Your actions after an Albany car accident can have a huge impact on the compensation you can recover.
Most people, thankfully, will experience car accidents relatively rarely in their lives: The average driver will file an insurance claim only once every 17.9 years or so. As a result, once the adrenaline from an accident starts flowing, you may not remember what to do next, or what steps you should take to protect yourself.
How should you protect yourself after a car accident in Albany? Follow these vital steps to protect yourself.
1. Report your accident to the Albany police department.
While you might have to deal with an accident an average of only once in 17.9 years, the Albany police department fields emergency calls every day. When they arrive at the scene of the accident, the Albany police can help guide you through those vital next steps.
First, they will ask about any passengers in both vehicles and determine whether anyone has an injury that requires immediate medical attention or evaluation. Sometimes, the police may arrive at the scene of the accident before an ambulance, even if you summoned both. First responders can provide vital first aid in the event of an immediate emergency injury, including severe bleeding.
In addition, the police will create a police report about the accident. It does not matter if you had an accident at the corner of Nottingham Way and Westover Boulevard, which regularly tops the list of most dangerous intersections in Albany, or if you had an accident on one of the less-traveled roads in the city. The police report will clearly establish where and when your accident took place, which can prove vital for your insurance claim.
It will also help establish which driver caused the accident and any factors the responding officer notes that may have contributed to the accident. The police report, with its information concerning the accident, may help serve as vital evidence as you later move forward with an Albany car accident claim.
When talking to the police, do not accept liability for the accident or brush off the actions of the liable driver. Instead, report what you observed as you observed it. Share any relevant details and answer questions honestly, but without providing potentially incriminating information. Keep in mind that after an accident, accepting partial liability does not serve as a “polite” way to alleviate the other driver’s guilt and can, in fact, lead to difficulties with your later claim.
2. Seek medical attention, even if you do not think you need it immediately after the accident.
After an Albany car accident, you may feel fine. You might feel a little shaky or like you need to take a minute to breathe, but you may not have any immediate problems that indicate a serious injury.
Later, on the other hand, you may discover differently. The adrenaline from the accident alone may cover up serious injuries, including broken bones or severe back and neck injuries. You might walk around with those injuries for several days or even weeks before having them diagnosed. In the meantime, you may significantly worsen those injuries, which can leave you with more serious impacts or lessen the odds that you will make a full recovery.
Instead of just assuming that you have no injuries, you should proceed to a local hospital to have your injuries fully evaluated. Albany Memorial or St. Peter’s Hospital will offer immediate emergency treatment for serious injuries. You could also choose to pursue treatment through an urgent care facility, including St. Peter’s Urgent Care or Willa Delliere.
Seeking immediate medical treatment can prove critical to a later Albany car accident claim. When you go in for treatment, a doctor will assess all possible injuries, including evaluating you for signs of traumatic brain injury and recommending X-rays to check for broken bones. The doctor will also check for any signs of pain that could indicate sprains, strains, or back and neck injuries. The diagnostic routine can uncover any potential injuries and ensure that you immediately receive the treatment you really need for those injuries.
Your emergency room or urgent care visit will also serve another critical purpose: it will serve to indicate exactly when your injuries took place. Often, the insurance company that covers the liable party will try to prove that your injuries occurred at another time, especially if you choose not to pursue immediate medical care.
The insurance company might, for example, try to claim that you could not possibly have walked away from the scene of the accident with a broken leg, or that your traumatic brain injury should have shown up as confusion and disorientation at the scene of the accident. A full exam from a medical professional will serve to establish that your injuries did take place as a result of that specific accident.
3. Get in touch with an experienced Albany car accident injury attorney.
If you suffer serious injuries in the accident, you should not wait to get in touch with an attorney. Many insurance companies will try a variety of tactics to reduce their overall liability after an accident.
They may make things difficult for you, insisting that they cannot pay for your injuries or the damage to your vehicle for quite some time after the initial accident.
They may try to claim that you, and not the other driver, caused the accident.
They may try to push you to accept a low compensation offer: one that does not reflect the full damages you deserve as a result of the damages you sustained in the accident.
By working with an experienced Albany attorney, however, you can reduce many of those potential complications and make it easier to get the compensation you deserve.
An attorney can take over communicating with the insurance company for you.
Just one conversation with the insurance company can leave you feeling as though you need to pull your hair out. You may grow frustrated because the company will not offer the compensation you deserve, or angry because the agent seems determined not to recognize his driver’s liability, despite a clear police report and even statement from the other driver.
Worse, you may fear that you will accidentally say something that could leave you bearing partial liability for the accident, or that decreases the compensation you can receive for your injuries.
An attorney can take over all of those communications on your behalf, freeing you up to focus on your recovery instead of on dealing with the insurance company. For many victims, this simple benefit alone makes it well worth contacting an attorney as soon as possible.
An attorney can help investigate the conditions that led to your accident.
You know that the other driver caused the accident. You may even have a police report showing that the other driver caused the accident. Perhaps the other driver even admits liability and accepts it in the immediate aftermath of the accident.
Unfortunately, the insurance company might try to say otherwise. The insurance company may try to insist that you caused or contributed to the accident, which might mean that you do not deserve compensation, or that you do not deserve full compensation for the accident. An attorney can help investigate the accident and even bring in expert witnesses who can recreate the scene of the accident and help establish exactly what factors led to it.
Furthermore, an attorney can help evaluate any additional parties that may share liability for your injuries. For example, you may have an accident with a commercial driver in a big truck. The commercial driver’s employer may, in many cases, share liability for an accident caused by that driver.
The company must take care of maintenance on the vehicle and maintain safe rules for its drivers. A violation of those conditions, from forcing a driver to drive for too many hours before taking a break to pushing the driver to break the law to make deliveries faster, could leave the company liable.
An attorney can uncover all those details and identify all parties who share liability, which may increase the compensation you can receive for your injuries.
An attorney can help you fully understand all the compensation you deserve.
New York requires its drivers to carry personal injury protection insurance, which helps protect all drivers injured in an accident. Personal injury protection insurance will help cover the immediate cost of medical expenses and even a portion of your lost wages after the accident, and you will need to turn to it before you can file a claim against a driver that injures you in an accident.
Do you know when you need to file an Albany car accident claim against a driver, including how to calculate whether the potential cost of treating your injuries will exceed the protection offered by your PIP insurance?
If you do have to file a claim, how much compensation do you deserve?
An attorney can go over all the details of your claim and the compensation you deserve for your injuries, from what your PIP insurance will actually cover and how to file for that vital coverage to what you should do if the amount it costs to treat your injuries exceeds the compensation offered by your PIP insurance.
By working with an auto accident attorney, you can ensure that you understand the full compensation you deserve, which may prevent you from mistakenly accepting a low compensation offer from the insurance company.
4. Get in touch with your insurance company.
Following the accident, you should get in touch with your insurance company to ask any questions you might have about the coverage you should receive for your injuries. You may need to contact both your PIP insurance provider, who will go over the terms of your immediate coverage after an accident, and your medical insurance provider, who can answer questions about the long-term medical insurance options you have for coverage.
You may want to ask questions about the specific coverage you have related to the medical care you need after your accident. For example, if you know you will need durable medical equipment like a wheelchair or even a hospital bed as you recover, you may want to ask your insurance agent what coverage you have for those specific elements of coverage.
You may also want to ask questions about in-network providers, what copays and deductibles you can expect, and how much coverage you will have for in-home care, physical and occupational therapy, or a stay in a long-term care facility, since you may have limited care in those specific areas.
5. Get in touch with your employer.
If you will need to miss time at work as a result of your accident, contact your employer as soon as possible. You should not wait to contact your employer, since failure to call and notify them about your inability to work could result in termination of your employment—and termination of your insurance coverage, which could provide immense challenges during your recovery. Let your employer know about the accident and what your doctor says about your prognosis.
Over time, you may also make arrangements with your employer that will allow you to go back to work on a part-time basis or complete your work responsibilities from home while you recover. However, you cannot know how willing your boss will prove to work with you until you start the conversation. Keep in mind that you can typically seek compensation for lost wages as part of your car accident injury claim.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.