Car Accident Victims: A Step by Step Guide

Car accidents can be very sudden and scary events that can cause life-altering injuries to yourself or your loved ones. A car accident victim's health and safety take top priority following an accident, but there are other important considerations a victim should take to protect their rights before and after a car accident takes place. Too often, our personal injury trial attorneys will speak with a car accident victim and be met with a blank look that is followed by something akin to "How was I supposed to know that?"

It is important to recognize the non-medical losses that may be suffered in an accident, such as cost of repairs, medical bills, and the loss of earnings from a serious injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2017, costs associated with medical treatment and productivity loss related to victims of motor vehicle accidents exceeded $75 billion nationally. By taking certain steps following an accident, victims of car accidents caused by another person's negligence can ensure that they have options for obtaining compensation for these unexpected losses.

The following are crucial steps that every driver should familiarize themselves with. Some may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget what to do in the immediate aftermath of an accident.

Before Getting Behind the Wheel

Car Insurance

  • Make sure you have valid automobile insurance and keep your insurance information and car registration in the car at all times.
  • Make sure the coverage amount is sufficient as requirements vary by state. In New York State, automobile liability insurance is required to register a vehicle and must be maintained or the DMV can suspend your license or registration. According to the NY Department of Motor Vehicles, the minimum coverage amounts are:
    • $10,000 for property damage in a single accident
    • $25,000 for injury and $50,000 for death of an accident victim
    • $50,000 for injury and $100,000 for death of two or more accident victims
  • The minimum coverage amounts are different for for-hire vehicles, varying depending on the type of vehicle and the seating capacity:
    • The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission requires livery vehicles and black cars seating 1-7 people to maintain a minimum of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence CSL in liability coverage.
    • For details regarding other for-hire vehicle requirements, visit NYC.gov.
    • Rideshare services, such as Uber or Lyft, require drivers to maintain their state's minimum insurance requirement and provide their drivers with further coverage in cases where their personal insurance does not apply.
    • For more information on your legal rights while using rideshare services, visit our Uber and Lyft Accident page.

Passenger Safety

  • Make sure you and any other passengers use a seatbelt or other restraining devices in the car to minimize your injuries in the event that you are in an accident.
  • If you are driving with a child, make sure that children ages 12 and under are buckled in the appropriate car seat or seat belt and that they are always riding in the back seat.

If You Are Involved in an Accident

Remain calm and assess the situation.

  • Move your car out of traffic but if possible, try to photograph the positions of the vehicles before any vehicles are moved to preserve evidence.
  • Assess your own injuries and then the injuries of any passengers in your car.

Call 9-1-1.

  • Call the police yourself or, if you are unable to, ask a witness or passerby to call for help and advise the operator if you need emergency medical assistance.
  • While you wait for the police to arrive, if you are able to get out of the car, do so carefully. Assess the damage to your car and the other car(s) involved.
  • Speak with the other driver(s) and get their version of the accident. Speak with any witnesses to the accident and get their contact information. Do not say anything to indicate your liability during these conversations.

Ask the police officer to create a police report.

  • Speak with an officer about how the accident took place. Ask the police officer how you can get a copy of the police report. Do not let anyone talk you out of creating the report as a police report is incredibly useful should you decide to pursue legal action.
  • Make sure that the report is accurate and complete, including information such as crash details, statements from drivers and witnesses, and contact information for all involved parties.

Take pictures of the property damage to the cars involved.

  • Photos or videos of the accident scene are extremely useful evidence in future insurance or legal claims. If you are able to, take photos of the damage done to all vehicles as well as other details including skid marks on the road, damage to the surrounding property, and street signs.

Seek medical attention.

  • Allow the emergency medical service team to assist you if you are injured. Tough guys finish last when it comes to a car accident. Injuries often take time to develop. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • If you were not seriously injured in the accident, receive a medical examination from your primary physician as soon as possible following the accident to determine whether or not you were injured. Detail your physical complaints to a qualified physician. Don't exaggerate your symptoms and don't minimize them. Play it straight; this is your body.
  • Keep all medical records as they can serve as evidence of your injuries in future insurance or legal claims.

Contact your insurance company.

  • Contact your insurance company to report that you have been in an accident. Request a No Fault insurance application to cover your medical expenses.
  • Return the No Fault application to your insurance company immediately, but no more than 30 days after the accident, to preserve your right to be reimbursed for medical expenses and lost wages.
  • Contact an auto repair shop and ask if they work with your insurance company and if they are familiar with repairs for the make and model of your car.

If you decide that you would like to pursue legal action to receive compensation for losses suffered as a result of the accident, call an experienced car accident lawyer.

  • Create a separate folder for the accident where you can keep a copy of all documents that would be needed for your case.
  • In reviewing different attorneys, check their results and compare them. You don't want a lawyer learning the ropes on your case.

The Law Firm of Block O'Toole & Murphy has a team of experienced and dedicated trial attorneys dedicated to helping victims of car accidents. Our team will work tirelessly on your case to help you reach the best conclusion possible.

Notable results include:

To learn more about the qualified trial attorneys at Block O'Toole & Murphy, please review our firm website at www.blockotoole.com. For a FREE legal consultation, you can call us at 212.736.5300 or fill out our online contact form.