In the blink of an eye, your entire life can change. Little did you know when you left to begin shopping for your child’s birthday that every move you made in the minutes, hours, days, and weeks after that trip would be carefully scrutinized. However, that is what will happen if you are involved in a Brooklyn car accident that was not your fault. A car accident lawyer can guide you in legal process.
Actions to Avoid After a Brooklyn Car Crash
Your actions immediately after a Brooklyn car accident can harm your injury claim.
- Fault statements. Avoid statements indicating you are at fault for an accident. This includes apologizing to anyone involved in the accident or suggesting to law enforcement that you may be partially responsible.
- Fleeing scene. Never leave the scene of an accident whether you are at fault. This is not only problematic if you file a claim but can also result in facing a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
- Avoid medical care. Do not seek medical care after an accident, even if you believe your injuries are minor. Avoiding medical care could jeopardize your health and damage your chances of seeking reimbursement for your losses.
The immediate aftermath of an accident is always slightly chaotic. However, you must take the steps necessary to protect yourself physically and legally.
Steps to Take After a Brooklyn Car Accident
Just as there are things you should avoid, there are some things you should do in the immediate aftermath of an accident.
At the scene of the accident, after notifying law enforcement, you can:
- Share information. While using caution in what you say, obtain the name, contact information, license, and insurance information of anyone involved in the crash. Provide others with your name, contact information, as well as your insurance, and license information as well.
- Collect witness information. Obtain information from anyone who witnessed the accident. Pedestrians, passengers, bicyclists, etc., should be asked for their names and contact information. This data may be important later as their accounts of the accident will be important.
- Photograph and document. If physically capable, document as much as possible at the scene. This includes photographs of the damage to the cars involved in the wreck, street signals, road conditions, and anything else that may seem relevant.
- Accept medical attention. Car accident victims should be checked at the scene by EMS or taken to a local trauma/emergency center for an examination after being involved in a wreck. This examination can help document a victim’s physical condition immediately following the accident and provide the basis for a later claim.
- Contact an attorney. Accident victims should seek guidance from a car accident lawyer in Brooklyn immediately after a doctor has seen them. This step can help protect the victim’s legal rights and ensure they understand the options to pursue a claim.
Drivers involved in a collision should also be aware that under Section 605 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, they must complete a Form MV-104 to report the accident.
Calling a lawyer soon after an accident may seem counterintuitive. However, because New York is a no-fault insurance state, guidance from an attorney is warranted and necessary.
No-Fault Insurance and Accidents That Are Not Your Fault
In New York, drivers must maintain automobile insurance to drive on the roads legally.
The three levels of mandatory coverage include:
- Personal injury protection (PIP). This no-fault coverage can be used to pay medical expenses, lost earnings, and other expenses incurred by the accident. The coverage also includes passengers or pedestrians injured.
- Liability coverage. This protects against property damage to your car, other cars you may be driving, or damage to a third party’s property.
- Uninsured motorist. Covers injuries to you, a family member, or a passenger when a collision involves a hit-and-run or a collision with an uninsured motorist.
None of this coverage will reimburse 100 percent of all costs associated with the losses someone suffers in an accident. The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) website contains information regarding the limits of this coverage.
How Common are Brooklyn Car Accidents?
In one recent month, there were more than 2,300 accidents on Brooklyn roadways. Due to these wrecks, 1,265 people suffered an injury.
Before any of these accident victims can recover damages from the party responsible for the accident, the following circumstances must exist:
- Establishing fault. To establish fault, a combination of police reports, victim statements, and witness statements will be needed.
- Establishing duty of care. Negligence occurs when someone owes another party a duty of care. Drivers on Brooklyn roadways owe other drivers, vehicle passengers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians a duty of care.
- Breach of duty. The top four causes of accidents on Brooklyn roadways during the above-mentioned period were driver distraction, failing to yield, following too closely, and improper passing. All four of these represent a breach of duty.
- Breach resulted in injury. More than 1,200 people suffered an injury in Brooklyn wrecks, and this can be documented because they all filed the appropriate reports.
- Injuries resulted in losses. Missing time from work, medical bills which must be paid out of pocket, and other losses which result from the accident.
Remember, while New York does have no-fault insurance, there are specific circumstances when a victim can file a third-party claim against the responsible driver.
Insurance Adjusters and No-Fault Claims
While no-fault insurance is supposed to make it easier for victims to recover financially following an accident, this does not mean the insurance adjuster is a friend to the victim. It also does not mean the adjuster works in the victim’s best interest.
Always remember that insurance adjusters work for insurance companies. Insurance companies have shareholders to answer to when it comes time to announce profits and dividends. The more an insurer pays out in claims, the less year-end profit they have. Therefore, the adjuster’s job is to minimize claims.
Some of the common ways to do this include:
- Confuse the victim. One tactic that an insurance adjuster will use is to ask a victim misleading or confusing questions. This is done primarily to cause confusion; hopefully, the victim’s responses will be contradictory. This allows the insurer to minimize the claim amount they finally pay.
- Persistence on specific items. An insurance adjuster may insist the victim provide a recorded statement, sign specific forms, or tell them the claim will take longer if they hire an attorney. Never provide a recorded statement, sign any forms without legal review, and never forget that a victim has a right to have an attorney represent them.
- Give misleading advice. Insurers are not obligated to provide legal assistance to victims of a Brooklyn car accident, nor will they. However, they may provide enough information to mislead victims about their rights and obligations.
Insurers have a vested interest in ensuring accident victims represent themselves when filing a claim. The adjusters may approach a victim in a friendly manner, but this should raise the victim’s awareness that they are there to represent the insurer.
Car Accident Claims: Filing to Negotiation to Settlement
Negotiation times vary depending on several factors. The insurance company may immediately counter a claim with an offer. If the offer is accepted, there are no further negotiations, the victim accepts the offer, and the insurance company has a set amount of time to issue a check.
While this may seem overly simplistic, let’s look at the problems accepting an immediate offer could pose for victims.
- No future compensation. Once a victim has accepted an offer from an insurance company, they will be asked to sign a release form. Here’s where this could be problematic. Let’s assume a victim was seeing their doctor to treat injuries sustained in the accident. Unless the doctor has cleared the victim to return to work before an insurance company offers a settlement, there are still likely to be unpaid wages due to the victim’s injuries. If the victim settles with the insurance company, the insurer is under no further obligation to cover those losses.
- Initial offers are often low-end. Insurance companies will often attempt to convince a victim that their first offer will be the best one. This is seldom the case. When a victim suffers a serious injury after a Brooklyn car accident, an attorney who has experience handling complex cases can help the victim seek the maximum compensation they may be entitled to.
- Every accident is different. One of the primary things that each accident victim should remember is that no two accidents are the same. Even when the circumstances are nearly identical, a victim’s age, physical health at the time of the crash, and the type of employment they are engaged in will likely differ. This means there are no hard and fast rules about how a victim’s life is impacted by an accident.
Seeking the assistance of an attorney after someone is involved in an auto accident in Brooklyn makes sense for several reasons. One of the primary reasons is to ensure the victim’s best interest is always considered during the negotiation phase of settlement offers.
How Much Are Brooklyn Car Accident Claims Worth?
Nearly every accident victim poses this question. The problem is there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
These factors will affect the final value of a Brooklyn car accident injury claim:
- Victim’s medical expenses. A car accident victim with a broken leg may need to see a doctor off and on for several weeks after an accident. However, a victim with traumatic brain injury may have to see several doctors over several months following an accident.
- Time lost from work. One of the most substantial portions of a claim after medical expenses includes time lost. When a car accident victim is going to be out of work for an extended period, or worse yet, is unable to return to work, they have the right to demand compensation for their loss.
- Other expenses. Any expenses incurred due to a Brooklyn car wreck may be included in a settlement demand. A car accident attorney can help the victim document these losses.
- Non-economic losses. Many losses following an accident do not have a price tag attached to them. An accident victim should discuss these with their lawyer.
It is helpful to speak with a personal injury attorney in Brooklyn whenever someone is involved in a Brooklyn car accident. This will allow a victim to understand their rights under New York laws and ensure they have complete information about how to proceed. This step will ensure that victims understand that even under the no-fault rules in New York, they have open legal options.