The Application for No-Fault Benefits officially notifies the insurance carrier of your claim. It also is usually the first written document associated with your Personal Injury case. Accordingly, it is suggested that the first step should be to contact a car accident attorney in New York state that regularly deals with No-Fault applications. Most attorneys will gladly assist you with filing such application when they handle your Personal Injury claim/case. Some will even do it for free. In any case, contacting an attorney is usually the best method for determining if you have a viable case and whether or not you should even file an application for No-Fault Benefits.
Contact Your Insurance Carrier
If you chose to proceed without an attorney, the first thing you should do is contact the applicable insurance carrier (your carrier) and advise them that you were in an accident. This is called a "first report". Failure to notify the insurance carrier of an accident within a reasonable time will likely result in a disclaimer. In other words the insurance company will not pay your claim. By New York State law, the carrier will mail you certain forms, including the Application for No-Fault Benefits (NF-2). If you do not get it, you can always download a version of the form online. Simply go to the New York State Department of Insurance for more information.
Carefully Complete the No-Fault Application
When completing the application, clearly write/type your responses to the questions asked. This is not the time to go into too much detail. You want to be brief and concise. You must answer the questions truthfully, but you do not have to give answers to questions they are not asking.
Keep the answers about how the accident happened relatively short
At this point, there is no need to expand upon how the accident happened. You do have to provide an answer to the question, but again it should be very limited. If you do decide to proceed with a lawsuit, you will want to proceed with caution. How the accident happened can be expanded upon with litigation, and will be questioned thoroughly in deposition. You do have to cooperate with the Insurance Company. Usually the best way to protect yourself is to get an attorney to guide you through.
Expand upon your answers about the Injuries you sustained
In some circumstances (especially where you are looking to pursue a Personal Injury claim or you think you might need treatment), you will want to provide expanded information about the injuries you sustained. This may be hard to do (after all it is less than 30 days since your accident and you may not even know what the full extent of what your injuries are). It may also be counter-intuitive. But remember, if you don't write it down now, later on, the insurance company will likely say that you never sustained those injuries in this accident, and may not pay for your treatment. Remember, your private insurance probably won't pay for treatment received and needed as the result of a car accident (until after you are denied for no-fault benefits).
*If you need extra room on the No-Fault Application, feel free to use additional sheets of paper. Make sure you sign and date everything.
Send by Certified Mail - Return Receipt Requested
This is arguably the most important step in the whole process. Once you have completed your application, make a complete copy for yourself. Then mail the completed application to your insurance company at the address provided. If it doesn't indicate it on the blank application, check the return address label, or the website.
The key here is to spend the extra $5-6 dollars it will cost, and send the application by Certified Mail - Return Receipt Requested with the United States Post Office. It will prove that you sent it and complied with the 30-day filing requirement. Also, someone at the insurance company will have to sign the green card, and you will receive it in the mail. Again this is further proof that the application was received by the insurance carrier.
Remember you must cooperate with the Insurance Company
You have a contract with the insurance company (your automobile insurance policy). In it, you have agreed to fully cooperate in the case of an accident. However, contrary to what some insurance companies will tell you, they are not "on your side". Although they are obligated by the contract to offer you some protection against a lawsuit, please remember that just like any other company it will look out for itself, and its own bottom line.
You must protect yourself, and not just if you want to pursue your own Personal Injury claim. If it turns out that you are at least partially responsible (liable) for the accident, you too can be sued. In fact, you can be sued even if you are not responsible. You will have to prove that you are not liable for the accident. Accordingly, please seriously consider consulting an attorney before you do anything. It will likely be the best action you can take to protect yourself.
Additional resources provided by the author
For more information on no-fault regulations, please go the the New York State Department of Insurance website or contact your Personal Injury Attorney.
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