Unfortunately, auto accidents are a way of life in our busy and chaotic society. They happen anywhere and at any time and often without any notice. When you are the victim of an auto accident through no fault of your own, there are certain things you MUST do in order to protect yourself and any potential claim you may have against the at-fault party.
First, call the police. An accident report must be generated to document the circumstances surrounding the accident or you risk a “he-said/ she-said” battle in the aftermath. Police, once tasked to the scene of an accident, will do a simple accident reconstruction, collect pertinent insurance information and act as an intermediary to ascertain the facts and necessary information that will be used to assess fault and liability by insurance carriers.
Second, seek treatment immediately. Immediate treatment is not only vital for recovery, it is also vital in establishing what injuries and conditions have been caused by your accident. Gaps in treatment are often used by insurance companies to disclaim coverage. So get in and get treated ASAP!
Third, submit your No-Fault application within 30 days of the accident. It may seem odd to think that you would rely on your own insurance to pick up the tab for treatment and lost wages following an accident that is not your fault. However, NY is a no-fault state meaning, when you are in an accident, your PIP coverage (typically $50,000 in basic economic loss) picks up regardless of fault. You contract for this and pay the deductibles so do not be concerned about dipping into this coverage—that is what it is there for! Failure to submit a timely No-Fault application can lead to disclaimer of coverage.
Fourth, document everything. Document your pain level, appointments, lost revenue, out of pockets, incidentals, lost social outings, limitations on your ability to be able to do usual daily activities. This is what we commonly refer to as the “pain and suffering” component. You will start living in a new reality post-accident and you will be surprised how quickly you start to normalize your new capabilities. Keeping a diary helps your attorney and the carrier to see, from your perspective, the ways in which this accident has permanently altered your life.
Finally, speak to an attorney. If you are injured in an auto accident in NY you must meet a threshold burden for serious injury in order to be able to go after the at-fault party and you MUST bring a claim within three (3) years from the date of accident. The serious injury threshold is a legal determination that requires a trained eye and monitoring your own statute of limitation is dangerous. You risk settling your claim for pennies on the dollar if you try to pursue settlement on your own and possible forfeiture of your right to pursue a claim entirely if you miss the time period to file.