Collision victims should hire an attorney after a car accident to manage their case and file all possible claims quickly after a car accident. Lawyers serving Long Island can meet with you in the hospital, at a rehabilitation facility, in your home, or over the phone to assess your options and help you decide what to do next. Contact an experienced auto accident injury attorney in Long Island as soon as your injuries allow to get started.
Filing a car accident insurance claim in New York can be challenging and frustrating on your own. Knowing when, where, and how to file to receive compensation after the crash is essential. Working with a car accident lawyer may be necessary to secure the money you need to pay your medical bills, cover lost income, and recover other damages. This is especially true if you suffered severe injuries in a crash in Nassau or Suffolk County. It is almost always in your best interest to hire an attorney after a car accident that results in injuries.
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Collision Evidence Often Disappears Quickly
You do not have to prove fault in all collision claims in New York. First, turn to your no-fault (personal injury protection, or PIP) insurance policy for coverage when you suffer minor or moderate injuries and only need compensation for basic expenses and losses.
However, some people will qualify to pursue additional damages based on the severity of their injuries. If they choose to do so, they must prove fault and document what happened to cause the crash.
While an attorney can help with a no-fault claim, they become especially helpful in developing fault-based cases.
They know how to investigate these accidents and gather evidence that shows:
- How negligence occurred
- Who is liable
- How the other driver’s action or inaction caused the collision
- The value of the victim’s case
Start Collecting Evidence as Soon as Possible
Getting an early start on the case is vital when proving fault is necessary. There may be a lot of evidence available to prove fault and liability, but some of it will disappear quickly.
Imagine a driver ran a red light at a busy intersection in Nassau County. A gas station on the corner captured the crash on its security camera, several other drivers witnessed the crash, and skid marks show that you tried to avoid the collision. But in less than two weeks, the only available evidence may be the report filed by police officers who responded to the scene.
Evidence does not last. Businesses regularly record over security video, witnesses do not leave contact information, and rain washes away evidence from the scene. However, with quick work from a lawyer, it might be possible to identify and interview witnesses, secure video footage, and gather other evidence to show what occurred and who is legally responsible.
An Auto Collision Attorney Can Help You Identify Available Coverage Options
New York law requires all drivers to carry PIP coverage, auto liability insurance, and uninsured motorist (UM) protection. Many other types of coverage are available for an additional cost, providing added protection in case of a crash.
Sorting out which policies apply to your collision can be confusing. Most personal injury law firms provide free consultations for victims. These meetings offer an opportunity to examine the available coverage and learn which ones could help you recover money damages after a crash.
For example, imagine you were in the intersection accident mentioned above. You suffered a sprained knee which required physical therapy and kept you out of work for a week.
Your insurance coverage options might include:
- Your PIP policy for medical expenses, some of your lost income, and mileage to your medical appointments
- Your collision coverage, an add-on option that pays for your car repairs regardless of fault
Coverage for More Serious Injuries and Losses
What if your injuries were more serious? Imagine you were knocked unconscious, suffered a concussion, and broke your leg in the crash. Your expenses would undoubtedly increase. You must pay for an ambulance ride, emergency department treatment, hospitalization, and possible surgery. You also might miss several weeks of income.
New York law deems a fracture a serious injury, which allows you to pursue pain and suffering damages in a fault-based insurance claim or lawsuit. If your expenses exceed your PIP coverage, you can also demand the at-fault driver’s insurer pay for anything left over.
Depending on the circumstances, you might need to file a claim based on your uninsured motorist coverage instead. This is necessary when the at-fault driver lacks state-mandated liability coverage, lacks a large enough policy, or flees the accident scene.
Collision Attorneys Can Navigate the Insurance Claims Process for You
Once you understand your rights and have a plan to pursue compensation based on your injuries, expenses, and losses, you do not have to handle this process alone. Your attorney can take the necessary steps and manage all the necessary claims.
Car crash lawyers know how to build a solid case and demand fair compensation from insurance companies based on:
- The estimated value of the client’s expenses and losses
- The insurance policy in question
- Knowledge of the law and experience with similar cases
Filing insurance claims is not as simple as completing a few forms and telling the insurer how much money you lost, especially with fault-based claims. Insurance companies try hard to reduce the potential value of a victim’s claim, using techniques and tactics that an attorney can help you avoid.
What to Expect During the Insurance Claims Process
When a lawyer prepares to file your auto liability claim, they will first investigate what happened and gather supporting evidence for the claim (including documentation of your damages). Next, they assign an estimated fair settlement range and create a strong demand based on the evidence.
The demand usually comes in letter form and typically includes:
- How much money they want from the insurer
- The general facts of the case
- Why their client qualifies for a fault-based claim
- Documentation of the requested damages
While the demand letter rarely solicits the payment requested in full, most insurers respond with a counteroffer. This begins negotiations and allows your lawyer to use proven techniques to pursue fair compensation for their client.
Many collision claims settle during this process. The attorney and the insurance company agree on a payout amount that suits both sides. The attorney writes an agreement, and the victim signs paperwork stating they will not pursue additional compensation in the case. Only then will the insurer pay the agreed amount.
There Are Strict Time Limits on Filing PIP Claims and Submitting Paperwork
New York law puts strict deadlines on when you must submit your paperwork to receive compensation.
These include submitting:
- Written notice of your claim – 30 days
- Medical bills – 45 days
- Lost income claims – 90 days
Meeting these deadlines is essential to getting the money you need to cover your basic expenses and losses through your PIP policy. If you miss the deadlines, your insurer could deny your claim and refuse to pay for your expenses.
Having an attorney on your side to manage your claim during the first 30 days after your injury is crucial. Your attorney can ensure that you meet all deadlines, even as you continue to receive treatment and recover. If you have severe injuries, you may still be in the hospital, inpatient rehabilitation, or undergoing therapy during those first 30 to 90 days after your collision.
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Are There Time Limits on Filing an Auto Liability or Uninsured Motorist Case?
You may file a fault-based claim when a crash victim suffers serious injuries or your bills exceed your PIP coverage. Any victim who sustains a serious injury in a crash may hold the at-fault driver legally responsible for their pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
A serious injury, as defined by New York law, includes:
- Significant disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of a fetus
- Lasting loss of use of an organ, limb, part, or function
- A Significant limitation
- Permanent limited use of an organ, limb, part, function, or system
- Any injury that causes significant limitations for at least 90 of the first 180 days after an accident
Your attorney can review your relevant medical records and other documents to determine if you are eligible to step outside the state’s no-fault system and hold the at-fault driver legally liable.
Again, Time Is of the Essence
While you typically have three years to bring a car accident claim, there may be scenarios where you have less time. You still want to act as quickly as possible. It can take months to settle a claim. Sometimes you may need to sue, and resolution could take a year or more. Meanwhile, you will continue receiving medical bills and other related expenses that you need the cash to pay.
Filing an Uninsured Motorist Claim
If the driver who caused your accident failed to buy the required insurance, you may need to file a claim with your own uninsured motorist coverage. This process requires your attorney to prove fault and document your recoverable damages.
You may need to do this if the driver who hit you:
- Had no auto liability insurance
- Had insurance coverage, but it was not enough to meet the minimum requirements
- Had insurance coverage, but their policy denied the claim
- Left the scene of the accident and the police did not identify them
Your attorney will also want to work on an uninsured motorist claim as soon as possible. Evidence that clearly documents what happened makes uninsured motorist cases much easier.
When Do I Need to Sue Another Driver After a Collision on Long Island?
Lawsuits are unnecessary for every traffic collision claim, even when the victim files a fault-based case. You can often settle with the insurance companies involved and avoid legal action.
When a crash victim does sue, the case usually does not go to trial. However, they should ensure they have representation from an experienced lawyer who can advocate for them before a judge and jury if necessary.
While each case is different, your lawyer may advise that you file a lawsuit if:
- The at-fault driver’s insurer denies the claim
- Their insurance company will not offer a fair settlement
- There are questions or disagreements about what happened in the case
- Your attorney advises it because of other factors unique to your crash
Your Deadline Could Vary
While New York law generally gives victims up to three years to sue in a collision, exceptions exist. You could have longer based on the facts of your case. However, you could also have less time. Your attorney can determine this during your free case review.
Three years may sound like plenty of time before you must worry about hiring an attorney and fighting for compensation. However, remember that evidence is not available forever. If you wait too long, proving your case against the at-fault driver may be difficult or impossible.
In addition, there are likely many steps your lawyer will take before advising you that a civil lawsuit is the next best step. This could include filing your PIP claim and aggressively negotiating with the at-fault driver’s insurer to reach a fair agreement. This process may take time, so get started early.
Let a Car Accident Lawyer Review Your Crash Case for Free Today
Still wondering when you should hire an attorney after a car accident? When in doubt, call. The earlier you contact an attorney about your collision and insurance claims, the better.
Your lawyer can assess your options, gather evidence, and build a strong case to support fault-based claims or a lawsuit when necessary. You do not have to handle your collision claims on your own. Hiring an advocate to represent you ensures that you have someone on your side who knows how the system works and can use it to your advantage.
Connect with a lawyer today at Rosenberg & Gluck. Our experienced injury law team will explain how they can help with your collision claims after a Long Island car accident.