Car accidents are a common occurrence on Bronx roadways, but it always catches you off guard if it happens to you. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, no one knows exactly what to do—particularly if this is the first accident they were in. Here are the things you should know if you are in a car accident in the Bronx that is not your fault.
Step One: Take Safety Seriously
Even after an accident has already happened, the people involved may still be at risk for further harm by other cars on the road. This is true regardless of the type of road, but a multi-lane roadway or a freeway, of course, raises the risk of additional collisions.
If possible, move the vehicles off the roadway. Before doing so, make a mental note of the exact location of the accident and each vehicle involved. Broken glass and skid marks may mark the spot.
Step Two: Call Law Enforcement Immediately
You must report any car accident in the Bronx if more than $1,000 in property damage or an injury results. The responding officer will gather evidence at the accident scene and write up an official accident report. Use caution when making a statement. Make sure you do not give the impression that you were at fault for the accident.
Step Three: Gather Evidence at the Scene
One of the most important things you can do at the accident scene is gather your own evidence. If you are uninjured enough to safely move about the area, photograph damage to your vehicle as well as any other vehicles involved in the accident. It may also be helpful to photograph debris from the accident, your injuries, and the general area including road signs and storefronts.
Share your information with and gather information from the other drivers who were involved, including:
- Names and addresses;
- License and registration information;
- The make, model, and year of each vehicle; and
- Each vehicle’s license plate number.
You also should gather contact information from anyone who was a witness to the accident. This may help when filing a car accident claim and will prove critical should you need to file a car accident lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses from the accident.
Step Four: Seek Medical Attention
Do not skip this important step. In the immediate aftermath of an accident, your body may flood with adrenaline, which means you may have injuries you can’t yet feel. This is common. Even if EMS checks you at the accident scene, you should go in for a thorough check by a physician as soon as possible after you leave the accident scene.
Go straight to the emergency room or an urgent care clinic and make sure you inform them that you were in an accident. If you had a seatbelt on, or an airbag deployed, make sure the team caring for you is aware of those facts. Safety devices save lives, but they can also cause internal injuries.
Step Five: Notify Your Insurance Company
New York is a no-fault insurance state, which means that you must report the accident to your own car insurance company. Let them know the date, time, and location of the accident, and which law enforcement agency responded to the scene. Avoid giving a full statement about what happened until after you speak with a Bronx car accident lawyer.
Step Six: Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
You may think you do not need a lawyer if you are not at fault.
However, keep in mind:
- The other driver may attempt to blame you for the accident.
- Your losses may be greater than your insurance policy limit.
- If your injuries meet a certain threshold, you have the right to seek additional compensation from the at-fault driver.
Auto accident lawyers do not charge for an initial consultation and there is no obligation for you to hire them after a consultation. However, if you fail to seek guidance about your legal rights, you could suffer serious financial losses.
Proving Fault in a Bronx Car Accident
A car accident victim who believes that the other driver was at fault for the accident must prove it.
This requires evidence, which can include:
- Witness statements – Witnesses at a Bronx car accident scene can provide information about what actually happened. However, keep in mind that memories fade over time. The sooner the witness describes their memory of the accident, the more accurate the information they provide will be.
- Police report – Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the official police report may indicate who was responsible. Victims should keep in mind that just because the officer issued a traffic citation at the scene does not mean one party or another is automatically at fault.
- Video evidence – New York has a lot of traffic cameras. Additionally, shops or banks in the immediate area of an accident may have outdoor security cameras that captured what happened. Much of this video footage may overwrite within 30 to 60 days of an accident, so secure a copy of it as soon as possible. Your Bronx car accident attorney can obtain this evidence on your behalf.
Establishing Damages Following a Bronx Car Accident
The expenses related to a car accident begin piling up as soon as the accident occurs. If EMS workers treated you at the scene, you may receive a bill for this service. You will also receive bills from the hospital or urgent care center that assessed your car accident injuries for any treatment, tests, and procedures they performed. Prescriptions, follow-up treatment, and rehabilitative therapy all add to your costs, not to mention the damage to your vehicle.
While no-fault rules apply to car accidents in the Bronx—meaning that your insurer will reimburse you for “reasonable” accident-related costs—if you were seriously injured, your own insurance coverage will likely not be enough to cover your actual accident-related expenses. This is why specific exceptions to the no-fault rules exist—they allow you to seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver for your unreimbursed expenses.
Situations where these exceptions apply include:
- Your injury caused you to miss work for 90 days or more;
- You suffered a broken bone as a result of the accident;
- You have to live with new physical limitations as a result of the accident;
- Your injuries are internal and have disrupted a normal function of your body; and/or
- The scarring from your injuries is disfiguring.
These are the instances in which you may have the right to file a car accident lawsuit against the responsible party. As you can see, in some cases, you cannot determine whether any of the exceptions apply immediately after an accident—you often do not know right away if you will be out of work for 90 days, or if your injuries will result in permanent scars. This is one of the reasons why you must speak with an experienced lawyer who has handled other Bronx car accident cases successfully in the past.
Follow-Up Medical Care and Documenting Progress
Victims of any car accident require time to heal and to overcome the emotional trauma associated with the car accident. Many people also require follow-up medical care.
Attend all of your scheduled appointments, as following your care provider’s recommendations is a vital part of your injury claim. Additionally, keep a record of your progress—keep a journal about your care, how you are healing, and your mental state during this process. Remember, any time you are involved in an accident, you suffer both physical and mental trauma. Accident victims who can no longer work or who must live with new physical limitations, in particular, often experience immense emotional suffering.
Beware of Insurance Companies
After you make an insurance claim, you may be surprised at how quickly an insurance adjuster calls you. Be careful—despite their cheerful demeanor and friendly banter, they are not calling to offer help. It is worthwhile to remember that the adjuster represents the insurance company, not you. Insurance companies are in business to make money, and the adjuster will gather information to reduce the amount they ultimately pay you.
When dealing with insurance adjusters:
- Never give a recorded statement – During a recorded statement, an adjuster is likely to ask you innocent questions that the company can use to diminish your claim. When someone says, “How are you doing?” it is practically an instinct for most of us to say “fine” or “good.” However, when taken out of context the company might use this response to claim that you are not as injured as you say you are.
- Avoid signing unreviewed documents – Never sign any document you receive from the insurance company without having your lawyer review it first. You may receive documents seeking the release of medical records, offering settlements, or forms to fill out regarding your injuries. Always have these reviewed by your Bronx car accident lawyer before you do anything.
- Refer all calls to your lawyer – The best thing you can do to protect your interests is to have your lawyer take over communications with your insurance company. This is the best way to protect your rights and make sure the insurance company does not mislead you.
When you work with an insurance company on your own, they hope you do not know your rights. They may also assume that you are unaware of the deadline to file a car accident lawsuit, called the statute of limitations. In some cases, the insurer may simply not respond to you at all, hoping that they can run out the clock and avoid offering you any compensation for your injuries.
Every accident is different. A victim who suffers a broken arm or leg in a car accident has accident-related medical bills and may miss work while they recover. Other accident victims require long-term medical care for catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries, and may never return to work.
Since each accident is unique, an attorney must review the specific circumstances of your case to estimate how much compensation you are likely to recover. Generally, accident victims can seek compensation for out-of-pocket medical costs, time lost from work, and other accident-related expenses.
Getting Answers and Understanding Your Options
Car accident victims usually recover more compensation when they have a skilled Bronx car accident lawyer working on their behalf. Whether you were involved in a sideswipe accident, injured when your car was in an accident with a truck, or you were injured because a drunk driver lost control of their vehicle, chances are you have a lot of questions and you are probably uncertain about your legal rights and options.
Contact a car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible. Not only can you avoid being a victim of insurance company tactics, but you can also get your questions answered and some peace of mind knowing that a skilled professional is on your side during this stressful time.