Car accidents are a common occurrence in New York. Statistics from 2014 show that there were approximately 300,000 car accidents that year. Over 250,000 of them were reported to the police and nearly 120,000 of them resulted in an injury. Given the frequency with which car accidents occur, it is important to understand what to do if you are involved in a car accident in New York.
These are the Top 12 things you should do if you are in a car accident:
- Stop. If you are in an accident, you should never leave the scene, no matter how minor you believe the accident is. If the vehicles are blocking traffic, they should be moved to a safe location if at all possible.
- Call the Police. Even if it is a minor accident, the police should be called. They will determine what should be done after they arrive. They will also fill out a police report which will be necessary for any insurance claims and any other legal matters that arise from the accident.
- Be Safe. Pull your car over, put on your hazard lights, put out flares if needed. An accident has occurred. Taking proper steps to protect yourself and others at the scene can prevent making things worse.
- Talk to the Police. When the police arrive, tell the police officer what happened as truthfully and accurately as possible. Do not make any guesses or speculate. It is better to say that you are not sure about something than guess wrong. If you are injured, tell the Police Officer where you are hurt. Sometimes, injuries are not always apparent at the scene of the accident. If you are not sure if you are hurt, it is better to tell the police officer you are not sure than to say you are not hurt. Also, listen to what the other people at the scene are saying and make sure they are saying things accurately. Tell the police officer if you disagree with what someone is saying.
- Take Photographs. Today, nearly everyone has a camera or telephone equipped to take photographs. If you can, it is important to take photos of the scene of the accident and the damage to the vehicles, as well as any visible injuries to yourself and others. Remember, do not interfere with any police investigation. If you are unable to take photos of your vehicle at the scene, you should take them as soon as possible after the accident.
- Exchange Information. Hopefully, everyone involved in the accident has insurance and has their insurance information with them This needs to be given to the police and anyone involved in the accident. In addition, if the police do not come, it is important to get the full names, addresses and telephone numbers of all people involved. If there were witnesses, it is critical to get their information as well so they can be contacted, if necessary, to verify how the accident occurred.
- Seek Medical Attention. If you are injured or suspect injury, call an ambulance and go to the Hospital. The Police will often do this for you, but it is important to document where you have been hurt and the causal relationship between your injuries and the accident.
- Get the Police Report. Either you or a family member should obtain a copy of the Police Report as soon as possible. You must check it for accuracy and contact the Police if there are any mistakes that need to be corrected. Often , the Police may not want to change a report. If there are glaring mistakes, a letter can be written to the police with the correct information to have them amend the report or, at the very least, document your concerns over the accuracy of the report.
- Tell Your Insurance Company. Most policies of insurance require you to notify your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident. If you are physically unable to do so, it is perfectly acceptable to have a family member do it. The insurance claims adjuster will ask many questions about how the accidents occurred, the injuries involved, and the location of the vehicle at the current time. He/she will also ask for a copy of the Police Report as well as any pictures of the accident scene, vehicles and injuries.
- No-Fault. In New York, No-Fault Insurance will pay the first $50,000 of medical treatment under most circumstances. The law requires a No-fault application to be filed with the proper insurance company within 30 days. This is something that your attorney can and will handle, but it is also something for you to keep in mind when deciding on how to proceed in the days following an accident.
- Document everything. All medical bills, doctor/hospital visits, conversations with claims adjusters, vehicle repair bills and estimates, etc. should be kept in a file and maintained by you. Your file should include all correspondence with the insurance company and the other people involved int he accident, as well as any photos and other material related to the accident. . Keep all your accident-related documents and information together. E-Mails are an effective way to document conversations and copies should be kept in your file and a designated folder on your E-Mail system.
- Contact an Experienced Attorney. IIf you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is critical for you or a family member on your behalf to contact an attorney who specializes in personal injury cases involving automobile accidents. The attorney will be able to conduct a thorough investigation, obtain all documents and photographs, and insure all paperwork is properly filed. This will allow you to do what is most necessary for yourself - recover your health and take care of your injuries without worrying if your rights are adequately protected.