Not all auto accident cases require the help of an auto accident lawyer. For example, if you suffered minor or no injuries and minimal property damage, your no-fault insurance policy should cover your losses. However, the circumstances of every accident are different, and even minor accidents can result in lasting injuries. If you have questions about compensation and liability in your case, you can speak with an auto accident attorney about what you should do next.
What Should You Do After an Accident to Protect Your Rights?
In the aftermath of a minor accident caused by the other driver, there are specific things you should and should not do to protect your claim if you need to file a lawsuit or claim. What you should do includes:
- Report the accident. If your car sustained more than $1,000 in damages, New York law requires you to file a form with the Department of Motor Vehicles to report the accident. You only have 10 days from the date of the accident to file or risk driver’s license suspicion.
- Seek a medical evaluation. Even minor car accidents can result in serious injuries. For example, the impact from a low-speed collision can still cause whiplash, which occurs when the force of the crash causes the head to move back and forth aggressively, leaving tiny tears in the neck muscles. It is a painful condition that can have life-long repercussions. So even if you feel completely fine, have a doctor do a medical exam and document your physical health after an accident.
- Collect evidence. Use your smartphone or a camera to take photographs of everything, starting with the vehicles, the other car’s license plate, and any visible damage to the car or your body.
- Keep your silence. Apart from exchanging information, avoid talking to anyone about the accident, including posting about it on social media platforms. However, if the police arrive on the scene to investigate, you should give them a statement about what happened.
- Call an auto accident attorney. Even if you do not need legal representation, you can still talk to a lawyer about the accident to ensure you recognize all the damages and know your legal rights to compensation.
The final step would be to file a claim with your insurance company. If you have trouble with your insurance company, speak with a Buffalo accident attorney about what you can do to resolve the problem.
What Is a No-Fault Auto Insurance State?
New York state follows the no-fault auto insurance law, requiring all licensed drivers who intend to drive a vehicle to purchase no-fault auto insurance called personal injury protection. PIP insurance in New York will cover the following:
- $2,000 per month or 80% of your lost income for a maximum of three years
- Any medical bills for treatments deemed reasonable and necessary
- Coverage of $25 per day for a year if you need transportation to medical visits or any in-home case
If someone dies due to an accident and injuries, PIP insurance provides a $2,000 death benefit for the deceased person’s estate. These benefits cover you and anyone driving your vehicle. If you injured a pedestrian during the accident or someone else in your car was hurt, PIP benefits also apply to them.
Disadvantages of PIP Insurance
The benefit of turning to your own insurance protection for coverage is that it removes the question of fault. This is great for minor accidents but not for more severe injuries. PIP does not cover losses for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. It also does not cover property damage.
The Serious Injury Threshold in New York
For cases involving damages too significant for PIP insurance to cover, New York allows you to go around the no-fault auto insurance system and sue the person at fault for your accident. However, the injuries you sustained meet the state serious injury threshold. For example, you can sue in New York if your accident resulted in any of these injuries:
- Significant permanent or temporary loss of a body function or system
- Loss of a fetus if you were pregnant and the crash directly caused you to lose the baby
- Permanent damage to a body organ or member, resulting in loss of use
- Broken or fractured bones
- Dismemberment or disfigurement
Suppose your injuries resulted in a medically proven impairment that makes it impossible for you to perform your typical daily tasks for at least three months. In that case, you could potentially sue the at-fault party in your case.
What if You Are Both At Fault?
If you file a lawsuit and the court finds you partially at fault for the accident, it will reduce the compensation you can receive but not stop you from receiving any payment. This is because New York follows the pure comparative negligence law, which states that the plaintiff in a personal injury case can be almost entirely responsible for the accident and still receive compensation. For example, if your accident resulted in a total of $5,000 in damages and you are 80% to blame, you can still receive $1,000.
Most auto accident cases settle before you need to enter a courtroom. However, the same concept of comparative negligence will still come up during negotiations. Although, the process of determining exact percentages of fault may be less formal.
Why Should You Speak to an Auto Accident Lawyer?
If you have questions about the details of your accident and whether or not you need legal representation, you can contact an auto accident lawyer. You have nothing to lose from a free consultation. Every auto accident case is different, but you may need an attorney when negligence is involved. At Cellino Law, we understand the burden even a minor auto accident can cause. You can speak with one of our experienced auto accident attorneys and, at the very least, walk away with some peace of mind. If we take your case, we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for your free case evaluation to learn more about what you can do to protect your rights.