The First Steps You Should Take If You Are Involved in a Car Accident
If you are involved in a car accident, you are most likely shaken up. You may have even been taken to the hospital in an ambulance or by someone else. Although you know that your life has been significantly interrupted, you don't know how to start picking up the pieces.
Three Things You Must Do After Your Car AccidentThe first thing to do after you are involved in a car accident and are injured is to seek medical treatment. This is not because you plan to sue for your injuries, it's because your health is the most important thing above all else. If you were taken to the hospital from the accident scene or make a visit later on, make sure to follow the hospital's discharge instructions, including any follow up visits or referrals that are recommended to you.
The second thing to take care of is obtaining a copy of the police report. The police station that covers the area where the accident scene is located can help you obtain a copy. The police report has important information that you will need for your claims such as the names and addresses of the parties involved, the registration and insurance information of the vehicles involved, information of any witnesses, and any statements made to the police by the parties involved or by any witnesses.
The third thing you should do is make a claim with the No-Fault Carrier. Now that you have your police report, you should have the No-Fault Carrier's information. An attorney may assist you in locating this information on the police report. The No-Fault application should be filled out and sent to the No-Fault Carrier no later than 30 days after the accident occurred or they may try to deny your claim. Since New York is a No-Fault State, every registered vehicle must carry No-Fault insurance. No-Fault benefits cover the medical expenses, lost wages, and out of pocket expenses of covered persons up to the No-Fault policy limits. This coverage is available to the covered persons regardless if they were at fault or not. The covered persons include the driver of the vehicle, the passengers, and any pedestrians or bicyclists that the vehicle may have struck. Tip: Make sure that every medical provider that treated you knows the No-Fault information. Do not assume that the medical provider will bill the No-Fault Carrier and not you directly. Stay on top of all medical bills that you receive in the mail.
Starting a Claim Against the Responsible PartiesNow that you have taken care of the preliminary issues to protect your health and make sure that you are covered by No-Fault, the next step is to make a claim for your personal injuries against the party or parties responsible for the accident. Your attorney can assist you with starting the claim with the insurance company that will cover the parties responsible for your injuries. Once a claim is commenced, the attorney can attempt to settle your claim but if the insurance company is not willing to adequately compensate you for your injuries, prepare to go forward with litigation! One thing to keep in mind is that since New York is a No-Fault State and your economic damages were at least partially covered by the No-Fault benefits, you must prove that you have suffered what the insurance law calls a "serious injury" in order to collect for pain and suffering. The rationale behind this rule is to avoid suits for minor injuries. That is why it is imperative that you hire an attorney that understands the meaning of a serious injury and is experienced with car accident suits.