Do I Call A Car Crash Attorney First Or The Insurance Company After An Incident?

Should I contact a car crash attorney or the insurance company first following an incident?

An average of 625 car accidents occur in New York City every day, and roughly 20% occur in Manhattan. When they result in devastating injuries, victims have the right to seek compensation from the person at fault for the accident. While you are under no legal obligation to hire an attorney to handle your case, you may benefit from speaking to one before contacting the other driver’s insurance provider.

How Can Speaking to the Insurance Company First Damage Your Claim?

When you file a claim with the other party’s insurance company, the first thing the company does is assign an adjuster to handle your claim. Sometimes the process runs smoothly, and the company provides an adequate payout to accommodate your losses. However, at other times, the adjuster responds combatively to decrease the company’s liability and reduce the amount they need to pay.

Depending on when you file your claim, they may try to run out the clock on the statute of limitations for auto accident cases. In New York, you have three years to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party after the car crash. If the insurance company delays a conclusion to your case, they can shorten the time you have to sue the at-fault driver. If you miss the opportunity to sue, your only option is to accept the adjuster’s best offer.

Examples of Bad Faith Tactics Used By Insurance Adjusters

Another critical element is that adjusters are tasked with protecting the company’s interests. Therefore, they will sometimes resort to unfair tactics to lower the payout. Without a legal representative, you are vulnerable to these tactics. Some common bad-faith tactics they use include the following:

  • Ignoring your emails and phone calls to frustrate you into giving up or to delay closing your claim
  • Using accusatory language to trick you into admitting fault on a recorded phone call
  • Denying your claim without a reason
  • Postponing the investigation into your claim without a reason
  • Lying about the policy language to make it suit the company’s agenda

The most common tactic is to offer you a lowball settlement that does not adequately match the value of your claim. Often they provide no reason for why the offer is so low. If you speak to an attorney first, you can avoid the frustration of this back and forth with the adjuster. Additionally, insurance companies are much more likely to cooperate when working with an attorney.

How Can New York’s No-Fault Auto Insurance Policy Affect Your Claim?

New York requires all drivers with a registered vehicle to carry personal injury protection insurance. The purpose is to ensure everyone has access to compensation for injuries after an auto accident. Under this policy, you can recover up to $2,000 per month or 80% of your lost income for up to three years. You can also claim all necessary medical expenses related to injuries caused by the accident. In addition, if you need household help or childcare assistance during your recovery, PIP insurance also covers $25 per day for those expenses.

However, PIP insurance does not cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. As a result, it is often inadequate for severe injuries requiring extensive medical care and extended time off from work. To accommodate those losses, New York has a serious injury threshold that allows you to use the at-fault system to recover damages.

New York’s Serious Injury Threshold

The idea behind the serious injury threshold is that some injuries result in substantially more damages and should allow the victim to pursue more compensation. To qualify for the serious injury threshold, you must experience one of the following because of the accident:

  • Full disability for at least 90 days
  • Significant disfigurement, including dismemberment
  • Substantial limitation to the use of a function or system in your body
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Permanently disabled use of an organ or member of the body

If you meet any of these qualifications, you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. With no-fault insurance, liability is not a factor in recovering compensation. However, if you use the at-fault system, you are responsible for proving the other driver’s negligence and your damages.

What Damages Can You Recover Through an At-Fault Claim?

The losses you incurred make up the value of your claim. One reason you may benefit from speaking with an attorney before talking to the insurance company is that you can more adequately identify all the losses available to you and ensure you have all the necessary evidence to support those claims. Manhattan civil court refers to your losses as compensatory damages, which further divides into economic and non-economic damages.

Your Monetary Losses

Your monetary losses account for all economic damages. PIP insurance will cover some of these. Examples of potentially available financial losses include:

  • The necessary expenses for your medical care. Emergency treatment, ambulance expenses, medications, hospital stays, doctor’s visits, medical devices and rehabilitative treatments are all recoverable costs.
  • Lost wages. You can claim 100% of lost current and future income, including loss of capacity to earn, if your injuries resulted in an inability to do your job.
  • Property damage. PIP insurance does not cover damaged property, but you can claim the cost of repairing or replacing property damaged during the accident through the at-fault system.
  • Replacement services. If you need assistance with household duties or childcare, you can recover those expenses. You can also claim those costs if you need transportation to medical visits or make functional changes to your home to accommodate your injuries.

Proving these losses can require tedious documentation, but your attorney will handle that for you. Some help documents include medical bills, pay stubs, service receipts, doctor notes, tax returns and cost estimates from professionals.

The Emotional Impact

Another loss PIP insurance does not cover is non-economic damages. These reflect the way the accident and injuries impacted your emotional state. For example, you may claim:

  • Pain and suffering from your physical injuries and medical treatments
  • Emotional distress caused by the accident
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Loss of consortium

If your injuries impacted your intimate spousal relationship, you could claim loss of consortium. All of these losses reflect the severity of your injuries, and your attorney would likely interview medical and mental health experts as well as family and friends to catalog the profound impact on your life.

Punitive Damages

Most auto accident cases in Manhattan do not warrant an award for punitive damages. The court reserves these for cases involving a defendant whose behavior constitutes gross negligence or total disregard for the safety of other drivers and passengers. For example, if the driver who hit you was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and speeding excessively, the judge may order them to pay punitive damages as a punishment.

When Should You Contact a Car Accident Lawyer?

Car accident lawyers offer free consultations for anyone with questions following a car crash. Therefore, you have nothing to lose by contacting an attorney immediately following your accident. They can help you navigate the legal system and choose the correct legal route to compensation. At Cellino Law, our team of personal injury attorneys knows the risks of driving in Manhattan and has years of experience helping victims recover their losses from negligent drivers. Contact us at (888) 888-8888 to schedule your free consultation today and take the first step toward rebuilding your life.

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