If Injured in a Car Accident What Do You Do?
Millions of people are involved in car accidents each year. While the majority of the accidents are minor, it is not always possible to tell at the time of an accident whether the injuries involved will prove to be serious. If you are injured in a car accident in New York or New Jersey, be sure to assess your injuries, document the event, report the accident to the police and your insurance carrier, seek medical evaluation, and speak with a car accident lawyer.
Assess the injuries
Safety must always be the top priority. Check yourself for injuries and then check anyone else involved. Do not move anyone who cannot move on their own. Call 9-1-1 if there are any injuries, even if the other driver asks you not to.
Document the event
Car accidents happen quickly and without warning but once one occurs, you need to take a moment (if physically possible) to preserve what evidence you can. Visuals can go a long way in helping an insurance adjuster, judge, or jury understand how the event took place and the consequences. Some steps that can help you later on include:
- Exchange names and insurance information with anyone else involved
- Take photographs of the area where the crash occurred
- Collect the names and contact information of witnesses
- Take photos of the vehicles, as well as any significant injuries
While speaking with anyone at the scene – whether it is the other driver, the police, or a witness – be careful about what you say. Never apologize or say anything else that can be construed as an admission of liability. Even when you were not at fault, it is very easy to say something out of politeness that implies you were to blame; these innocent statements may seem harmless but can later be used against you.
Report the accident to the police and your insurance carrier
Calling the police is not just a suggestion; it is the law. New Yorkers involved in an accident must report it to the police if anyone is injured or there is property damage of at least $1,000. In New Jersey, an accident must be reported if it resulted in an injury or at least $500 of property damage. Failing to file a report when required can lead to fines and a suspended license.
You likely also have a contractual responsibility to notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible, even if the other party was to blame. If your injuries are minor, you may need to file a claim under your no-fault policy. In New Jersey, if you have opted for unlimited right to sue, you may still bring a claim against the other party for the non-economic damages that their negligence caused but you still need to put your carrier on notice of your PIP claim for economic damages.
If it turns out that you were to blame for the accident, your insurance carrier has a duty to defend you against claims that the other parties may bring. Complying with prompt notice requirements will afford you this valuable protection.
Seek medical evaluation
Not all injuries appear immediately after an accident. Brain damage and soft tissue injuries are two types that can go undetected for the first couple days but they respond better to earlier treatment. See a doctor within the first 24 hours after your accident so that any latent injuries can be assessed and treated as soon as possible. This will also document and validate your claim if you seek reimbursement from insurance or need to file a lawsuit.
Speak with an attorney
A car accident sets other things in motion. It triggers the deadlines for claims and the statute of limitations for any lawsuits you may file. Within days, you may also begin receiving calls from the other party’s lawyer or insurance adjuster. By speaking with an attorney first, you can be prepared by knowing your rights and responsibilities. If you choose to retain a lawyer, he or she can handle all communications with the other parties so that you do not need to.
Choose a personal injury law firm with experience that counts. The attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman offer the expertise of a large firm with the personal attention of a small firm. Our attorneys are committed to helping clients throughout Rockland County and Bergen County. If you are injured in a car accident, call today to schedule a free consultation.