New York Car Accident Guide

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2018 | Auto Accidents, Buffalo Law Blog, New York Legal Guides

When you have been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, you might be confused and worried about your rights.  Hamburg personal injury attorney Daniel Chiacchia created the New York Car Accident Guide to help residents avoid pitfall mistakes when filing an injury claim.

Being in a car crash just might be the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to you. Especially if you are whisked away by an ambulance and need emergency medical treatment. Serious injuries from car accidents can have a devastating and long-lasting impact on a driver or passenger. When a person is injured in a car accident, there are special considerations which must be addressed.  You should contact our experienced car accident lawyers as soon as possible.

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New York is a “No-Fault” state, which means that medical bills and lost earnings are paid by the no-fault insurance carrier. Strict deadlines apply with respect to obtaining benefits pursuant to no-fault. When someone is injured in a motor vehicle collision, it is especially important to consult with a Hamburg car accident attorney for this reason.

Car Accident Injury Medical Attention

When you are injured by another vehicle in an auto accident, it’s foremost important you seek medical attention immediately. Save all of your medical bills and reports as proof of your injuries, so that we can be sure you receive full reimbursement for these expenses.

We want to help you get a fair settlement so that you receive the full financial support you deserve. If you have been injured in an accident and are left with medical expenses and other damages to reconcile with, contact us as soon as you can.

Accepting Insurance Offers

Insurance companies are usually the first to offer you a settlement for your accident, which means their offer is usually a low one. When an insurance company offers you a settlement, it’s important you review it to make sure all of your injuries and expenses for your injuries have been confirmed. If something is missing from the offer, or they are not giving you enough to treat your injuries, call us.

Often times, cases are worth more than what an insurance company is agreeing to pay you, so you should avoid accepting an offer that doesn’t give you the full support you deserve.

We will fight on your behalf to get you the most we can for your physical and psychological injuries. You should never have to pay for damages done to you due to the negligence of another person.

Experienced Car Accident Lawyers in Hamburg, NY

The medical, financial and emotional consequences can linger for years after an occurrence that only takes seconds. When a person is injured as a result of the negligence of another in the operation of a motor vehicle, the law may provide compensation to the injured. The law also requires that insurance be maintained on every vehicle operated in New York so that compensation can be paid. It is often said that a no-fault carrier (someone’s own insurance company) becomes another adversary, making it difficult for injured people to get the benefits they are entitled to.

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Frequently Asked Questions | New York Car Accident Guide

Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer?

There have been times where people have been seriously injured in auto accidents and they don’t get a lawyer involved for a long time. They say, “Why do I need a lawyer?” Well, because the insurance company for the vehicle that may have hit you are not thinking about your best interest. They’re thinking about their best interests and how they can save money on the claim. We’ve had cases where insurance carriers reach out to clients early on and offer them a minimal settlement, even though they may have been seriously injured.

You need a lawyer to protect your rights. There are certain time limitations in doing certain things, and we talk sometimes about no-fault applications. Also if you’re hit by a municipal vehicle, you have even shorter time limits to file a claim. Usually there’s a 90-day limitation on filing a notice of claim, and then you only have a year and 90 days to file an action.

If you wait to get a lawyer involved, you’re hurting your chances of getting your full recovery. If you don’t get a lawyer involved, you’re not making sure that the case is investigated properly, and a properly investigated case leads to better recovery.

What Should I Do After a Car Accident Injury?

Many times, people that have been seriously injured in car accidents call us and want to know what the next step is. The next step is to get an investigation done and get your no-fault application done. Many times, when people are involved in accidents, police officers are on the scene. They don’t necessarily get all the witnesses names, so we want to go out to the scene, canvas the area, see if we can find witnesses. We talk to the witnesses that are on the accident report and maybe get some recorded statements, photographs of the area – skid marks, things of that nature – and maybe even get an accident investigation company involved right away to maybe do some cause-and-effect types of things.

Of course, the big thing that’s prevalent now is video, whether it be from cameras that are installed by government agencies or businesses. We’ve had many cases where business cameras catch an accident and it’s very helpful down the road.

The other thing, too, beyond the investigation, is that with a car accident case, your no-fault coverage on the vehicle you were in, whether you were driving the vehicle or you were just a passenger, whatever coverage is on that vehicle, insurance will help pay for your medical expenses and lost wages and some of your travel expenses for medical appointments. To get those benefits, you have to submit an application within 30 days. We help you do that. We go through the process with you and make sure it gets to the insurance carrier. Those are the first steps we want to get going with.

Who Pays My Car Accident Medical Bills?

When you’re seriously injured in an auto accident, people automatically worry about their medical expenses. Especially in this day in age where many people have high deductibles, private insurance plans, or you might have to pay three or four thousand dollars out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in.

The good thing with car accident cases is that whatever vehicle you are in, whether it’s your vehicle or someone else’s, the no-fault coverage on that car insurance policy will pay for your medical expenses, so that’s a wonderful thing. There are no deductibles involved and even if they don’t cover all of the expenses, the medical provider cannot go after you for the difference; they’re locked into that rate that’s set by the insurance carriers as to what can be paid. That’s the benefit of the no-fault coverage.

The negative side of no-fault coverage is that sometimes they send you for what’s called independent medical examinations to try to stop your medical payments. We get involved in that situation. We send representatives with clients to those examinations to make sure that those benefits are continued.

How Long Will This Take?

Auto accident cases can be resolved sometimes fairly quickly.  Although sometimes they go on for quite a few years. Some of our cases are resolved within the first twelve months, sometimes they take three or four years depending on the severity of the case and how much the other side fights. Car accident cases are a little different because you have to prove you sustained a “serious physical injury” as defined under the insurance law.

Many times, we get in disputes about whether someone indeed has a serious injury. Sometimes those involve motion practice – where you’re asking the court to predetermine whether someone had a serious injury – and sometimes those cases get appealed. When you appeal a case, it has to go to a higher court. People write briefs and they go for argument, and those things can take years, unfortunately.

When we get a case, we try to streamline cases because we know there could be bumps in the road and hiccups down the way. We want to make sure that we get things going as quickly as possible so if there is an appeal or something like that, we’re not looking five or six years down the road. In some cases, maybe it’s only two or three years.

What Mistakes Should I Avoid?

Some of the most detrimental mistakes we see people make after they’ve been seriously injured in an auto accident is not getting consistent treatment for their injuries. We’ve seen it over and over again where people will go to a doctor and say, “I’m fine,” or they’re continuing to have problems and they don’t follow up. When you don’t follow up and you don’t follow doctor’s orders, it could ruin your claim. Insurance carriers look at what you did to get better. If two years down the road you say, “Well, I have this disability in my shoulder,” and they find out that you were recommended to do physical therapy to help improve the function of that shoulder and you didn’t do that, that’s going to be a strike against you and may affect your ability to recover the full value of your injury.

Another big mistake is not getting personal injury attorneys involved right away. Investigation of claims is one of the most important things to do. We jump on cases right away, get investigators involved, get out to the scene, and take pictures. If you wait six months until after the accident, you’re not going to get that evidence. If there were witnesses to the accident and we can’t find them because the evidence trail has become stale, that’s going to hurt you. People’s memories fade. Even if we have a name of a witness, that witness’ account of the accident is going to be much more accurate the week after the accident than it is six months after the accident. There’s a big incentive to get involved early and get witness statements early.

Should I Talk to My Insurance?

The short answer is no. I can tell you right now, they’re usually recording those telephone conversations and they’re going to use what you say against you down the road. Sometimes you may say something out of context, and next thing you know it’s being used against you down the road.

You have insurance on your vehicle, and it’s your insurance carrier’s obligation (if there’s even a property damage claim)  to make sure that they get contribution from the other carrier. If there are situations where we have to reach out directly to the other carrier, we like to do that for the client or be with them on the phone while they’re speaking with the carrier. If there is something being recorded, we want to make sure that we get a copy of that right away as a condition of speaking with them.

Sometimes there are situations where you want to speak with them to expedite getting another vehicle, because sometimes people don’t have collision coverage on their vehicles and they need to get a car immediately. The other carrier wants a statement as to how the accident happened, and we try to limit those statements as much as we can.

What Are the Benefits of No-Fault Insurance in New York?

When you’re involved in a car accident, the no-fault coverage for whatever vehicle you’re in will apply. No-fault coverage means you’ll get these benefits whether or not the car you were in was at fault. You’ll get $50,000 of initial coverage for such things as medical expenses and lost wages up to $2,000 a month – so it’s not great, but it’s something. You also get some incidental expenses for the first year, including $25 a day for help around the house if you need it, mileage for going back and forth to doctor appointments, and things of that nature. Those are the basic benefits of no-fault.

In order to secure those benefits, you have to submit a no-fault application within 30 days of the accident. Usually, that’s not too difficult when you’re the owner and operator of the car; however, if you’re a passenger, you sometimes have to be fairly proactive because the insurance company that covers the driver or owner of the car may not be reaching out to you. That’s another reason to get in touch with us quickly – because we will immediately reach out to that insurance carrier, make sure your no-fault application is filled out, and make sure you have those benefits. It’s important to use no-fault to cover your medical expenses – rather than your own health insurance – because then there’s no lien if you eventually obtain a recovery down the road.

How Much is My Case Worth?

Determining the value of an auto injury case is a case-by-case analysis. Many factors go into it including the severity of injury. There are some injuries that you can’t even think of what the value would be; losing a limb, losing your eyesight, and things of that nature. Then you have other types of injuries that may involve fractures with some disability or back and neck injuries. How do you determine that disability, and how do you determine the value of that case? We do a few different things. We send people, at times, to vocational rehabilitation experts to see what type of work they can continue to do. We send people for other evaluations to determine what their medical needs will be.

All of those factors play into whether someone can continue to work or not. Are they able to continue with their normal daily activities? There are some people out there that are very active; people that are exercising on a regular basis, maybe even be involved in amateur athletics to some extent. If they can’t do that, the case, that particular injury, may have a lot more value to them than it would be to somebody else who has a more sedentary lifestyle, who isn’t as active.

There are a lot of different factors that go into play. To give someone an exact number on a case early on, I think, is improper because you really have to wait to see how the injury affects someone overall before you make an assessment of full value.

What Will I Be Compensated For?

In a car accident situation, there are many damages you can recover. The basic damages you can recover are your expenses for medical and lost wages. When we say that, in a car accident situation, it’s those medical and lost wage expenses that aren’t covered by your no-fault coverage.

The big thing, of course, is pain and suffering damages. Pain and suffering damages is a case-by-case basis based upon the severity of the injury and how it’s affected someone’s life in total. When we say affect your life, we don’t just mean whether or not you can work or not, but how it’s affected you socially. Are you able to do the things you used to do? How has it affected your ability to care for your family? How has it affected your ability to have meaningful relationships with your spouse, and things of that nature? There’s a lot of factors that go into deciding the value of the case and what damages you’re going to get down the road.

Who Fixes Your Car After an Auto Accident?

If you have collision coverage on your own insurance policy when you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident and your car is damaged, you will contact your insurance company and let them know about the accident. Most likely, your policy includes a deductible and the amount of that deductible might determine whether or not you want to process your property damage claim through your own insurance company. If your deductible is high – like $500 or $1,000 – you may be discouraged from processing the property damage through your own insurance policy.

You also have the option of using the other party’s insurance coverage to pay for your property damage – provided they’re at fault for causing the accident. Often, however, the problem with using the other party’s coverage is the time and negotiation involved. When people use the offending party’s insurance coverage, they may not feel that they’re getting paid a satisfactory amount for their vehicle. Also, it may take a little time for that insurance company to determine who was at fault for the accident. The delays involved in processing your property damage claim using somebody else’s insurance coverage might be a deterrent. You might just get your vehicle repaired more quickly – and with less hassle – by processing your claim through your own insurance company. Both options are available to you, and the decision as to whether one option is preferable to the other in your circumstances rests with you.

What If I’m Injured While Driving a Vehicle for Work?

People sometimes think that if they’re injured in an accident while in a work vehicle or in the process of traveling in a work-related capacity, they’re bound by what’s called workers’ compensation; however, that’s not always true. Let me provide a little clarification as to what workers’ compensation is. In the event that you’re injured during the course of your employment, your employer is required to maintain what’s called workers’ compensation insurance which pays a portion of your lost wages and covers your medical expenses.

If your injuries were caused by somebody outside your employment, however, that may not be the whole story. For example, if you’re driving a delivery truck when someone runs a red light and hits you, and you’re injured, guess what? You can have a lawsuit against that other driver, and that is entirely separate from workers’ compensation. There is an important interplay involved there. Just because you’re injured at work doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bound by workers’ compensation.

Can I Recover Damages If I’m Partially at Fault?

Oftentimes, when someone is injured in a car accident they think, “Okay, I’m injured, but maybe I was partly to blame for causing the accident. Can I still bring a lawsuit?” In New York, the answer is, “Yes, you still can.” If you are at fault for any part of the accident, your degree of fault will be considered later on in the lawsuit, and perhaps the damages you are ultimately awarded – if you’re awarded any – will be reduced by the percentage of fault you bear for causing the accident.

Partial fault is not a bar to a lawsuit, and you really should consider consulting with an attorney to learn whether or not you can still make a legitimate claim. Don’t be discouraged just because something you did may have caused or contributed to the accident. If you do, you may give up your right to bring a legitimate claim just because you think – erroneously – that something you did may have contributed to it. It’s worth consulting with a Hamburg car accident attorney to learn whether or not it’s a claim you can still bring.

Should You Take the First Settlement Offer in a Car Accident Case?

Many times, clients get a little too anxious when it comes to offers received on their car accident cases – some of them very early on – and, although we have an obligation to present every offer to our clients, we always tell them, “Listen to me. It’s too early. You never take a first offer. We don’t know where your medical treatment is going to go – you’re still treating.” We never do that. We know that first offer is never the last offer. No one gives their bottom line number first.

People have to understand that settlement discussions involve a long, negotiation process, and that first offer is usually made early. Even in cases where there’s no settlement discussion until you’re deep into the litigation, the first offer is never more than a starting point – just as our settlement demand is a starting point. Many times, there’s no offer until we issue a settlement demand. Once they respond to our settlement demand, we get into the negotiating process, talking about the pros of our case and the cons of theirs in our effort to get our client the maximum recovery.

Should You Tell Your Doctor About the Car Accident?

When you’re seeking treatment for injuries you sustained in an accident, it’s very important for you to tell your doctor what happened that caused you to start experiencing your pain symptoms. Your doctor needs to know that you have been in an accident, and exactly what happened.

Keep in mind that all of the notes your doctor makes are going to become part of your permanent medical record, so it’s very important that you be accurate and consistent. Remember too, that if you go into the ER and explain to those doctors how the car accident happened, you’ll want to be able to give the same explanation later, when you go to your primary care physician or any other subsequent treatment providers. That way, they can all clearly understand that the symptoms you’re having do indeed stem from your accident – that one event.

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Can Discontinuing Medical Treatment Devalue Your Car Accident Claim?

First and foremost, your goal is to get better, and discontinuing your treatment won’t produce the best results. In the long run, as far as your lawsuit is concerned, you have an obligation to continue your treatment and work consistently toward getting better. If you don’t, the attorneys for the insurance company will throw that in your face at trial and say that, by discontinuing your medical treatment, you failed in your duty to mitigate your damages.

The fact is that you may even make your condition worse by deciding not to maximize your medical treatment. The insurance company can also throw that information in front of a jury and use it to reduce the amount you receive when the jury renders its verdict.

You’re Going Through a Hard Time… Let Us Help- NO WORRIES : JUST RESULTS 

At Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP, our mission is to deliver the finest quality legal representation while providing clients with the personal attention they deserve.  Our experienced personal injury attorneys in Buffalo and the surrounding area have successfully handled every type of personal injury case from auto accidents, slip and falls, sex abuse, construction accidents, truck crashes, and dog bites.