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What to Do After a Car Accident That’s Not Your Fault?

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Being involved in a car accident is already an unnerving experience, but having to deal with the aftermath of an accident that was not your fault can be even more frustrating and overwhelming. You did not do anything wrong, but you now must navigate and manage a new set of obligations to repair your car, get medical treatment if you are injured, and try to ensure that you do not take on any additional financial burden.

Need to Know:

  • At the scene of an accident, you should contact the police, take note of damages, and exchange information with those involved
  • When speaking to other parties at the scene, do not admit fault or allude to fault in any way
  • Collecting contact information from any possible witnesses will improve your chances if you later elect to pursue a personal injury action

At Block O’Toole & Murphy, our experienced car accident lawyers have handled many cases like this. Below, we’ve broken down a list of steps for you to take to simplify things for an accident victim following a crash.  Maneuvering through this process on your own can be a burdensome process.

In This Article:

Steps to Take at the Accident Scene

First, remember to take a deep breath. You’re most likely feeling a complicated set of emotions and are not sure what to do or even if you contributed to causing the accident. Before doing anything else, it is important to remember to try and stay composed.

Being involved in a car accident can be a very traumatic experience regardless of the severity of the collision. A police officer responding to the scene of a car accident is obligated under the law to take a statement from you and the others involved in the accident. It is best to ensure you have gathered your emotions and have all your faculties before speaking to the officer(s) or anyone else at the scene of the accident.

Check that everyone on the scene is safe

Take a moment to make sure that all drivers and passengers involved were not injured. Make sure that your vehicle is in a safe place, out of the way of oncoming traffic. Or, if your vehicle is no longer safe to be in, get out and move a safe distance away. If anyone at the scene of the crash was hurt, seek immediate medical attention. Remember that you should only move yourself or your vehicle if you feel uninjured and capable of doing so. 

Contact the police to file a report

Even if your case is straightforward and you feel certain that you were not at fault for the crash, your case might be more complex than that. You and the other parties involved in the crash might disagree about which driver is at fault. Alternatively, in some cases, neither driver might be at fault and a different party might be the negligent one. For example, if unsafe road conditions caused two vehicles to crash, there may be a case against the governing body responsible for maintaining the roads. Contact the police and ask the responding officers to file a police report, remembering to also collect their names and badge numbers. An official record of the accident is helpful both when you’re submitting a claim to your insurance company and if you decide to file a personal injury case against the negligent party.

Take note of any damages

After you have made sure everyone on the scene is either safe or seeking the necessary medical care, and you have notified the police of the accident, take note of the state of your vehicle. If you have access to a camera, take pictures of any damage to your vehicle and other vehicles involved, as well as pictures of the accident scene as evidence for your insurance company.

If you are physically able to take photographs of the scene of the accident it is important to do so if it can be done without endangering your safety. Try to do this before the vehicles are moved so they are depicted in the photographs exactly as they came to rest after the collision. People’s memories can fade and at times people can try to recount the details of an accident in a way that best suits them. Therefore, taking photographs and/or video is very important. It is also advisable to take photographs and video of all vehicles involved in the accident. These photographs and video will undoubtedly be helpful when it comes to any future lawsuit should one be filed.

Exchange information with others involved

If you can, collect contact and insurance information from the other driver(s) involved in the crash. Gathering this information will allow for smooth communication between the drivers and their insurance companies. Ask for their:

  • Name, telephone number, and address
  • Name of their insurance company
  • License plate number

If there were any witnesses, try to collect statements from them and contact information. Having an unbiased account of the crash can be extremely helpful in a potential personal injury case.

The importance of obtaining statements from independent witnesses cannot be stressed enough. Many cases are proven by the testimony of witnesses. If our firm can identify a positive witness, we collect a sworn statement from the witness and take a deposition of the witness, ensuring we have all the material for a thorough testimony. Obtaining deposition testimony is incredibly important because if the witness is unavailable to testify at trial, the deposition can be used at trial as if the witness personally appeared and gave testimony.

Steps to Take After the Accident

Contact your insurance company

You should first review your own auto insurance policy to gain clarity on what is and is not covered under your insurance. Notifying your insurance company of an accident is important in case you or the other driver(s) decide to file a claim. Some insurance carriers may also have notification deadlines, so it is a good idea to call your insurance company within 72 hours of an accident.

Keep track of medical treatment

Note all medical professionals that treated you or any of the passengers in your vehicle after the crash, as well as a record of all medical expenses. Keeping a record of this information can allow you to pursue compensation for physical injury costs through an insurance claim or personal injury case.

Contact a personal injury attorney

In many cases, accident victims are able to obtain compensation for all their damages through their insurance. However, there are some cases, especially with serious accidents, in which insurance does not cover all the damages.

In that case, you might want to file a personal injury lawsuit, which can help you recover compensation not only for your physical injuries and vehicle repairs, but also for damages like your pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of quality of life, and lost wages if you are not able to return to work because of your injuries. If you have been in a car accident and would like to discuss your legal options, call 212-736-5300 today.

Who Bears the Cost Burden After a Car Accident That Wasn’t Your Fault?

Physical injury costs

If you or any passengers in your vehicle were injured in the crash, you can request compensation from the insurance company of the at-fault party. If the at-fault party’s insurance coverage does not cover all your medical costs, your uninsured or underinsured driver’s insurance can take care of the rest of the expenses. Uninsured and underinsured coverage is meant to help pay for your medical costs if the at-fault party does not have sufficient insurance.

Additionally, some states like New York require anyone who has a vehicle licensed and registered in that state to have no-fault insurance coverage, meaning that in the case of an automotive accident, regardless of who was at fault, your insurance will cover up to $50,000 of certain costs related to your injuries. This coverage takes liability out of the equation and allows for an expedited process.

However, these benefits are only applicable for covering physical injury costs, such as medical expenses and lost income, because you cannot return to work. Unfortunately, no-fault insurance rarely covers your “pain and suffering,” as it is a non-economic damage. However, you can pursue compensation for pain and suffering if you file a personal injury case, which you can do if you have serious injuries (as defined by New York State law) or the cost of your damages exceeds the $50,0000 limit of what is covered under your no-fault insurance.

Damaged or totaled vehicle costs

Most insurance policies won’t cover repairs of a vehicle if the repairs cost more than the cash value assigned to the car. Your insurer can decide if it wants to pay for the repairs of the car or declare it a loss and pay you for the value of the car. When you first file a claim, your insurance company will refer you to a claims adjuster who will verify the loss and come up with an initial benchmark on what it will cost to repair the car.

Your insurer may expect you to get at least one estimate to compare to their estimate. Even though your insurer cannot require that you have repairs done at a particular shop, they can insist that you get more than one estimate if they think that your initial estimate costs too much, according to the Insurance Information Institute. You have the right to negotiate if you feel that the amount that your insurance company arrived at won’t cover the cost of damages.

Be cautious of early settlement offers

Remember to be wary of settlement offers. Consider having an attorney represent you to ensure that you don’t accept an offer too early or too low. Accepting an offer too early could preclude you from receiving compensation for injuries that arise or are identified later. An attorney can help you navigate the auto accident lawsuit process and ensure that you are being compensated fairly.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident and you believe you were not at fault, our lawyers can determine if someone else was responsible for your injuries and ensure that you are being properly compensated for any damages. Fill out our contact form or call us at 212-736-5300 today and receive a free, no-obligation legal consultation from our auto accident attorneys. We serve New York and New Jersey.

Notable case results we have obtained in car accident cases include:

  • $32,756,156 record-breaking verdict for a 60-year-old man who was violently struck by an intoxicated driver while he was attempting to help others who had been involved in a collision
  • $22,500,000 settlement in an upstate New York case for a driver who was struck by another car in icy conditions; this was the largest settlement ever paid for a personal injury case by a governmental entity in the history of the State of New York
  • $14,000,000 settlement for a motorcyclist who was injured after being hit by a truck
  • $9,263,326 settlement for a taxi cab passenger who suffered severe nerve damage after a collision with two other cars
  • $6,000,000 settlement for an NYC bus passenger who was injured when the bus collided with a truck
  • $5,500,000 settlement for a pickup truck driver who was sideswiped by a semi-truck, sustaining spinal injuries that required surgery
  • $4,600,000 settlement for a man who sustained a spinal cord injury after the defendant ran a stop sign
  • $4,250,000 settlement for a victim who was rear-ended in Westchester County and subsequently required lifelong medical care
  • $4,100,000 settlement for a 54-year-old who suffered herniated disks after a collision on a bridge
  • $3,500,000 settlement for a bus driver who sustained multiple injuries after being rear-ended by a sanitation truck
  • $3,500,000 settlement for a driver whose back was injured after being side-swiped by another vehicle

Our firm has recovered well over $1.5 billion for accident victims. Dial 212-736-5300 to speak with a Block O’Toole & Murphy attorney today.

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