might have to miss work for a few days or an entire month. As a result, you lose wages and possibly even your job if your company cannot hold the position for you. If the at-fault party caused these losses, he or she should compensate you accordingly. Even partial compensation could help you pay for your car accident expenses.
When car accidents result in serious injuries, you could receive medical care that costs thousands of dollars. This could rack up a significant amount of debt as you fight for your life. Ideally, the at-fault party pays to relieve you of this financial burden. Your auto accident attorney will fight hard to make this possible.
Pain and Suffering
The physical pain car accidents cause is bad enough. When combined with mental suffering, the pain intensifies. Your New York car accident attorney will assess the full extent of your pain and suffering and request compensation accordingly. Generally speaking, the more serious the injuries and the more life-changing the disabilities, the higher the likelihood of receiving compensation for pain and suffering.
Loss of Consortium
Your car accident injuries could prevent you from spending quality time with your spouse or children. In some cases, car accidents can even result in death and rob families of a loved one. The at-fault party might compensate you for the loss of consortium, or the inability to enjoy these familial relationships.
In some car accident cases, the court might award punitive damages. This type of compensation punishes the defendant and discourages others from engaging in similar behavior. Unlike other types of damages, you do not usually request punitive damages. The judge awards this for some cases involving gross negligence.
If you lost a loved one in the car crash, your attorney could decide to move forward with a wrongful death suit. The court or the insurance company will determine whether to process this separately from your personal injury case. This means that even if your attorney files separate claims, the court or insurance company could combine them into one suit or claim.
How to Find a Good New York City Car Accident Lawyer
When looking for a good New York car accident attorney, you might quickly feel overwhelmed by the many available options. Avoid the temptation to choose the first person you call. Instead, use these characteristics to narrow your options.
Professional experience is no guarantee that your auto accident attorney will win your case. Even so, an experienced attorney tends to have better success rates than a new attorney. Our attorneys at Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates, P.C. have 60 years of combined experience in the legal field.
One of the most encouraging determinants of an attorney winning your case is their track record. Attorneys at Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates, P.C. have won several multi-million-dollar car crash cases. This includes a $4 million settlement for someone who could no longer work after a car crash that caused a serious and permanent back injury.
Some car accident lawyers know how to get you compensation but completely lack compassion and communication skills. This can make them an absolute nightmare to work with. Check the reviews on Google My Business and other websites to see what previous clients say. We have a 4.8-rating spread across nearly 50 reviews.
Personal injury attorneys rarely charge a fee upfront for car accident lawsuits. Instead, they handle your case free of charge and then subtract their fees from your compensation. State laws limit the amount they can subtract for this purpose. We provide a free consultation and only charge a fee after we win. If we don’t win, you don’t pay us anything.
How to Get Started With NYC Car Accident Claims
If you’ve been in a car accident that was not your fault, it’s important to seek legal help from experienced NYC car accident attorneys. At Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates, we have years of experience representing car accident victims. Our car accident lawyer will do everything possible to secure fair compensation for you and your family. Get started with a free consultation.