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Car Accidents -- What Happens Next?

8 Things You Need To Know Now

You had a car accident.  Your car is wrecked.  And you are hurt.  You cannot possibly go back to work.  What happens now?  Who pays for your medical bills? Who pays for you car? Who is responsible for your pain and suffering?  Below is a short list of answers to these typical questions.  

1.  The Accident.  

So, you had an accident.  You are sitting in your car, in pain, and totally confused as to what happens next.  First, and most importantly, make sure you are safe.  Pull to the side of the road.  Check to see if your passengers are ok.  Also, check to see if the other driver is ok.  If there is any damage to your car, call the police.  If you are or anyone else is hurt, call the police.  The police will investigate the accident and issue a report.  The report will contain critical information such as the location of the accident, how the accident happened, who is at fault, the name of the other driver, and the name and indentity of that driver's insurance company.

2.  Emergency Room.

If you are hurt, you must go to the emergency room.  You need to ensure that your injuries are not life threatening.  Also, if your injuries are limited to your neck, back, knees and shoulders, the doctors at the emergency room will be able to indentify your injuries, take x-rays and refer you to the appropriate medical providers.  In addition, seeing doctors right away will help document and thus confirm your injuries to the insurance companies.

3.  Who Pays the the Medical bills?

In New York, your car insurance carrier must pay your medical bills.  That's right -- your own carrier pays your medical bills.  It does not matter if you are at fault or sombody else is at fault.  Thus, the insurance is called no fault.  It will pay up to $50,000 worth of coverage.  Sometimes more.  You do not need pre-approval to get treatment. You can see any doctor you want, so long as that doctor takes no fault insurance.  This coverage will pay for emergency room visits, xrays, MRI's, physical therapy, visiting nurse services, doctor appointments, accupuncture and chiropractic care.  Essentially, no fault insurance will pay for any medical treatment you receive.   

4. Who Pays for the Car Damage?

The person responsible for causing the accident must pay for the damage to your car.  This means that their car insurance will pay to repair your car.  After the accident, you need to contact the other driver's car insurance carrier and tell them about the accident and that your car was damaged.  You can get this info from the police report.  The car insurance carrier will inspect your car and estimate how much it will cost to fix the damage.  If you agree with that number, they will send you a check.  If you dispute the number, you will have to sue the other driver in court and prove what the real value of the cost to fix the car is.  Some people have what's called collision coverage.  This means your own insurance carrier will fix your car and then your car insurance carrier will go after the other driver to recoup any money it paid to fix your car.  

5. What if You Cannot Work?

If you are so badly hurt that you cannot work, you must see a doctor who will write you a letter saying that you are medically unable to work.  You take that letter and send it to your no fault insurance carrier and tell the carrier that you cannot work.  The carrier will then begin paying you for any time you miss from work.  

6. What Paperwork Must You fill out?

Once you have the car accident and you are injured, you need to complete a no fault application.  Its a 2 or 3 page document that you send to your car insurance carrier.  It provides information about the car accident and your injuries.  You must fill this out within 30 days after the accident.  This application is necessary to getting your medical treatment paid for.  If you do not complete this form within 30 days, you will not trigger your coverage and your bills will not be paid for.   

7. The Insurance Carrier's Investigation.

After the accident and the initial treatment, the insurance carrier for the other driver will probably try and contact you.  The carrier hires specialized investigators who are starting to put together information to defend against your claim.  They will record any conversations they have with you.  Should you chose to speak with these investigators, make sure you are clear about the accident and how it happened.  They will want to know about speeds, timing and distance.  They will also ask about your injuries.  Again, be clear and accurate.  This is not the time to downplay your pain.  Trust me, they will hold this interveiw over your head for the duration of your claim.  If you tell them initially that you are not hurt, they will use that statement to deny your claim.  They may also try to settle your claim very a nominal amount, knowing that the severity of many car accident injuries do not become apparent until weeks or even months after the accident.  

8. Who Will Pay for Your Pain and Your Suffering?

After the initial few weeks following a car accident, some people do not recover 100%.  Sometimes, the car accidents cause injuries to a person's neck, back or some other body part.  Instead of getting better, these people begin to feel worse weeks after the accident.  Doctor appointments become a way of life.  Missing work goes from just a few days to more than a month.  Sometimes, surgery is required.  Other times, these poor persons undergo months of rehab.  It is under these conditions that a person can bring a claim for pain and suffering against the other driver.  The theory is that the other driver should be held accountable for causing you to suffer pain and basically impacting your right to enjoy your life.  The value of the claim should be equal (no more and no less) to the actual pain and suffering endured.  You have three years to bring this claim in New York.


 Having a car accident is a real game changer.  The impact it will have on your life will be significant and will affect your life in more ways than you will initially anticipate.  Losing your car because it was wrecked is annoying enough.  Getting to work, going to the store or picking up your kids from school becomes a major logistical nightmare.   And, when you are injured, this impact to your life rises to a new level.  Making time to see doctors is draining.  Being unable to perform activities of daily living becomes depressing.  And being unable to work is completely stressful.  

If you have had an accident and you need answers to any questions you have, do not hestitate to contact us at anytime.  You can call or email ([email protected]).  We are here to help.  And, with offices located in Brooklyn, White Plains and Nyack, we are never too far away to make a personal visit.  

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