If you have been injured in an automobile accident in New York, you may be entitled to money damages from the person, persons or business that injured you. In order to be able to recover damages as a result of a motor vehicle accident, you will need to be able to prove a number of elements of your claim, from the negligence of the party at fault to the loss you have suffered.
One of the items you will need to be able to prove is that you have a "Severe Injury" as defined by New York Insurance law as:
"A personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person's usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment."
If you have been in an automobile accident, what should you do?
If you are injured in an accident, the first thing you should do, immediately, is call 911 or some other emergency first responder. If you or a passenger are unable to call 911, ask anyone at the scene of the accident to do so. Under any circumstances, you should contact law enforcement.
If you're able to take action without injury yourself or risking your safety, take note of where you are. This means take note of any surrounding structures or landmarks. Are there any nearby businesses? and what are their names? If you or a passenger are able to, take as many pictures or videos of the area of the accident as possible. If you are able to, make sure to take a picture of video of any affected area(s) of your body. For example, if you have a broken tooth, take a picture of the tooth. Any cuts, bruises, fractures, broken bones, compound fractures, or other injuries, if visible, should be recorded if it is possible to do so safely.
If you are injured, seek medical care immediately. Often, injuries do not manifest themselves until well after the accident. The impact of the accident can cause a rush of adrenaline which can dull pain. Accident victims often do not realize they are injured until the following day, and sometimes not until several days later. If this happens, and you did not go to the hospital immediately, in an ambulance if available, insurance companies and the person(s) at fault might try and use this against you.
If you're able to, at the scene of the accident, take pictures and videos of every angle of the accident scene. Make sure to capture the positions the vehicles involved in the accident, license plates, vehicle make and models, any surrounding structures, the areas approaching the accident that each vehicle traveled, nearby vehicles and structures, the full road or interaction where the incident happened, license plates, any and all signage, other traffic control devices, and any other images which you feel will be informative to how the accident occurred. Notify your insurance carrier about the accident as soon as you are able, given any physical injuries that you may have sustained.
Tell every medical provider that you see that you have been in a motor vehicle accident, including any hospitals, emergency rooms, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, surgeons, neurologists, orthopedists, dentists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, therapists, counselors, radiologists, primary care doctor, and any other doctor, medical professional or para professionals. You may also want to mention that the accident was the causative reason for your visit. Make sure the medical professional knows to bill the no fault insurance provider for any and all appointments, tests, diagnostics, treatments, and any other treatment or visit they conduct. If a medical or treatment professional asks if you have a pre-existing condition, but that pre-existing condition did not cause you any pain, concern or discomfort prior to the accident, make sure to tell the professional of this dynamic.
Healing from a motor vehicle accident can take much longer than you expect. There may be spinal injuries such as a compressed, bulged or herniated disk. You may have symptoms such as radiculopathy, nerve damage, a broken bone or damaged organ, scarring, mental or emotional symptoms, PTSD, trouble sleeping, anxiety, pain (general, acute, local and/or widespread), nightmares, and any other number of symptoms which can take a significant amount of time to diagnose and treat. You may need to take several different, and at times repeated, diagnostic tests such as an MRI, a CT scan, x-rays, electromyography, nerve conduction studies, or other diagnostic tools to help identify and locate the source of any symptoms you may have. At times you may need to resolve one symptom in order to diagnose another. You may also need surgeries which themselves have a lengthy recovery period. You may need to have hardware placed in your body to help your bones, muscles and other tissues heal.
Make sure you are honest with your doctor with how much pain you are feeling, the effectiveness of any treatments or medications, and any times between visits where you have worse symptoms then the day of your appointment. You have to be your own best advocate in obtaining effective treatment for your injuries. If your doctor's prescribed course of treatment, prognosis or diagnosis does not seem to have the desired results, you can seek out a second opinion. Keep track of all of your appointments, any tasks or activities that you are unable to do, time missed for work, and any other detrimental changes to your life resulting from the injuries caused by the accident. You should also make sure to keep all correspondence and records from any insurance carrier, law enforcement, and medical providers. Keep names, contact information, and other information in a file.
It is best to hire an attorney early following an accident. You may receive calls from insurance companies, the other parties to the accident, and maybe even lawyers that represent persons adverse to your interests. Often these callers will be trained professionals who may be recording, either in writing or by audio recording, your statements, and may seek to use them against you later in a manner unintended and unforeseen by you. There may be time limitations in which you must notify insurance companies or potential defendants of the possibility that you may file a claim. Hiring an attorney quickly can help to ensure that you preserve any claims which you may have, and can help to minimize the effect of any persons seeking to use your own words against you to shift blame or inaccurately minimize the extent of your injuries.
Typically, hiring an attorney early will have no effect on legal fees or costs associated with your claim. The primary effect will be that you have an advocate who can help you preserve and marshal evidence, which may serve to shorten litigation time and get you the results you deserve more swiftly.
If you've been in a motor vehicle accident, call our office today for a free initial consult. We understand the difficulties that your circumstances pose, and we will work aggressively and tenaciously to achieve the results you deserve. We are waiting for your call.