What Should I Do If I Have a Car Accident
1. Make sure that the police are called to the scene. Even if you do not believe that you are injured or it is “clear” whose fault it is, it is always best to have the police come to the scene and prepare an accident report. Under New York and Pennsylvania law, the Police must be contacted whenever the crash results in personal injury or death and further, in Pennsylvania whenever a vehicle is so damaged that it must be towed. You will find it much easier to get any property damage claim resolved with the assistance of the police accident report and any statements by the other driver can be preserved in the report.
2. Do not admit that the accident was your fault. Even though you believe that you may have been at fault for the accident, in the shock of the moment, there may be details you have overlooked. Perhaps the other driver was drinking, or speeding or his brake lights were not working at the time of the crash. Any admission that you make will later be used against you.
3. Ask the officer for the other driver’s name and insurance company. By law the other driver must give this information to the investigating officer and it can save you time and trouble. Also ask the officer for his name and which police department he is with. Many officers will also give you a number to allow you to obtain the accident report which will be necessary when you present your claim to the insurance companies.
4. Immediately report the accident to your own insurance company even if the accident was not your fault. The failure to notify your own insurance company within a reasonable amount of time can result in a loss of your rights. Your insurance company can also assist you in finding out information about the other driver’s insurance.
5. Do not give any written or recorded statements to any insurance company. You do have a duty to report the accident to your own insurance company and explain what happened, but it is better to have your attorney review any documents before they are signed and also better to have an attorney present for any recorded statement to insure that the questions are fair and that the information is accurately transcribed.
6. Shortly after reporting the accident you should receive an application for first party benefits or no-fault application. This is often a long, legal sized yellow or pink form asking a great deal of information about the accident and any injuries that you suffered. This form must be returned to the insurance company within thirty days of the accident. None of your medical bills, incidental expenses or lost wages will be paid until you complete the application and your doctor and employer complete their portions. Again, it is best to have an attorney review this document prior to filling it out as it is critical that it is filled out correctly to enable you to get all of your benefits.
7. In New York complete the MV-104. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in New York, you will receive a letter from the Department of Transportation enclosing a form to be filled out. This form called an MV-104, must be completed and submitted to the Department of Transportation shortly after the accident or your driving privileges in New York can be suspended. An attorney can assist you in getting it completed and insuring that it is accurate.
8. Every time you see a medical care provider make sure that you inform them that this is a result of a motor vehicle accident and give them your claim number and insurance company name. If you fail to do so, then it is possible that your bills will not be submitted to the proper insurance company. This can cause a delay in getting the bills paid and create a real hassle down the road. When you report your accident to your insurance company they should give you a claim number for this use.
9. Do not sign a release of your claim. Once you sign a general release you are forever barred from recovering for any injuries you have suffered in an accident. Even if you later learn that your injuries are much more serious, you cannot recover any additional money if you have signed a general release. Even if the other driver’s insurance company is offering you the entire policy limits, it may be possible that there is additional insurance that you are entitled to. By signing a release you may lose all rights you have to recover under these other policies. At Black, Lyle & Habberfield we would be happy to review any release prior to your signature and at no charge.