Motor Vehicle accidents are, unfortunately, a frequent occurrence on New York’s roads. While many factors bear on whether the facts of your case will support a claim for damages, you should keep the following in mind, at least in the immediate (and likely chaotic) aftermath of a motor vehicle accident.
- Remain at the accident scene. By definition, nobody expects or anticipates getting into a car accident. The event is, as such, likely to create a sense of anxiety, stress, shock, and/or fear. Regardless of whether you believe you were at fault, remain at the scene. Leaving the scene will only make matters worse, and may subject you to criminal liability.
- Call 911. Call 911 immediately to ensure that police and, if necessary, medical personnel arrive on the scene to formally document the accident and/or render necessary medical care.
- Seek medical care if necessary. While it may seem like you have no immediate injuries and, therefore, that you don’t need medical attention, some injuries may not be immediately apparent and will get worse if not addressed in a timely manner. The most important consideration is your health.
- Take pictures. Photographic evidence of the scene of the accident (including depictions of the location(s) of the car(s) involved in the accident, skid marks, and the presence or absence of vegetation, traffic control devices), as well as any injuries you have sustained, can be invaluable proof if you elect to pursue a legal claim. Accident scenes change, and visible injury effects may subside or heal. Contemporaneous pictures, therefore, may be critical.
- Exchange information. Obtain and write down the other driver’s information, including their name, address, telephone number, license plate number, vehicle information (make, model, year), driver’s license number, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and Insurance information (company and policy number).
- Write down details. As soon as possible after the accident, write down as many details as you remember, such as the time and location of the accident and how the accident occurred. Motor vehicle accidents involve countless details, any of which can be critical. A written account of what happened, made close in time to the accident, will be much more useful than one made later, when critical details may be forgotten.
- Get names of witnesses. Did anyone see the accident? Be sure to get any witness’s name, address, telephone number, and email so they can be contacted promptly while memories are still fresh.
- Organize and keep all relevant documentation. Keep all documents relating to the accident – including medical records and medical expenses – in one place for easy access later.
- Consider filing for no-fault benefits. New York’s No-Fault Law generally provides for payment of necessary medical expenses, lost earnings, and other reasonable and necessary expenses (less certain deductions), up to $50,000, to reimburse a person for losses arising out of the use or operation of a motor vehicle, regardless of fault. However, an application for no-fault benefits must be filed within 30 days after the accident.
- Contact an attorney to protect and fight for your rights.
After an accident, you may be contacted by an insurance company offering you money (in exchange, of course, for a release of all claims).
Be careful! Regardless of what they may say, the insurance company is not your friend. Rather, their goal is to pay you as little money as possible, and they are perfectly happy – and financially motivated – to “settle” your case for pennies on the dollar.
Also, seemingly benign questions – such as “how are you?” or “how are you feeling?” – are likely being asked to elicit information that will destroy your case.