No one ever sees a car accident coming, and there is rarely anything you can do to brace yourself or stop it from happening. However, in the moments that follow, your actions can help you protect your health and your rights to compensation for medical expenses and other damages due to your car accident injuries.
If you have questions about components of the below step-by-step guide for what you should do following a car accident in Queens, you will benefit from speaking to a car accident lawyer about the specific details of your car crash.
Remember that Queens car accident lawyers can still help you build a case, even if you miss some of these steps.
Step 1: Call Emergency Medical Services if Needed
Even a collision as minor as a fender bender can result in serious injuries, and in the immediate fallout, you may need a moment to collect yourself before you act. The first and most critical action any auto accident attorney would advise you to take is to assess yourself for injuries before checking your passengers.
If you suffer any severe injuries, you should remain in place and contact emergency medical services.
When you call 911, several first responders will come to the scene. Depending on the accident’s severity, the dispatcher may send police officers and firefighters who have training in basic first-aid care. They can perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on children and adults, but emergency medical technicians can do more, including transport you to the hospital if necessary.
Possible Injuries From a Car Accident
The severity of injuries is particularly important in New York, a no-fault state that requires a standard of serious injury to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Several factors can affect the severity of injuries. For example:
- What safety features, such as airbags, did the vehicle have?
- Were the vehicle occupants wearing seat belts?
- How fast were the vehicles traveling at the time of the collision?
- Where did the crash occur? Was it from the side, front, or rear?
- In what direction was the injured person facing at the time of the collision?
The best car accident lawyers and doctors may ask these or similar questions to understand your damages better. In general, Injuries from car accidents fall under two categories: impact injuries and penetrating injuries. Impact injuries refer to those sustained at impact, and penetrating injuries, such as lacerations, break through the skin.
Some common examples of injuries sustained in car accidents include:
- Head injuries include concussions, traumatic brain injuries, or cuts and bruises to the head.
- Soft tissue injuries include strains and sprains to muscles. The most common soft tissue injury from car accidents is whiplash, which often happens in rear-end accidents and occurs when forceful back and forth movement of the head causes tiny tears in the soft tissue of the neck.
- Arm and leg injuries are common in car accidents because of the body’s position in the car. The force of a collision can throw the body forward, hitting the dash and causing bruising, lacerations, or broken bones.
- Chest and abdominal injuries are especially common for drivers who hit the steering wheel on impact.
Minor injuries typically resolve quickly, while more severe injuries often require continued treatment and more time to heal, resulting in more physical, mental, and financial damage.
Step 2: Avoid Speaking with Anyone Until You Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer
Some people naturally feel the urge to speak when something shocking, such as a car accident, occurs. However, the best car accident lawyers would likely advise you to avoid speaking with anyone on the scene.
Given the unpleasant nature of a car accident, it is a normal reaction to apologize, even when you bear no responsibility for the collision. A simple “I’m sorry this happened” can translate as an admission of guilt in a car accident lawsuit.
Your Queens car accident attorneys will handle the conversations and negotiations with the insurance company. However, remember that insurance adjusters conduct an independent investigation into your accident, and their primary goal is to protect the company’s interest.
Therefore, they will search for any way to negate your account of the accident and assign fault to you. While an experienced car accident attorney can typically combat false allegations, it is in your best interest to avoid saying anything to the other driver or anyone else at the time of the accident.
Step 3: Call the Non-Emergency Number for the Police
In New York, you can call the police non-emergency number for car crashes. However, accidents that do not result in injury or significant property damage only require both parties to exchange contact and insurance information.
On the other hand, you must call the police if any of the following occur:
- A person suffers an injury or dies
- A domestic animal suffers an injury or dies
- You hit a parked vehicle and cannot locate the owner
When you file a lawsuit, both the insurance companies and your auto accident attorney conduct independent investigations into the accident to determine fault and collect evidence. However, the police are the first to investigate, and they often provide significant evidence in their report that the best car accident lawyers could use to support your claim. For example, the police will:
- Speak to eyewitnesses
- Take photographs of the scene
- Use their expertise to examine the position of both vehicles and determine who was at fault
- Provide you with assistance as needed
- Give you a copy of the completed report
The report is a vital source of information for a car accident lawyer. If you did not get a copy at the time of the accident, either because you did not ask or because you were unavailable, you could still request a copy online or in person at the station.
Step 4: Collect Contact Information
Everyone knows that you should collect the name, phone number, address, and insurance information of the other driver in the event of an accident. In New York, drivers carry personal injury protection insurance to cover the cost of medical bills and lost wages for minor injuries caused by a car accident.
You may assume this means that you do not need the other driver’s insurance information. However, there are several reasons why that information may be helpful to you later:
- If you develop symptoms of a more severe injury, you can file a lawsuit against the other driver for non-economic damages.
- If your PIP insurance does not cover the total cost of your economic damages, you may need to file a claim with the other driver’s insurer or file a lawsuit against the driver.
- If your vehicle sustained significant damages not covered by liability insurance, you may need to include that in your request for damages when you file a claim.
Additionally, you should collect any eyewitnesses’ names and contact information at the scene. The best car accident lawyers will use that information to reach out to those witnesses and gather statements corroborating your account of the accident.
Step 5: Start Documenting Everything
Arguably, the most significant contribution you can make to your case is to document everything pertaining to the accident while on the scene so you can provide it to an auto accident attorney later.
You can start by taking photographs of the following:
- The damages to all vehicles involved
- Any injuries to your body that show up in a photo
- The area around the vehicles, including any road signs, traffic signals, or objects that could obscure your view while driving
- The other driver’s license and insurance card
As the shock wears off and the adrenaline production in your body starts to stabilize, you may have trouble remembering all the details of the moments leading up to, during, and after the collision.
If you have pen and paper available, write down your account as soon as possible. Even better, use your phone to record a video of the scene and voice over the details as you scan the area. Then you have a time-stamped record of your account with visuals.
Potential Damages From a Car Accident Case
The details of your accident dictate the type and amount of compensation you can recover. However, a car accident lawyer can help you identify the compensatory damages in your case. Compensatory damages include two types of losses, specific and general, directly associated with your injuries. For example, the specific losses include:
- Past, present, and future medical bills. You can request payment for visits to the hospital or clinic, medications, medical devices, therapies, surgeries, and adjustments to your home to accommodate a temporary or permanent disability.
- Lost income and benefits. You may seek compensation for missed work in the past and future. This includes any wages lost because your injuries permanently prevent you from doing the job you did before the accident and any payments you cannot make into pension or retirement plans.
- Damage to property. Any damage to your vehicle is the responsibility of the at-fault party in your accident. This includes the repair or replacement of property.
- All other related expenses. If you needed help at home and had to hire assistance or your spouse had to miss work to care for you or your children, you can request a repayment of those losses. This may also include transportation to and from medical treatments or any other out-of-pocket expenses.
The general losses are more subjective and more difficult to quantify. They include the mental toll the injuries had on your life, such as pain and suffering, mental or emotional anguish, loss of your ability to enjoy life as you did before the accident, disfigurement, and disability.
Additionally, suppose you file a wrongful death lawsuit because you lost a loved one in an accident. In that case, you may sue for funeral expenses, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, or loss of a fetus.
Although rare in car accident cases, the court may also order the defendant to pay punitive damages, which do not compensate for losses. Instead, these punish the defendant for their actions. To receive punitive damages, you must prove that the defendant’s actions constitute gross negligence.
For example, if you sustained significant injuries in an accident with a drunk driver, you could receive punitive damages, especially if this is not the defendant’s first DUI charge. Again, a car accident lawyer can help you better understand the damages in your case and accurately value your claim.
Step 6: See a Doctor for a Thorough Medical Evaluation
Not all accidents require emergency medical services. Also, the unfortunate reality is that some do, but people do not call 911 for fear of receiving a hefty medical bill for ambulance expenses.
Whatever the case may be for your accident, you should still seek medical attention after a collision for many reasons:
- You may have an injury with latent symptoms that could become increasingly dangerous without immediate care. For example, internal bleeding can take hours to show signs and cause significant damage by the time you feel it.
- The shock of a car accident can cause bursts of adrenaline that mask pain receptors for up to several hours. As a result, you may have serious injuries that you cannot yet feel.
- To recover compensation for injuries, you need evidence of the injury. Medical records and bills are valuable sources for your claim.
The best car accident lawyers have contacts in the medical field. Sometimes, an auto accident attorney will recommend specialists to help with your specific injuries or direct you to doctors who regularly work with car accident victims. Keep in mind that the longer you wait to see a physician, the more reasonable the insurance company’s argument that you sustained your injuries elsewhere will appear, but more importantly, early intervention is better for your health.
Step 7: Stay Off of Social Media
Living in the age of smartphones and social media means that people tend to share every occurrence in their lives across many platforms. A car accident is a big deal, and naturally, you may want to share that information on your social media pages. However, any car accident lawyer would advise you to stay away from talking about your accident, injuries, or lawsuit on the internet until you reach a settlement or receive an award from the court.
As previously mentioned, insurance companies search for information about your role in the accident to try and discredit your claim. If they can prove that you are partially or entirely responsible, they can justify offering a lower settlement. As part of their investigation, they will comb through your social media pages to look for any information that may shift liability to you. Therefore, your auto accident attorney may advise you to make your social media private until the case concludes.
Shared Fault Can Affect Your Compensation
Not all car accidents have a clear responsible party, for instance when one driver engages in distracted driving. Sometimes both parties share liability for the collision and the resulting injuries.
If you are partially responsible for your accident, you can still recover compensation for damages. The law that governs shared fault in a personal injury case is the comparative negligence rule.
According to this rule, you may receive a portion of the awarded damages once the court deducts your percentage of fault from the total amount. How much compensation you can receive depends on which category of comparative negligence the state follows. There are two categories:
- The modified comparative negligence rule has two potential circumstances that can stop you from receiving any payment for damages. Some states require you to bear no more than 49% responsibility to remain eligible, and others set the threshold for no more than 50% liability. You cannot be more liable than the defendant and receive compensation.
- The pure comparative negligence rule sets no threshold for liability. You can be 99% at fault and still recover 1% of the value of damages.
Along with 11 other states, New York follows the pure comparative negligence rule. Therefore, if you file a lawsuit for an accident in Queens, and the court sets the value for damages at $150,000 and finds you 80% at fault, you can still recover $30,000.
While it is significantly less, it is better than nothing. Contact the best car accident lawyers in NYC to determine how your role in the accident could affect your potential to receive compensation.
Step 8: Hire One of the Best Car Accident Lawyers in Queens, NY
If you sustained an injury in an avoidable car accident caused by another party’s negligence, you might have questions about the details of your car accident claims and your eligibility for fair compensation. At Abrams & Associates, P.C., we act fast to get you the answers you need.
Healing from injuries from a serious car accident is already an overwhelming process. We aim to remove the stress of dealing with the complex legal system and potentially combative insurance companies so you can focus on healing rather than fighting for your rights.
We treat every client with the respect and individualized attention that they deserve. We want you to feel safe and supported when you want through our door. Contact us today for a free consultation with a New York car accident lawyer.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We do not get paid unless we make sure you get paid.