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Filing an Insurance Claim After an Albany Car Accident

a wrecked car after a serious car accident

If you have been involved in a serious auto accident and have no idea what to expect next, you are not alone. Many people are unfamiliar with what is involved with filing auto insurance claims and seeking compensation after a crash.

The car accident lawyers of Powers & Santola, LLP, present the following summary to help you get a better understanding of the process. However, this is not meant to be a substitute for speaking with a lawyer and seeking specific guidance for your case.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a serious car accident in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, or elsewhere in New York State, we encourage you to contact an experienced car accident claim attorney as soon as possible. Our legal team can speak with you today. Simply call or contact us online. We will provide a free case review.

File Written Notice with Your No-Fault Insurer About Your Serious Car Accident

New York is a No-Fault insurance state. This means you should be able to obtain “first-party benefits” promptly after your crash through your No-Fault insurance policy – regardless of who was at fault.

To receive these benefits, you must file written notice with your insurance company within 30 days of your car accident. If you fail to meet this deadline, you may lose your eligibility to receive these benefits.

Obtain First-Party Benefits

No-Fault insurance will cover your “basic economic loss” arising from the bodily injury you have suffered in a car crash – up to $50,000 per person. These first-party benefits include:

  • Necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • 80 percent of your lost work earnings (capped at $2,000 per month and payable for up to three years)
  • Up to $25 per day for as long as one year for other reasonable and necessary expenses
  • $2,000 death benefit (in addition to the $50,000 basic no-fault limit) to the estate of a person killed in a motor vehicle accident.

You may have additional No-Fault insurance coverage above the $50,000 limit. It will be important to carefully review your car insurance policy.

Hand filling in insurance claim form.If you need to file a medical expenses claim with your insurer, you must do so within 45 days after medical services are provided. Your claim for lost work earnings must be submitted within 90 days of your accident.

If your claim is properly submitted, your No-Fault insurer should pay the claim within 30 days.

Note that first-party benefits do not include coverage of auto vehicle repair or replacement. You will need to file a separate claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to recover these damages.

Also, first-party benefits do not cover non-economic losses, or pain and suffering. Below, we discuss how you may be eligible to seek a recovery for those damages.

Meet with a Car Accident Lawyer in Albany

If you have not met with a car accident attorney at this point, you should do so right away.

First, a lawyer can work with your medical providers, employers and you to make sure all of your No-Fault car insurance claims are properly and timely submitted. If a dispute arises with your insurer, your case may need to go to arbitration or to court. Your lawyer will protect your rights throughout that process.

Second, a lawyer can review your case and determine whether you are eligible to go beyond No-Fault insurance for a recovery of the damages you have suffered. You may be able to file a claim against the other driver involved in your crash for:

  • Economic losses – If your medical expenses, lost earnings and other expenses have gone beyond the $50,000 basic economic loss limit
  • Non-economic losses – If you or a loved one has suffered a “serious injury.”

Whether an injury meets the “serious injury threshold” under New York law can be a hotly contested matter. Your attorney can review your case and help you to determine whether the injuries in your case would likely qualify for a recovery.

Let an Albany Car Accident Law Firm Investigate Your Case

Once you enter into an agreement with a car accident attorney, they should begin a thorough investigation of your case. This investigation will generally cover three aspects of your case:

  • Accident – Your attorney will examine how your accident occurred, including reviewing the police accident report, crash scene evidence and witness statements. The attorney may also consult with experts who can reconstruct the accident and help to determine who was at fault.
  • Injuries – Your lawyer will review your medical records and consult with your doctors and medical experts to determine the extent of your injuries and your past and future medical needs. Additionally, your lawyer will review your work records to determine your past and future lost income.
  • Insurance coverage – The attorney also will confirm all insurance policies that apply to your case, including your coverage and the coverage of all other parties. The goal will be to ensure you receive a maximum recovery for your losses.

In the process of investigating your case, your lawyer will need to determine any health insurance, workers’ compensation or other liens that may attach to your recovery if you pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim.

Make a Settlement Demand

After finishing the investigation of your case and consulting with experts, your car accident lawyer will consult with you about the amount that may be demanded in a legal claim against another party (or parties).

The lawyer will prepare a demand letter for the insurance companies involved in your case, which sets out the medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages you are seeking to recover.

Negotiate with the Insurance Company

Upon receiving a demand letter, an insurance company will have 30 days to make a settlement offer. This may be followed by negotiations between your attorney and the insurance company. Ultimately, the decision to accept or reject the insurer’s offer is your decision. Your lawyer should make sure you have all of the information you need to make the best decision for you and your family. Once you decide, your case will go in one of two directions.

Finalize Your Settlement or Go to Court

If you accept the insurance company’s settlement offer, your claim involving that insurance company should be quickly resolved. Your attorney will negotiate with those who hold liens on your recovery to ensure you recover the maximum amount. You will sign a release. The insurance company will then process your claim and issue a check that will be deposited in a trust account. Your attorney will then properly disburse the funds and issue a check to you.

Two collided cars & a gavel representing car accident lawyer concept.If you reject the settlement offer, your attorney will file a lawsuit (if one has not yet been filed) and take your case to trial. Several motions may be filed and heard before trial. The parties also will exchange information during a process called “discovery.” The case may also go through a mediated settlement conference, during which a neutral third party will try to facilitate an agreement.

The actual trial will be “bifurcated,” or divided in two parts. The first part of the trial is to determine a party’s legal responsibility, or liability. If liability is established, the second phase will determine the amount of damages.

Settlement negotiations may actually continue through trial or even occur after the trial. If a judgment is entered in your favor, your attorney may need to take additional action to collect the judgment. After a jury returns a verdict, the case may be appealed by you or the other party.

Additional Do’s and Dont’s After You Have Been In a Car Accident

Do Make Sure You Are Safe

If you’ve never been in a car accident before, you may be shocked at how quickly an accident can happen. However, it is imperative that you ensure that you and your passengers are safe, and prevent against additional collisions with other cars on the road. If possible, move as far out of the flow of traffic as practicable. Do not attempt to move passengers or other victims who have hurt their head or neck. Instead, wait for medical professionals to arrive, and enlist the assistance of onlookers to control the flow of traffic.

Do Call the Police

Regardless of the severity of the accident, it is absolutely essential that you call the police as soon as you can (or ask someone else to do it for you). Many victims of car accidents believe that there’s no reason to get the police involved if the injuries to the occupants, or damages to the cars involved, are minor. However, by not calling the police, you are seriously jeopardizing your rights to obtain a just recovery.

You have a right to insist that the police file a report detailing the circumstances of the accident. This report will be essential in reconstructing the accident, in filing claims with your insurance company, or, if necessary, in filing or defending against a lawsuit. If you do not have a police report, the resolution of the possible lawsuit will rest largely on your word versus that of the other driver. Do not let this happen. Call the police, and insist that they file a report of the incident. Even if you are issued a citation at the scene of the accident, you may still be entitled to a full recovery for your injuries and damages to your car.

Do Call an Attorney

You should call your attorney as soon as you are safe after a car accident and you know that the police are on the way. At Powers & Santola, we have devoted our careers to advising victims just like you. The sooner an attorney like one our skilled professionals is involved, the better chance you will have to preserve your legal rights and to set yourself up for the most just recovery obtainable in the future.

Do See a Doctor

Even the most minor of accidents can result in life-altering injuries. Chronic back pain can start as a small ache. A concussion can manifest itself as a minor headache. As with calling the police, the more documented evidence you have about the nature of your injuries, the better for your ultimate legal recovery, and, of course, for your own health. Do not hesitate to see a doctor or go to the emergency room if you have even the slightest belief that you may have been injured in the car accident. Follow up with your doctor as needed if your symptoms are not resolved.

Do NOT Say You’re Sorry

Apologizing is a normal human reaction. You may be upset or notice that the other driver is equally upset. In situations like these, many people will apologize as a means to try to get the other person to feel better. Unfortunately, in many jurisdictions, apologizing can be interpreted as an admission of guilt. Saying “I’m sorry,” even if the facts of the accident strongly support that you are not at fault, could potentially be used against you in a later trial as a means of suggesting that you knew you were at fault for the accident. Resist this urge.

Do NOT Make Unnecessary Conclusions About the Accident

Many accident victims will tell their story, either to the police or others involved in an accident, in a manner that reinforces a conclusion, instead of in a way that describes the facts. For example, an accident victim might say “I ran the red light, and hit the other car,” or “I saw the other driver run a red light, and hit my car.”

A much better way to phrase what may have occurred is: “I saw I had a green light, and was driving through the intersection, when I noticed the other driver’s car in the intersection. I tried to avoid him, but I hit him.” The difference between these two statements is that, in the second statement, you are not making any sort of conclusion regarding whether you or the other driver violated any law or were at fault. You are simply stating what you observed. Whether you or anyone else has actually violated a traffic law (or may be at fault) is a legal conclusion that will be made by a judge or jury, with the assistance of the police, an accident re-constructor, an insurance adjuster, and your attorney. It serves no purpose — even if you firmly believe that you or the other driver violated the law or is at fault — for you to come to a legal conclusion without knowing all of the facts, circumstances, the relevant laws, and, most crucially, without talking to your attorney.

We have seen countless incidents of a driver confidently believing that he or she was at fault for an accident, only to later discover that the other driver involved in the collision was drunk, speeding, or otherwise significantly more at fault than our client. Let an attorney at Powers & Santola analyze the facts and laws, and reach a conclusion.

At Powers & Santola, we pride ourselves on our compassionate, timely, and experienced team of professionals to achieve the results you deserve. Do not hesitate to call us at any time to learn how we can help you after a car accident.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Albany

As you can see, a serious car accident case may go through many different stages. A lawyer’s skill, experience and guidance can be crucial at each one of these stages and make a significant difference in the amount you recover.

To learn more about how Powers & Santola, LLP, can put our decades of New York car accident experience to work for you, call or reach us online today. Our goal will be to ensure you are fully and fairly compensated for all of your losses.