auto accidents

The Legal Process After an Auto Accident: A Guide for New York Residents

NTZ Editor

New York City is one of the largest, busiest, most congested cities in the world. In 2022 alone, there were nearly 54,000 car accidents in New York City, making it the 4th worst city for traffic in the US. With that many motor vehicle accidents, it isn’t difficult to understand that the chances of you getting into a car accident are high.

So what do you do if you’ve been in a motor vehicle collision in New York state? And what does the legal process after a car accident look like?

Immediate Action After a New York Auto Accident

Those moments immediately following crashes are crucial. Is anyone hurt? How much damage did the vehicle sustain? Were any pedestrians involved in the accident? Was there property damage, including damage to any parked vehicle in the area? These are all important factors to think about–but in the heat of the moment, things might not be as clear as you’d hope. First and foremost–do not admit fault! Aside from that, here are some things to do immediately after a motor vehicle accident occurs:

Check for Injuries

Car accidents are notorious for causing serious injury. Are you, your passenger(s), the occupants of the other vehicle, or any bystanders injured? If you are seriously injured, bypass the rest of this list for now and seek immediate medical attention. If your injuries are minor, remain at the crash scene and await law enforcement and emergency medical response.

Get to Safety

If the accident occurred in a major thoroughfare, on a highway, street, or if the vehicles involved in the accident or collision pose a threat to your health and safety, have motorists move far enough away from the scene to still be present but not in the way of any oncoming traffic or possible vehicle explosions–though this is an extreme circumstance.

Call the Police

Once in a safe place, contact the police. Chances are that an accident witness has already contacted the authorities, but do not take the chance that they haven’t. The police will arrive, check the medical condition of those involved in the car accident, direct traffic around the accident, investigate the car accident, and help you file a police accident report. The police report is a crucial piece of documentation you will need in the future so clarity of details, cooperation in the investigation, and honesty are incredibly important. In the case of an accident that results in a death, this step is absolutely necessary because what was a motor vehicle accident, could become something more serious depending on what caused the accident, and who was at fault.

Document the Accident

Outside of the official police report, document the accident on your own. Make note of the date and approximate time of the accident. The weather/driving conditions. Document the circumstances/events that lead up to the accident. If you can, take pictures and video of the car, the scene, and the people involved, speak with witnesses and the other drivers, get an image of the driver’s license and vehicle registration, and get a hard copy of the police accident report for your own records. Any pictures/video and witness statements will be helpful if you choose to file a motor vehicle accident claim against the other party.

Seek Medical Attention

Even if you feel “fine” after the collision, it is important that you seek medical help. Car accidents can be confusing times with many factors that can mask your injuries temporarily. Too many motorists have discovered a serious or life-changing injury after the fact.

Not only can a medical exam uncover any unforeseen internal damage, the medical report is critical documentation you and your lawyer will need to file a claim with your personal injury law firm.

Contact the Insurance Company

After the debris has settled and the police report is filed, it’s time to contact your insurance company. This is where the police reports comes into play. You must provide the official police reports, with your own documentation of the accident, and your medical reports to the insurance company claims adjuster, who will determine who was at fault, what will be covered under your policy, and whether you will be compensated for the accident/vehicle loss/damage. The policyholder claim isn’t the same as the claim you will file through your personal injury vehicle accident attorney.

How Important is Car Insurance in an Accident Claim?

Unfortunately for motorists, there are those behind the wheel that do not have insurance, despite the laws in NY making no-fault insurance mandatory. Whether you are uninsured or the person in the other vehicle is uninsured, being an uninsured motorist is a serious problem. Not only does driving without insurance carry a fine, you leave yourself and your passengers in a dangerous position if an accident occurs. If you are at fault, you are on the line to pay for the damages to vehicle, driver, injured bystander/pedestrian, or any property damaged during the accident. If you are not at fault, you may not have the help provided by a payout to cover loss of wages, living expenses, medical bills, and the replacement/repair of your vehicle.

Also, those who drive without insurance will find it difficult to file a personal injury claim because they’ve proven they are an irresponsible driver by not having the required insurance before getting behind the wheel.

The Legal Process After a Motor Vehicle Accident

After a motor vehicle accident, you have the right to file a personal injury claim and seek compensation for your injuries suffered, loss of personal property, and–in unfortunate circumstances–the death of a loved one.

Most personal injury attorneys in New York offer a free consultation for those injured in an accident. Once you’ve put your trust in your attorney, the process of filing the claim begins. The attorney will take the documentation from you, the police, and the insurance company, build your case for personal injury against the other driver, and fight for your right to compensation. In many cases, attorneys gather their own information, including incident and police reports while working with insurance companies to secure financial compensation for your injuries and damaged property.

Your job during the process is to heal, try to get back to normal, and listen to the advice provided by your legal professional. Personal injury attorneys in New York City have years of experience in helping victims recover the compensation they deserve. Because the laws differ from city to state and beyond, a lawyer is an essential part of the claims picture. After you’ve been treated for your injury, speaking to an attorney can be a valuable step toward recovering your dignity and normal life.

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