1. What should I do if I have just been in an automobile accident?
At the scene of the accident, be sure to obtain the name, address, license number and insurance information from the other drivers involved, as well as all witnesses. (If you have a cell phone, you can take pictures of license, registration and insurance cards at the scene besides taking photos of the damaged vehicles and their location.) The accident should be reported to the police immediately. If possible, the police should be called at the scene and the accident should be reported at the scene. We have known people who have unfortunately not reported accidents to the police within the first 24 hours and have been denied bringing a claim for injures.
If you are injured in an accident, it is important to seek treatment immediately. Sometimes serious injuries do not cause immediate pain. If you experience even minor pain after an accident, you should go to the emergency room or see your doctor immediately. We have known people who refused medical attention at the scene of an accident and even refused to see any doctor for months. These same people have sustained injuries that required surgery later on, but there was no way to prove the injuries they claimed came from their accident.
2. An insurance adjuster for the other driver just called me, and asked me to give a “tape recorded statement” about the accident, what should I do?
The other driver’s insurance company has two goals: first, they want to protect the interests of the driver who caused your injury, and second, they want to pay you as little money as possible.
Although the insurance adjuster who calls you may give you the impression that you are obliged to give a statement, you are under no obligation to give a statement. You are only obligated to give an accident statement (in New York, the statement is called an MV-104 report and that report is also filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles) if you are making a claim against the other person’s policy for property damage. We advise people to make a claim against their own policy for collision coverage if they have it. When you make a collision claim, your insurance company fights for you to get back your deductible from the other driver’s insurance company.
If you were injured, or if you are partially or totally at fault in the accident, you should contact a lawyer prior to deciding whether or not to give a statement to an insurance company.
We have known clients who have come to us after they gave a statement to an insurance company and they have been tricked into making admissions that have hurt their personal injury case later on.
3. I have been injured, who will pay my medical bills?
New York is a “No-Fault” state, which means that your car insurance pays for your medical benefits and lost wages. If you are driving someone else’s car or are a pedestrian, you should consult with an attorney so that you know which insurance company will pay medical expenses and lost wages.
It is important to notify the insurance company within 30 days after the accident. We have represented clients who have come to us months after an accident and have been unable to get medical bills or lost wages because they did not put the right insurance company on notice of the claim.
4. Who will pay for the damage to my car?
If you have purchased collision insurance, your insurance company will pay to have your car fixed or will pay you the value of the vehicle as a total loss. If you are not at fault in the accident, your insurance company will seek to be reimbursed by the insurer of the driver at fault and will obtain any deductible you may have paid from the other insurance company.
If you do not have collision insurance, and you are not at fault, the insurer of the driver at fault should pay for your property damage.
5. Who will pay for a rental car while my car is being repaired?
Some insurance policies provide for rental payments when your car is being repaired.
If you did not purchase this type of insurance, you can make a claim against the other driver’s car insurance. Once the insurance adjuster for the other driver has investigated the accident and determined that the other driver was at fault, the insurance company for the other driver will pay for a rental car while your car is being repaired (this claim is called “loss of use”).
6. Can I get compensation for my pain and suffering?
Most insurance companies will not voluntarily agree to pay for pain and suffering damages. Recovery for personal injuries often requires witness statements and doctor reports to support the claim. An attorney experienced with accident cases will know what proof is needed to prove the claim and what is a fair settlement.
7. My accident was a short time ago, but the insurance company is offering me money now, should I take it?
Be very careful. Insurance companies make a profit by keeping money and investing it, not by paying it to injured victims. An early offer may not fully compensate you for your injuries, especially, if you have not had medical tests that show the extent of your injuries. Remember that once you accept the offer of the insurance company, they will pay you no further money. This will be true even if you find out later that your injury is worse than you thought.
8. If I hire a lawyer, what will the lawyer do for me?
Your lawyer should thoroughly investigate your accident; obtain statements from witnesses and police reports; help you make claims for your medical bills and lost wages; help you have your car repaired; research the law that applies to your case; preserve the evidence of your damages in a way that will be admissible in court if it is necessary to go to trial; advise you about the value of your claim; and take your case to trial if it is necessary in order to obtain fair compensation for you.
9. If I hire a lawyer, how does he or she get paid?
Attorneys will take car accident cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that the attorney will take a percentage of your recovery. In New York, the amount of the fee is 33 1/3%.
Our office will not charge any fee to meet with people to determine if they have a case. We will also help you process your claim for medical benefits and lost wages and help you get your car repaired at no additional charge.