1. I was in an auto accident in Watertown. What are the first steps I should take?
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you should take the following steps:
- Notify law enforcement right away. The accident report could be very useful later on in determining fault and making an accident claim.
- Get medical help as soon as possible if anyone is injured. You should always get checked out even if you seem OK, since some internal injuries don’t show up immediately.
- Don’t answer any questions or make any statements about the accident to anyone, other than giving a basic report to law enforcement.
- Never admit you were at fault or liable for the accident.
- Get contact information, including addresses, names, telephone, and license plate numbers, from all parties involved in an accident. Get insurance information as well. The other parties are required by law to share this info.
- Write down the names and contact details, including telephone numbers, of all witnesses to the accident
- Take photographs of all of the cars and people involved (many cell phones have a camera feature you can use in case you do not have a regular camera available).
2. Who is responsible for paying for property damage or for injuries after a car accident?
The answer to this question is determined by who was at fault or responsible for the accident. If you caused the accident, then your insurance company will pay the costs for the other driver for personal injuries and property damage. Your insurer will pay up to policy limits. If the other driver was responsible for the accident, his/her liability insurance will cover the cost of your personal injuries and any damage to your vehicle.
However, New York is a no-fault insurance state. This means that, no matter who was at fault, your medical costs, lost wages and other expenses are going to be paid by your own auto insurer. You have a very short period of time in which to file your claim under recent changes to New York’s no-fault law. If you miss the deadline and don’t file in a timely manner, your claim may be denied.
3. What additional expenses will my no-fault insurance cover after an accident?
Your no-fault insurance coverage will reimburse you for the cost of household help for up to one year after your auto accident. You will also be compensated for travel to medical appointments related to the accident for up to a year. Certain additional expenses tied directly to the accident and accident injuries can be covered as well.
4. My insurer is refusing to pay my no-fault damages, including lost income/ wages, medical costs and other accident expenses. What should I do?
If your insurer is not paying as promised, you and any other injured parties in your vehicle have the right to have a mediator or arbitrator assist in resolving the dispute with your insurer. An attorney may also be able to help you to work things out without mediation or arbitration by negotiating with your insurance company on your behalf.
5. I hit a pothole with my vehicle and suffered an injury. Who should be responsible for the costs?
The entity/parties responsible for maintaining the roadway may be at fault. In some cases, a private construction company who performed work on the road may be held legally responsible. In other cases, the state, town or county that was vested with responsibility for that roadway will be the responsible party.
6. Should I take a settlement from an insurance company if it seems fair or generous?
When you agree to settle a case, you sign a release of liability so you are no longer able to take any legal action against the driver who was responsible for your accident (or against his or her insurance company). If the responsible driver does not own the vehicle then the owner of the vehicle and his or her insurance company are also responsible for paying your claim. Insurance companies often attempt to settle cases and get you to release liability for a small amount of money that is equal to much less than your case might actually be worth. Typically, insurance companies will try to do this quickly after an accident, before you’ve had a chance to get a lawyer and even before you fully understand the extent of your injuries. They do this in order to try to pay the minimum possible to resolve your claim, and while the settlement may seem fair or generous, in fact it may be a very lowball offer.
To ensure that you actually are treated fairly, you should always speak with an attorney before you settle. Let the insurance company know that you’ll get back to them shortly about the settlement and then contact the Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, for assistance right away.
7. When making an auto accident claim to recover injury compensation, what are the key issues I’ll face?
Typically, car accidents occur as a result of someone’s failure to follow a safety rule (such as failing to follow a speed limit) or as a result of a driver’s being careless or negligent and not operating the vehicle with the level of care that an average reasonable person would have. In some situations, a person who causes the accident is not negligent but is downright reckless, or even causes an accident intentionally. You’ll typically have to show exactly which of these scenarios was the case in order to receive compensation for your accident. You’ll also have a few other things you need to prove as well, including the extent of your injuries and damages.
Typically, the issues that come up in auto accident cases or when you are trying to prove your claim include:
- Fault: Who was actually at fault or responsible for causing the accident? What was the extent of their responsibility — Were they 100 percent at fault, or did your driving or other factors contribute as well?
- Damages: What was the extent of the injuries or losses that occurred as a direct result of the accident?
- Insurance coverage: How much is the insurance policy for? This is the maximum amount that the insurance company is going to pay. Sometimes, however, there may be more than one insurer who is on the hook for damages. For example, you may be able to make a claim through the other party’s insurer and through your own policy. Failing to identify all insurance coverage can cost you.
The Watertown attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, can help you handle all of these issues, assisting you in gathering necessary proof and helping you to locate all possible insurance companies who could be made to pay your claim.
8. How do I pay for my medical costs related to the accident?
When you begin to receive treatment for your accident injuries, you’ll usually also start getting bills. You may be receiving bills in your name from doctors, physical therapists, hospitals and other providers of healthcare. If you are taking medications, you’ll likely also have prescription costs. You won’t have to pay these bills out of pocket — an insurance company should cover them.
Because New York has no-fault laws, the cost of these medical bills does not necessarily fall to the person responsible for causing the accident. Instead, any medical bills that you incur due to your accident injuries should be paid for by the insurer of the vehicle that you were in at the time of the accident. For pedestrians, the bills will typically be paid by the company insuring the car that hit the pedestrian.
In many cases, the insurance company responsible for paying the bills will try to get away with paying less than the full amount owed. Typically, however, under New York law, the healthcare provider that offered the treatment will be limited to charging the amount that no-fault insurance actually pays. This means you won’t have to pay any portion of the bills yourself.
9. How can I get reimbursed for time I missed from work?
If an accident injures you, it likely will cause you to miss work — at least temporarily. You don’t have to cope with the costs of time off on your own. If your doctor says you are unable to work New York’s no-fault law requires the insurance company of the car you were in during the accident to pay for lost wages. New York State disability benefits may also pay toward your missed time.
If your lost wages exceed the coverage by no-fault insurance and by New York State disability, the party who actually caused the accident may be held responsible for paying for the additional work missed.
There is a short window of time in which you are able to make a claim for lost wages. If you wait too long, your claim may not be approved and you may not be reimbursed.
It can be challenging to file appropriately in order to get reimbursed for lost wages if you are self-employed or if you were between jobs when your accident happened. The Watertown attorneys at the Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates have extensive experience with lost wages claims and will provide you with guidance and advice. Contact us today using our online form.
10. How long will it take to resolve my personal injury claim?
The answer to this question varies significantly on a case-by-case basis. In some situations, the entire case can be wrapped up in just a few weeks or just a few months. This is especially true if you have a dedicated and experienced attorney negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf. However, personal injury claims may sometimes take several years to be resolved if the case is complex. It is important that you not let the insurance company know if you are hoping for a quick settlement, and it is also important that you find an attorney who is going to go the distance with you and not rush into settling before it’s time. Once you settle, you can’t go back and recover more money, so your goal should always be to get a fair and just outcome rather than just a quick outcome.
11. My doctor said that my auto accident caused permanent injury. What does this mean?
Typically, the term “permanent injury” refers to an impairment or condition that will be with you for the rest of your life. In car accident lingo, the term “permanent injury” can also refer to an injury that is going to persist beyond the time at which your case is settled or resolved in court. If you suffer a serious permanent injury, you likely will be eligible to make a claim against the party responsible for causing the injury (usually, this means you actually make a claim against that person’s insurance company). The claim, if successful, will result in the insurer’s compensating you for pain and suffering that has already occurred and also that which is likely to occur in the future. Compensation may also be included to cover any future lost wages or to make up for a reduction in income as a result of the accident. Finally, you may be compensated for loss of enjoyment of life if your injury impairs you or prevents you from doing the things you did before the accident.
12. I rear-ended another car. Does this mean I am at fault?
In almost every case, a driver who rear ends someone is considered at fault or responsible for the accident. This is because the law mandates that you maintain a safe following distance so you can stop if the car in front of you does. However, there are certain exceptions to the general rule, and there may be situations where the car in the rear isn’t at fault. This can occur in situations where the lead car (the car in front) stops abruptly for no reason or in situations when the driver of the rear car is involved in a chain reaction.
13. I didn’t think I was hurt after the accident, but I began to experience pain afterwards. What should I do?
If you begin to experience any discomfort or pain after an accident, or if you suspect that you may have a possible injury, it is imperative that you contact a medical or healthcare provider immediately. Although you didn’t notice the injuries right away, you may still be entitled to compensation for them since they are accident-related.
This compensation might come from your own no-fault insurance or, in some cases, it might come from the party who was responsible for causing your accident.
It may be more challenging to prove that your injuries are accident-related if you didn’t get medical help right away, but it is not impossible. Your doctor may be able to help you to trace the source of your injuries back to the accident, and an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, can help you to get the legal proof you need to link the accident and injuries so you can be fairly compensated.
14. What if I shared some of the blame for causing the wreck?
If you were partially responsible for the accident, your no-fault insurance will still cover medical and certain other costs since this type of insurance is not affected by who is at fault.
You may also be able to obtain compensation for your pain and suffering from any other party who was partially responsible for the accident. In situations where more than one person is at fault, New York uses a rule called “comparative negligence.” Under this rule, if another person is partially responsible for causing an accident and injuring you, that person can be responsible for a portion of your damages equal to his percent of fault. For example, if you were 40 percent responsible for the accident and the other party 60 percent responsible, he or she would have to pay 60 percent of your damages.
15. What should I do if I have more questions?
Give us a call at (315) 782-3547 or 1-800-TALKLAW. You may also use our online form to contact an attorney at the Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP. We’ll discuss your Watertown car accident case with you and answer any questions you might have. The initial consultation is free.