What to Do After a Manhattan Car Accident

Asking the internet what you should do after a car accident in Manhattan is kind of like calling 311 to find out when the 2nd Avenue subway will finally reach your neighborhood: easy to get a generic answer, difficult to find out the specifics you actually care about.

This blog post aims to fix that, by talking about the unique challenge car accident victims face when they get into a crash in Manhattan. No matter if your wreck happened in the Bowery or at the Cloisters, on the GW or the FDR, below you will find some of the information you need to protect your health, wellbeing, and legal rights.

Manhattan Crashes Are Not Like Other Crashes

The first thing to understand (which, if you’re reading this, you may already have learned the hard way) is that getting into a car accident in Manhattan poses unique, City-specific challenges. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

The Heavy Traffic and Tight Quarters

Manhattan driving is an experience unto itself, and often not in a good way. Drivers in Manhattan confront the challenge of dense traffic squeezed into the absolute minimum amount of space. Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, mopeds, bikes, and pedicabs, operated by drivers of varying levels of skill and patience, compete—often aggressively—for every square inch of road space.

The heavy traffic and tight quarters of Manhattan’s streets, bridges, tunnels, and perimeter highways frequently contribute to the cause of accidents. They also make the aftermath of a crash particularly challenging.

For one thing, unlike accidents elsewhere, damaged vehicles rarely have space to pull over in Manhattan. The standard advice for what to do with a vehicle post-crash is to move it out to safety—out of the flow of traffic, if possible. But, there is no such thing as a road shoulder on the City’s streets and avenues, and pulling over on a bridge, in a tunnel, or on the FDR or West Side Highway means, at best, only blocking half a lane of traffic.

For another, traffic will keep trying to move around the accident scene, and it will find a way to do so even if vehicles have only an inch or two to spare. The relentless flow of traffic can make accident scenes dangerous for Manhattan crash victims and limits their options for getting out, inspecting damage, and moving to safety.

The Surprisingly Long Wait for Help to Arrive

You would think that if you get into an accident in the City, then you can at least take comfort that help is never far away—which is true, if the only thing that matters is distance as-the-crow-flies. However, because of the traffic and space limitations of Manhattan streets, it can take far longer than you might imagine for tow trucks and first responders to arrive at an accident scene. FDNY, NYPD, and ambulance companies do their best, but traffic is traffic.

In that time, a host of things can go wrong. The health of severely-injured accident victims can decline. Crowds of onlookers can gather and make it even more difficult for help to get through. Damaged vehicles can catch fire, and road debris can cause secondary accidents and injuries.

The Stress of It All

If Manhattan driving is not for the faint of heart, then crashing a vehicle in the City will test even the strongest of wills. To get into an accident in Manhattan is to cause a traffic jam, almost without exception. Traffic jams in the City make tempers flare; horns honk; cab drivers yell at you; the close-but-yet-far-away sounds of ambulance sirens fill the air. It is enough to make you feel like the accident and its aftermath is entirely your fault, even if it is not. You want to clear things up as fast as possible but you have nowhere to go and you can do nothing to improve the situation on your own.

In other words, getting into a car accident in Manhattan can be a stress-inducing nightmare.

Dealing With the Aftermath of a Manhattan Car Accident

In light of the factors above, the standard-issue advice about handling the aftermath of a car accident can seem unhelpful at best, and bordering on downright irrelevant at worst.

The fact is, most of that advice does still apply in a Manhattan car accident, only with a unique New York City twist. Here’s what we suggest.

Stay Calm

In his classic poem “If,” the British colonial author Rudyard Kipling encouraged his son to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” We have no idea if Kipling ever witnessed traffic in NYC, but his words express as well as any the first response after getting into an accident in Manhattan: stay calm.

Easier said than done, we know. However, the fact is, once you get into a Manhattan accident, there is not a lot you can do on your own about the inconvenience it causes to others. Horns can blare and truck drivers can swear, but they will not change the fact that the accident has happened and that first responders will probably need to come and help you clear it. Losing your nerve or getting angry at others will not help you or anyone else.

Call 911

It is the quickest, safest, and most effective way to summon first responders to your accident scene. Do it yourself if you can, ask someone else to do it if you cannot.

NYPD and FDNY clear car accidents in the City every day. They know how to deescalate the situation, move your car to a safe location, get you the medical help you need, and get traffic moving again. Calling 911 is the surest, fastest way to get the stressful, unpleasant experience of a Manhattan car accident behind you. It also helps ensure that the police will write up a report of your accident that your auto accident lawyer may use as evidence of what happened.

Never agree with the other driver or anyone else involved not to call 911. Failing to alert first responders can violate the law. At a minimum, it could put your rights to compensation for your injuries in serious jeopardy.

Make Your Health the Top Priority

This tip ties back to the first piece of advice about staying calm. Amid horns, shouting, and people gawking, your instinct might be to get your vehicle out of the way and not make a fuss about the aches and pains you feel.

That is a mistake. Always put your health at the top of the list of priorities after any car accident. Whether it happens in the heart of Manhattan or the furthest reaches of Upstate farm country, it may take time for an ambulance to wend its way through traffic to you.

In the meantime:

  • Keep yourself safe by getting out of the road if you can, even if it simply means sitting or lying down on a sidewalk or patch of the pavement away from moving vehicles.
  • If need be, take advantage of the fact that you are in New York City, surrounded by millions of people, many of whom are medical professionals. New Yorkers may have tough exteriors, but we go all-out to help each other in times of need. Chances are, if you ask for help, you may have a dozen of your fellow citizens ready to assist until first responders arrive.
  • Let EMTs check you over as soon as they arrive on-scene. If they advise you to come with them in the ambulance to the emergency room at a nearby hospital, then go.
  • If EMTs clear you to leave the scene, then be sure to follow-up within 24 hours with your primary care doctor or at an urgent care center. Get thoroughly checked-out. Some potentially-deadly car accident injuries do not necessarily show symptoms right away, and the stress of the aftermath of an accident can mask the pain of a fracture or soft-tissue injury. Waiting to seek care could make injuries worse, and could also complicate the process of seeking compensation for your injuries.
  • Always do as the doctor orders. Take your medications. Go to your physical therapy appointments. Do not overexert yourself or try to return to work or other activities before the doctor clears you. Following the doctor’s advice can help protect your health, and can also help protect your legal rights by ensuring that no one can accuse you of making your own injuries worse.

Contact an Experienced Manhattan Car Accident Injury Attorney

As soon as you have your medical situation under control, contact a Manhattan attorney who represents victims of car accidents that happen in the City. You may have the right to receive compensation for your accident-related injuries if you allow the lawyer to take quick action on your behalf.

Why contact an experienced Manhattan car accident attorney as soon as possible?

In addition to the obvious benefit of having a skilled advocate on your side fighting for your rights from day-one, three New York-specific reasons come to mind:

  • Witnesses and crash footage. If there is one constant in Manhattan car accidents, it is that they often have multiple witnesses who can describe what happened. These days, security, traffic, dashboard, and cell phone cameras also capture many Manhattan crashes on film. To have the best shot at proving your entitlement to compensation from the party or parties at-fault for the car accident that injured you, an experienced lawyer will want to interview witnesses before their memories fade, and to collect accident footage before camera owners delete it. The sooner the lawyer can start tracking down that information, the better.
  • Taxi, livery, and rideshare involvement. More than most other places in the United States, taxi cabs, livery cars, and rideshares (Ubers and Lyfts, mostly) account for a disproportionately large number of the vehicles on city streets, according to Taxi & Limousine Commission data. That makes odds higher here than elsewhere that a car accident will involve a collision with one of those vehicles. Victims of those crashes can often make claims against liability insurance policies that taxi, livery, and rideshare drivers must carry, if they have an experienced lawyer on their side who understands the types of evidence those claims require, and how to extract maximum compensation from them.
  • Potential city government/agency liability. Some car accidents in Manhattan involve collisions with City-owned vehicles, including sanitation trucks and MTA buses. Others result from preventable hazards on streets that the City should have either fixed or warned the public about. In those and similar cases, the City itself may have legal liability for accident victims’ damages. However, suing the City often requires quick action to meet tight time-limits on making a claim, and the know-how of a lawyer who has experience negotiating with and collecting compensation from City government entities.

Calling a lawyer right away after a Manhattan car accident also just makes good sense. If the crash left you injured, you have enough on your plate already without having to worry about insurance claims, lawsuits, and tracking down critical evidence. Lawyers for Manhattan car accident victims can take over those tasks, and can also serve as a buffer between you and the insurance adjusters and others who may try to contact you directly in hopes of limiting their liability for your injuries and losses.

Manhattan car accident lawyers can also serve as a sounding board for practical decisions you may need to make after a crash, such as whether and when you should get damage to your car repaired, where to find a doctor who specializes in your particular injury, or what to do about bills you receive for towing or ambulance transport.

Lawyers for Manhattan car accident victims often offer free, no-risk consultations. They also predominantly represent their clients on a contingent fee basis, meaning they only get paid attorneys fees if they succeed in securing money from the at-fault parties and their insurance companies. Speak with an attorney today to discuss their specific fee structure.

To learn more about your rights after a Manhattan car accident, contact an experienced Manhattan car accident attorney today.