7 Steps to Take When You Need a Car Accident Attorney
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A car accident can come without warning, leaving you shocked and often confused. In the immediate aftermath, it can be difficult to collect yourself and think about what you should do next. These seven steps represent the ideal actions to take. If you suffered car accident injuries caused by another person, you may have the chance to recover any losses attributed to your accident, and an experienced New York car accident lawyer can help.
1. Assess Yourself and Passengers for Injuries
Many factors affect the severity of injuries caused by a car crash. Sometimes you need emergency care and other times your injuries are minor or not immediately apparent. Before you do anything else, assess your body for signs of injury. If you have passengers in the car, check everyone else as well.
It is difficult to miss apparent injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, and broken bones. However, internal injuries are typically not so obvious. The shock of the accident produces an immediate adrenaline rush, and adrenaline blocks pain receptors in the brain, deceptively making you believe you are fine. Even if you do not feel immediate pain or have any obvious serious injuries, one of the most important steps to take after a car accident is to seek medical attention.
Potential Injuries Caused by a Car Accident
Every car accident case is different, but there are a few common injuries associated with collisions. If you suffered any of these injuries as a result of a car accident caused by another driver, you may benefit from reaching out to New York City car accident attorneys.
Some common injuries are:
- Whiplash is the most common auto accident injury. The sudden impact of the crash can cause strains and tiny tears in the soft tissue of the neck. Whiplash is often painful and requires a long recovery time.
- Knee injury commonly occurs because you are in a sitting position inside a car. The impact may cause your knees to hit the dashboard, causing tears or strains in the ligaments and dislocation of the knee cap.
- Broken or fractured bones may occur anywhere on the body, but the most common breaks occur in the ribs, legs, arms, and collarbone.
- Back and spinal injuries, such as herniated discs, spondylolisthesis, lumbar or thoracic vertebrae fractures, and soft tissue injuries, are often difficult to identify right away.
- Head injuries may include anything from a minor concussion to traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- Internal bleeding is common in serious accidents where the impact was severe.
Mental injuries occur as well and are often just as debilitating as physical injury. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often manifests when you attempt to drive again, but it is manageable with proper psychological treatment.
2. Contact the Police
When you call the police after an accident, it serves a number of purposes. Police will contact medical services if necessary, protect the accident scene, and begin investigating. Any information collected by officers goes into the police report.
In highly populated areas, police often do not come to the scene of minor car accidents with minimum property damage and no personal injury. However, you can still file a police report either in person at the nearest station or online. Always request a copy of the report from the officer or the station. Your car accident attorney can use the police report to corroborate your story and potentially prove fault in a car accident lawsuit. Insurance companies also rely heavily on a police report to validate your claim.
3. Remain on the Scene
Most people know that you do not leave the scene of a car accident until the police arrive and investigate. More importantly, try not to move anything. The first step to take after a car accident is to just stay in place. Insurance agencies and attorneys perform independent investigations into your accident, but the police are the only ones to see the accident in the immediate aftermath.
If your crash occurs in a high-traffic location, you should move the vehicles to the side of the road if possible. If not, at least stay on the side to wait for the police. When determining who is responsible for the accident is obvious, the police may state their assumptions of who is at fault in the police report, which is vital evidence in a personal injury lawsuit.
If you see anyone attempting to disrupt the scene, you should make note of it. Take photos that you can to show the police when they arrive. Sometimes at-fault drivers try to change the trajectory of the accident, particularly if they do not have insurance.
4. Document Everything at the Scene
One of the most important factors in car accident cases in the moments after the accident is proper documentation of evidence.
Some things you could do to gather the evidence you could provide to the car accident law firm include:
- Use your camera phone or any camera available to take photos of everything, including property damage to both vehicles, your injuries, and the location. Photograph the entire surrounding area. It may help your car accident attorney better understand the circumstances of the crash.
- Take a video of everything and narrate the details of the accident while they are freshest in your mind.
- Take down the name and contact information of everyone involved, including passengers from the other car and witnesses. Also, get the driver’s license number and insurance information of the other driver.
- Ask the police officers for their names and badge numbers as well.
If there are any businesses nearby, you may ask if they have recording security cameras. That is something that your car accident lawyers may need in the future.
5. Seek Medical Treatment
Even if your car accident was minor and you feel fine, you should seek medical care. People often choose to forgo emergency care, sometimes because it may seem unnecessary, and sometimes because it is too costly. You can choose to take yourself to the emergency room or urgent care, or you may decide to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.
A medical exam is also important in car accident lawsuits. Some ways that medical treatment help your case are:
- It provides written documentation of your injuries by a medical professional.
- Emergency medicine doctors see car accident victims often and understand what medical records insurance companies look for in car accident claims.
- Your medical bills provide evidence of damages that you suffered because of the accident.
Insurance companies look for opportunities to deny a claim or lessen the payout. If you claim that you suffered an injury because of the accident, you may have difficulty proving it without medical records. If you wait too long to go to the doctor, the insurance adjuster will likely claim that your injuries were possibly sustained some other way.
Additionally, the cost of medical treatment can make up a large portion of damages, making this a valuable step in the steps to take after a car accident. A car accident attorney would recommend that you see a doctor within three days of the accident.
6. Contact Your Insurance Company
You should contact your insurance company to report your accident even if it was not your fault. In some states, your insurance actually covers some of your losses in motor vehicle accidents either way. New York, along with 11 other states, is a no-fault insurance state.
Car insurance requirements in New York include:
- Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which covers your medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle damage, and necessary expenses, such as transportation to medical treatment and household adjustments to accommodate your injuries
- Uninsured motorist protection to protect you and anyone involved in the accident from an at-fault driver without insurance
- Liability coverage, which covers the cost of medical care and property damage of the other driver and passengers if you are at fault for the accident
No-fault insurance means, as the name implies, that your own insurance overs economic losses regardless of who is at fault. However, you may still take your case to a car accident law firm for non-economic damages.
No-Fault Insurance and the Serious Injury Threshold
Even with no-fault insurance, there are circumstances that allow for a personal injury lawsuit following a particularly bad car accident. If your injuries were so severe that the insurance protection you have does not cover the total cost of the car accident, you may have the chance to sue for the remaining costs.
If you suffered an injury that qualifies as serious under the threshold set by the state, you may pursue a claim against the at-fault driver regardless of no-fault insurance. To qualify as a serious injury, it must cause:
- Full disability lasting for at least 90 days
- Significant disfigurement
- Limited use of a body system or function
- Fractured or broken bones
- Permanent damage of an organ or a body member
The attorneys at a car accident law firm know the steps to take after a car accident. If you have trouble understanding whether or not your injury qualifies as serious according to the law, a car accident attorney can help you.
7. Contact NYC Car Accident Attorneys
Contact an attorney as soon as possible. You may receive an assessment of your case right away over the phone, or they may schedule a consultation for you. The sooner you speak to an attorney, the faster you can get started on building your case. If you reach out when the accident is the freshest in your mind, you do not risk forgetting vital details of your story. Additionally, trying to file a claim or a lawsuit without legal representation may result in costly mistakes.
Potential Damages To Recover From a Car Accident
One of the most important advantages of hiring an experienced attorney is he or she can help you value your claim properly to ensure that you receive the most appropriate settlement.
Assuming your injuries are substantial enough to meet the qualifications for a serious injury, you may recover compensation for the following damages:
- Economic damages include medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages, future lost wages, loss of earning ability, costs of repair for damaged property, lost business opportunities, and any other out-of-pocket costs associated with your case.
- Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, disability, disfigurement, loss related to reputation, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of companionship.
Economic damages are measurable and designed to compensate the victim and make him or her whole again. In most cases, medical bills make up the majority of economic damages.
Non-economic damages are not quantifiable, but an attorney from an experienced car accident law firm can help you understand the value of these damages through precedent.
Other Advantages of Hiring an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
There is no requirement for hiring an attorney after a car accident, but here are some compelling reasons why you should:
- They can help you make better decisions throughout your case. The legal process in a personal injury case is complex, and an attorney will guide you through it.
- They work on contingency, which means that they do not get paid until you get paid. Victims of car accidents already face financial burdens, the contingency plan eliminates the burden of paying for legal representation upfront.
- They know how to negotiate, and negotiation skills are a vital asset in a personal injury case. Very few cases make it to court. Most settle through negotiations.
- They handle the insurance company for you, which typically means faster settlements because adjusters generally act more professionally when speaking with an attorney.
The aftermath of a car accident is often physically, emotionally, and financially devastating, but a car accident attorney can guide you through the steps to take after a car accident. The law firm of Silverstein & Kahn P.C., helps injured people access the financial resources they need and supports them through recovery. We have an established reputation for providing the best possible legal representation for you during a time when you need a team with commitment and compassion. If you suffered an injury in a car accident caused by another party, contact Silverstein & Kahn P.C. for a free consultation, and we can help you take the next step.