If you have been involved in an auto accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident, you should call the police, even if it seems minor. Some insurance carriers require a police accident report. Write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident. Seek medical treatment immediately. People often do not go to the doctor, thinking they are not seriously injured. Delays in seeking treatment can jeopardize effective treatment. Notify your insurance company immediately and provide all information they request. If you do not report the accident, the insurance company may deny payment of your claim for property damage, medical bills or lost wages. 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, regardless of whether or not you were at fault in the accident. Do not speak to the other driver’s insurance company. They work for the other driver.
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. It is 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 timelines 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.
Maybe. In New York, persons injured in motor vehicle accidents are required to meet a certain level of injury before they are allowed to file a claim. Unless you meet the criteria for serious injury, you will not be able to file a claim for compensation. The legal definition of “serious injury” can be quite complicated. Lacy Katzen LLP’s litigation attorneys can help you determine whether you meet the serious injury threshold.
No. Lacy Katzen LLP’s litigation attorneys offer free consultations for individuals with motor vehicle accident claims.
Motor vehicle accident cases are handled on a contingency basis. This means that the attorney receiving a fee 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.
The only reason not to hire an attorney is to avoid paying an attorney’s fee on your settlement. Perhaps you think that you should negotiate directly with the insurance company. The insurance adjuster for the person who caused your injury may 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 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 to trial. 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 will settle your claim if you provide all of this information. 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 and when a statement should be given.
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 and which attorneys settle almost all their claims. Any settlement offer that you receive may very well reflect your lawyer’s experience and reputation. You have absolutely no experience.
Finally, 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. 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 proper handling of your claim. At Lacy Katzen LLP, our personal injury attorneys have been helping injured people and their families for over 60 years.
Do not make any admissions at the scene. 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. If you receive a traffic ticket, talk to an attorney before pleading to any charge. A plea of guilty can be used as an admission of negligence if a claim is brought against you for personal injuries. Our litigation attorneys can assist you with any traffic tickets or Department of Motor Vehicles hearings that might arise after the accident.
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 cover your serious injury. 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.