If your are able and not too severely injured, you should get to the side of the road if possible and exchange driver’s licence and insurance information with the other driver(s) if any, and call the police to have a report prepared and you should obtain a copy of the police report ( this is usually obtained by request at a later date ) . An ambulance should be called if needed and even if an ambulance is not needed you should go to the hospital and have any injuries sustained and checked out even if they appear to be minor.,because many times a person does not feel he is seriously injured because he is in shock and/or because for some types of injuries ( especially head and back injuries ) the symptoms or the true extent of your injuries may not manifest or be known until a future time ( hours, days weeks, even months) later. This way there will e hospital records including X-Rays, MRI’s, etc. in the event that you may file a Law Suit for personal injuries. It is a good idea to always have a cell phone with you in case you get into an accident or need other help.
If you do decide to pursue a case to obtain compensation for your injuries not covered by “no fault ” insurance you should contact an attorney right away to see if you have a good case ( generally that your injuries are severe enough to meet the threshold definition of ” a serious injury “ under the Insurance Law ) or even if just want to obtain ” no fault” benefits as this can be complicated.
Another reason for contacting an Attorney is that there are usually Statutory Time Periods that you must comply with in order to be able to file the case. The Statute of Limitations ( a time period in which you must file the case or be forever prevented from filing it ) in New York for ‘Personal Injury ” is three (3) years from the date of the accident. Jurisdiction and Venue ( which State and which Courts ) you can file the case in is generally determined by where the accident occurred. However for ” no fault ” the time period is much shorter ( usually 30 days ). In addition if the case involves any governmental agencies or municipalities, then in addition to the Statute of Limitations time period there is a requirement of filing another document before you can file the lawsuit. This document is generally either ” A Notice of Claim “ or a” Notice of Intent to Sue ” ( generally if suing a state as opposed to a local government ) and usually must be filed within 90 days of the accident ( and in some instances within 30 days ).
Therefore it is very important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to see if you have a case. Many attorneys will provide the initial consultation at no charge and if you retain the attorney the custom and practice that most attorneys follow for Personal Injury Cases is that the Retainer Agreement is on a Contingency Fee Arrangement (this means the attorney only gets a fee if you win te case ) of 33.3% of the recovery whether by settlement or verdict after trial. Most Personal Injury cases are settled and do not go to trial. However, if your case does go to Trial and if you lose you can Appeal it usually by filing ” A Notice of Appeal ” within 30 days of the trial and then ” Perfecting the Appeal by filing the ” Record ” ( the trial Transcript and other documents in th case ) and a ” Brief ” ( a legal Memorandum of Law arguing your case). You should retain an Attorney if you need to Appeal your case.
In addition to doing the things mentioned above it is very important that when you are exchanging Driver’s License and Insurance information with other drivers that you Do NOT, Under any circumstances, admit any fault on your part either to the other driver or the police as this can be used as evidence in the case against you and may result in you losing your case and thus collecting nothing in compensation for your injuries.
A brief note about the compensation you can receive which is generally “Pain and Suffering “ for yourself, Loss of Consortium for your spouse (if your injuries interfere with companionship and emotional and physical relations with your spouse ), Loss of Income if you can not work, Special Damages( as opposed to general damages of pain and suffering and Loss of Consortium) which generally are damages for which you can document a specific amount such as, doctor and hospital bills not covered by insurance or no fault property damage to vehicle, rehabilitative therapy such as physical therapy, cognitive therapy, chiropractic, etc. For Pain and Suffering and for Economic Damages such as loss of income and loss of potential future income whether from employment or from a business if you are self employed, you or your attorney should obtain the services of an Economic Expert in addition to Medical Experts such as Doctors and any other experts needed. A more extensive discussion of the elements of damages of compensation possible to recover is way beyond the scope of this blog artice. There are many legal Publications written on the subject.
Watch for future articles on topics in both Civil and Criminal Law.