When New Yorkers get into a traffic accident, one of the first things they think about is if the claim they file will give them enough to pay for damages. After the shock and trauma of the immediate impact have subsided, getting the estimate on car damages or the bills for extensive medical treatments can lead to another kind of panic. What if the settlement doesn’t cover everything?
Many factors go into assessing what your claim is worth, but one of the most important is what you do immediately after the accident. Regardless of who is at fault, it is important to:
- Call the police: People too often don’t want to wait for someone to arrive, especially if the accident seems minor. Without a police report, however, it will be difficult to go after the other party if they are at fault.
- Exchange insurance information: Even if the other driver doesn’t have insurance, this doesn’t mean you can’t recover compensation from a claim. Getting an image of their driver’s license and license plate means you can contact them later on and getting insurance information will allow you to make a third-party claim.
- Gather evidence at the scene: The more evidence you can gather right after the accident, the stronger your case will be later. It helps to take photos of the damage to either or both cars, the intersection or road where the collision occurred, skid marks and broken glass. Getting witness statements at the scene or at least getting contact information so that legal counsel can follow up can be critical to the success of a personal injury claim.
- Get medical attention: Even if it was a minor accident, the event could cause symptoms that won’t manifest for a few weeks. When an accident victim fails to get a checkup right after the accident, it will be next to impossible for the doctor to connect any aches or pains from whiplash, residual impact damage, or other bodily injuries to the accident.
How do they decide who was at fault?
Many factors will influence the final outcome of a case and the award for damages. Finding out who was at fault can make all the difference in a negligence claim. The drivers themselves could seal their fate at the scene of the accident, especially if one admits fault at the time.
The police report will factor into establishing liability and becomes a key factor in a personal injury claim, especially if speed, cellphone use, or impaired driving were the cause. The police reports and collected evidence at the scene, including witness testimony, can determine the outcome of a case.
Many cases between insurance companies end up in arbitration proceedings and can be settled out of court. The same can be said for personal injury cases, as the extended time and expense of a court case can be prohibitive. But once a case proceeds, the outcome will depend on the plaintiff’s ability to establish the fault of the other party.
New York’s no-fault insurance law
Under New York’s no-fault system, if the other party was at fault, the accident victim can file a third-party claim for the full amount of damages to their vehicle. They will receive compensation for injuries to their person from their insurance, but in most cases, the injured party cannot pursue a claim for pain and suffering under no-fault insurance laws.
New York follows the theory of contributory negligence, in which the injured party can receive damages if the other driver was at fault, but the award may diminish by the percentage of responsibility the court determines that the plaintiff had in causing the accident.