Car accidents are expensive: emergency room visits, ambulance rides, x-rays, hospital stays, and ongoing treatments can all add up. And while it would be great if insurance companies could be relied on to cover victims’ medical bills and other expenses so they can get back on their feet, this is unfortunately not always the case. All too often, insurance companies refuse to pay the amounts victims need to make a full recovery.
While we certainly can’t blame accident victims for insurance companies’ actions, there are things victims should do (and avoid doing) when they want to maximize their settlement. If you find that you aren’t making progress with your insurer, an experienced New York car accident lawyer at Buttafuoco & Associates may be able to help.
Step 1: Stay at the Accident Site
Most of us know that after an accident on a New York roadway, the drivers of all involved vehicles should call the police and stay at the site until they arrive. In addition, they should exchange contact information, vehicle registration, and insurance information. Unfortunately, many people stop here when there is a lot more they could be doing to help their case.
For one, if you aren’t badly injured, take photos or video of the damaged vehicles from a variety of angles. In addition, approach all witnesses to the accident and get their contact information. Also look for electronic “witnesses” such as video, traffic, or security cameras, and find out how to access this video footage. All of this information will help your lawyer build a stronger case later, which can improve your compensation amount.
At the scene, there are several “don’ts” to adhere to as well. First, do NOT leave the scene until after you’ve talked with police. They will ask you questions that will help them write an accurate accident report, a key part of any settlement determination. In addition, as you talk to the other driver about the accident, NEVER admit to causing or contributing to the accident, as this could cause legal problems down the road.
Step 2: Be Diligent About Medical Treatment and Appointments
Even if you don’t feel severely injured after an accident, immediately seek medical treatment at a nearby emergency room. To get fair compensation, you must be able to prove your injuries, and if you wait even a day or two to visit a doctor, whether or not the crash caused those injuries could be called into question. This is especially important since car accidents often result in serious injuries that are not visible or immediately noticeable to you, but that a doctor is trained to diagnose.
If your injuries are serious, you may also have to visit specialists or attend follow-up visits. Go to all lab appointments, physical therapy, and other appointments after your accident to create consistent documentation of your injuries and recovery costs.
While it’s easy to skip these visits because they take up a lot of time, failing to attend them can negatively impact your accident claim. This is because the insurer can easily claim that if you did not find it necessary to attend these appointments, then you must not be severely injured.
Step 3: Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company–But Keep Quiet About the Details
Since New York is a no-fault accident state, you must report your accident to your own insurance company, and unless your injuries are determined “severe” by law, your insurer will be responsible for compensating you for your losses. When you talk with your insurer, describe your injuries, vehicle damage, and other losses in detail. While you should always be honest, don’t discuss who was at fault or how you are feeling, even if you are asked. Give the basic facts.
On a related note, don’t talk to your friends, family, or co-workers about your accident, as insurance investigators may try to speak to them in search of ways to devalue your claim. And do not under any circumstances post on social media about your accident: even a single photo of yourself out and about could indicate to insurers that you are not as severely injured as your medical bills suggest.
Step 4: Keep Excellent Records of Accident-Related Expenses
In order to get the most compensation possible after an accident, you will need to provide documentation of exactly how much you spent on medical bills and other expenses. Keep copies of all records of treatments and payments, including those for ambulances, emergency room services, visits to doctors, hospital stays, testing, medication, and physical therapy.
While medical bills are easy to remember to keep track of, there are other records you’ll want to keep as well. If you cannot work after your accident, keep track of any paid time off you used, work days you missed, and other expenses related to lost work time.
If your accident resulted in disabilities that require you to seek different work, or to install a wheelchair ramp or other accommodation in your home, keep track of these costs also. Even something as seemingly small as having to hire someone to do your daily chores for a few days after an accident should be part of your compensation, so keep track of this too.
Finally, pain and suffering is a life-changing part of many accidents, and thus is part of the compensation you are entitled to. Any emotional trauma or damage to your relationships can be included, but as you can imagine, this is hard to quantify. The best way to determine how much you can ask for for non-economic damages is to work with a New York car accident lawyer.
Step 5: Talk to An Attorney Before You Take a Settlement
Before you accept any settlement offer from your insurance company, always speak to a car accident lawyer in New York first. While accidents can create tremendous financial pressure, the best way to alleviate this burden is to avoid settling for a lowball offer right away, and instead talk with a lawyer.
The insurance company will often try to avoid paying you what you deserve, and if you accept it, you won’t be able to recover the lost compensation.
Sometimes you can negotiate with your insurer on your own, but you will almost always receive a higher settlement amount by working with a lawyer. A good personal injury lawyer can tell you how best to maximize your compensation and can often point out compensation you may not have thought about. They can also assist in the difficult negotiation process. Buttafuoco & Associates has been helping New York residents get the compensation they deserve after an accident for decades.
To learn more about ways to potentially maximize your car accident settlement, contact Buttafuoco & Associates at 1-800-NOW-HURT today.