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Motor Vehicle Accident FAQs

Motor Vehicle Accident FAQs

I was in a car accident. What should I do?+
Call the Police If you have been involved in an auto, truck or motorcycle accident, your first call should always be to the police. Even if the accident seems minor, some insurance companies require a police accident report. Also, you may not realize you are injured and require medical attention until after the adrenaline wears off.
Collect information from the scene. If you are able to do so, write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. Many people assume that the police will gather this information if they are called to the scene, however this is not always the case.In addition, if you are able, and it is safe to do so, take photos of the vehicles at the scene.
Seek medical attention. If you are injured, seek medical treatment immediately. Accident victims do not always recognize their injuries, or the potential seriousness of an injury, immediately following an accident. Consequently, they may choose to delay seeking medical attention. This delay can jeopardize the effectiveness of any necessary medical treatment. Delaying medical treatment can also complicate a legal claim by calling into question whether or not an injury was in fact caused by the accident.
Notify your insurance. After an accident you should notify your insurance company as soon as possible and provide all requested information. If you do not report the accident, the insurance company may deny payment of your claim for property damage, medical bills or lost wages.
File an MV-104 if required. An MV-104 must be filed with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of any accident occurring in New York State that causes a death, personal injury or damage of over $1,000 to the property of any one person. Failure to do so within 10 days is a misdemeanor. Your license and/or registration may be suspended until a report is filed even if you were not at fault in the accident. It is best to contact an attorney to assist you if you are not sure whether or not you need to file this report or if you need help filing the report.
Do Not speak to the other driver's insurance company. They work for the other driver and any statement you make to them can be used against you.
Who will pay my bills after an auto accident?+
In most situations, your own automobile insurance carrier will pay for your accident-related medical bills and a portion of your lost wages, regardless of who caused the accident. These benefits are called “no-fault” benefits. It is very important to promptly notify your insurance carrier of the accident and fill out all the paperwork they request in order to qualify for these benefits. Strict deadlines apply. It is also important to tell all of your medical providers that they should bill your automobile insurance carrier, not your health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. You may need to remind your health care providers to bill the auto insurance at each visit.
Can I bring a claim against the at-fault driver?+
Yes, if your injuries are serious, as defined by New York law. In New York, a person injured in a motor vehicle accident is required to meet a certain level of injury before they are allowed to file a claim. Unless you meet the criteria for a “serious injury” as defined by the law, you will not be able to file a claim for compensation against the other driver. The legal definition of “serious injury” can be quite complicated. Lacy Katzen LLP’s litigation attorneys can help you determine whether or not you meet the serious injury threshold.
Does Lacy Katzen LLP charge a fee for an initial consultation?+
No. Lacy Katzen LLP’s personal injury attorneys offer free consultations. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident to be certain you are taking the right steps to preserve your claim.
What is a contingency fee?+
Motor vehicle accident cases are handled on a contingency fee basis. This means that compensation to the attorney is “contingent” upon you getting a recovery in the case. In other words, the attorney only gets paid if you win or settle your case. If you are successful in your claim, the attorney will be paid a percentage of what you recover. This type of fee arrangement eliminates the risk to the client that they will have a large legal bill to pay if they do not recover on the case. Motor vehicle accident clients have already suffered a loss. They may have unpaid medical bills or be out of work due to their injuries. Most would not be able to bring a claim if they had to pay an attorney by the hour. This type of fee arrangement enables all injured people, regardless of their financial means, to be represented by highly skilled attorneys.
Why should I hire a personal injury lawyer?+
Perhaps you think that you should negotiate directly with the insurance company. The insurance adjuster for the person who caused your injury may contact you and try to convince you that you should not hire an attorney and share any portion of your settlement. But, should you really take advice from the insurance company that represents the other side?

Before you even consider attempting to handle your own claim, there are some things you should know. First, an experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate any offer that you might receive so that you know whether or not you are getting fair compensation for your injuries. The insurance company is a business. Their goal is to pay as little as possible on every claim to increase their profit margin. They work for the other side, not you. Second, anything you say can be used against you should your case proceed. Insurance adjusters or private investigators may be sent to take a written or recorded statement. You will be asked to provide authorizations so that the insurance company can obtain information about you. They may ask for information to which they are not entitled. The insurance company might make promises to you that it intends to settle your claim if you provide all of the information it requests. After you have provided the information, the insurance company may tell you that it does not wish to make you an offer of settlement or may make an unreasonably low offer. An experienced attorney knows what information to provide, when a statement should be given and under what circumstances.

Preparation often needs to be done to put your case in a position to receive a reasonable settlement offer. The attorney may need to gather physical evidence, witness statements and even expert reports to put your case in the best position to settle. When you are not represented by an attorney, you do not have the leverage that a lawsuit will be the response to an unreasonable settlement offer. Insurance companies keep records about attorneys. They know which attorneys are serious about pursuing their claims. Any settlement offer that you receive may very well reflect your lawyer’s experience and reputation. You have absolutely no experience.

The insurance company wants you to represent yourself, which is why they often make the suggestion. The insurance company knows that if you represent yourself, you may make mistakes. You may settle your claim too early, only to find out that you have additional injuries and may have significant additional medical costs which were not considered when you accepted your settlement. You may miss a filing deadline and be barred from bringing a claim at all. You may not realize there are liens against your settlement that you are responsible to pay. Just as an experienced accountant may pay for himself by getting you a bigger refund on your tax return, an experienced personal injury attorney is a valuable resource that is essential to the fair and proper handling of your claim. At Lacy Katzen LLP, our personal injury attorneys have been helping injured people and their families for over 70 years.
What should I do if the accident was my fault?+
Do not make any admissions at the scene. Do inquire if anyone is injured and call for help as needed.
Report the accident as soon as possible to your insurance carrier. A failure to notify your insurance carrier may result in your insurance carrier disclaiming coverage for the accident. Ask your insurance company if you are required to file a report with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles known as a DMV-104. Failure to file the report may result in suspension of your license.
If you receive a traffic ticket, talk to an attorney before pleading to any charge. A gulity plea can be used as an admission of negligence if a claim is brought against you for personal injuries.A guilty plea, even to a minor infraction can be used as an admission of negligence if a claim is brought against you. Our litigation attorneys can assist you with any traffic tickets or Department of Motor Vehicles hearings that might arise after the accident.
What happens if an uninsured driver injures me?+
Your insurance policy should provide something called “Uninsured (UM) or Underinsured (UIM) Motorist Coverage.” This coverage is very important since many people on the road are either uninsured or carry the minimum insurance policy limits allowable by law. Their insurance benefits may not be sufficient to compensate you for serious injuries. Be certain to purchase the same limit for your UM or UIM coverage as you do for your liability coverage. If you are seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, you can make a claim under your own insurance policy to cover the injuries caused by another driver who is underinsured.
Are motorcycle accidents the same as other motor vehicle accidents?+
No. The rules that apply to motorcycle cases are very different from those that apply to car accidents. Motorcycles do not have the benefit of no-fault insurance benefits. They also do not have the same restrictions in bringing a claim and do not need to meet the same "serious injury" threshold. Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable on the road. Many drivers do not act prudently around motorcyclists and follow or pass too closely. Some drivers find motorcycles difficult to see and pull out or turn in front of them, leaving the motorcyclist no time to react. Serious injuries to motorcyclists who are involved in even minor accidents are common. If you are in a motorcycle accident it is important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible. Prompt investigation of the scene can be particularly important since a seriously injured motorcyclist may have no recollection of the event. Our litigation attorneys can assist you with a prompt investigation to preserve evidence that may be critical in pursuing a claim.
Who pays my medical bills if I am injured in a motorcycle accident?+
Unfortunately, there are no personal injury protection or no-fault insurance benefits for motorcyclists. Although some motorcycle policies include medical benefits, the coverage is frequently insufficient to pay your medical bills. Often you may be limited to the benefits available under your personal health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare to immediately pay your medical bills.Only a personal disability insurance policy or disability insurance through your employer may be available to pay for your lost wages. In the case of a motorcycle accident resulting in serious personal injuries, a claim against the at-fault driver may be your only source of recovery for unpaid medical bills, lost wages and other damages.
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