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Car Accident FAQs

motor vehicle accidents

The way you deal with a car accident from the start can have an impact on your ability to later recover compensation for your injuries and other losses. It’s important to get help from a qualified lawyer as soon as possible after a crash.

The Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, has assisted people involved in thousands of car accidents on Long Island and across New York City. Below are some of the frequently asked questions about car accidents and general answers to them.

We are ready to provide you with answers to your individual questions – at no cost to you. Each case is different. For further assistance, contact Cohen & Jaffe and speak to our Long Island car accident lawyers for a free review of your case.

Car Accident FAQs

I’ve been in a car accident and I think the other driver was at fault. What should I do?

One of the first things to do after a car accident is to report the accident to the police and then to your insurance company. Because New York is a no-fault insurance state, your insurance carrier is required pay you for your losses no matter who caused the accident.

In some cases you may also seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurer after a car accident, particularly if the accident resulted in permanent injuries, scarring and disfigurement, or the death of a loved one.

As you speak to insurers, it is important to protect yourself. Answer questions truthfully, but do not provide information that is not requested. Do not say anything that casts blame on you. Do not downplay the extent of your injuries.

An insurer may ask you to record or sign a statement, or may offer you a fast monetary settlement. You should not record or sign anything, or accept a check. You could be signing away your right to seek compensation that you deserve.

As you seek medical care for your injuries, and repair or replacement of your vehicle, save every record and receipt related to your car accident. These records may be used as evidence if you have a legal claim for compensation.

An experienced Long Island car accident lawyer can help you file such a legal claim. Even obtaining an appropriate settlement from your insurance company will be more likely if a car accident attorney represents you.

Here are some additional steps to take after a car accident.

How can a lawyer help me after a car accident on Long Island?

A car accident lawyer experienced with motor vehicle wrecks and personal injury in New York can help you identify and obtain all of the compensation you deserve for the injuries and other losses caused by your accident. This includes money that you may not realize you have lost.

After suffering serious injuries in a car accident, you will likely face expensive medical bills and have a car to repair or replace. If you are away from work to recover, you will lose income. You will likely find that the insurance company wants to pay you less than you deserve.

An experienced car accident attorney can determine and document all of your losses, and demonstrate to the insurance company the amount of money you deserve. This includes direct losses identifiable from bills, projections of future costs for ongoing medical needs, and lost income from a reduced capacity to work for a living in cases of partial or complete disability. A lawyer can also determine whether other parties may be liable for the accident, such as a bar that served an underage patron.

After a thorough investigation of your accident, we can file a personal injury lawsuit and negotiate with insurance companies for the settlement you deserve, or present a strong case on your behalf in court if that is necessary.

It seems like the insurance company is making a good offer, and I have bills now. Why shouldn’t I just take the settlement?

In most cases, an insurance claim for a serious car accident is worth much more that an insurance company will offer the accident victim. This is especially true of an initial offer from a car insurance company. A settlement offer made before all of your losses are realized will usually be too little.

Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. An insurance adjuster has an incentive to pay you as little as possible and to close a claim a quickly as he or she can.

After a serious injury, the full extent of an accident victim’s losses may not be known for several months. Hospitalization may include surgery, recuperation and therapy before it is understood how well a patient will recover. Once the patient’s expected recovery is understood, the prospects for returning to work can be assessed. Many accident victims must take lesser-paying work or can never return to working for a living.

In cases of serious car accident injuries, a proper insurance settlement should provide comprehensive coverage of past, current and future expenses and losses.

Our advice is to at least meet with an experienced car accident attorney before you agree to anything an insurance company offers after a car crash.

One of our attorneys at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe can review the circumstances of your accident and any offers you have received, and discuss the options available to you. This is a free meeting for free legal advice with no strings attached.

In the meantime, don’t sign anything from any insurance company. Once you sign the papers, you may be giving up your rights.

What if the other driver in my car crash left the scene of the accident or does not have insurance?

After a car accident that involves an uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM / UIM), you may be able to seek coverage through your own car insurance. Even when dealing with “your” insurance company, keep in mind that the insurer is first looking out for its own bottom line. You may find it difficult to obtain a settlement or one in the amount you deserve.

In New York, you are not required to buy UM / UIM coverage. If you have it, UM / UIM coverage pays the cost of injuries and vehicle damage if you are in a car accident caused by a driver who has no auto insurance or whose insurance limits are too low to cover your losses, or by a hit-and-run driver who is not identified. Most policies cover the driver, family members and anyone else in the car.

If your insurance company refuses to pay a legitimate claim, you may have the right to take legal action to enforce the terms of your policy.

Instead of going it alone, contact a car accident lawyer from Cohen & Jaffe about a UM / UIM claim. We can negotiate with the insurer on your behalf to obtain a proper settlement or take them to court if that is what’s necessary to obtain justice for you.

The driver who hit my car was charged with drunk driving. Can I sue the bar where he was drinking before the accident?

Possibly. If the driver was under the legal drinking age of 21, New York law says anyone who sold the driver alcoholic beverages or helped them buy alcohol may be held liable for harm the driver causes that is linked to their drinking. This is also true for drivers who are of legal age but were visibly impaired when served alcohol.

Many states have this type of “dram shop” law.

A car accident attorney could investigate where the driver charged in the accident was prior to the accident for evidence of drinking. If we found that an underage driver or already impaired driver was given alcohol prior to a wreck, we would vigorously pursue anyone who provided alcohol to them.

Evidence to support a third-party claim under New York’s dram shop law might be gathered from witness testimony, debit or credit card receipts, cellphone records that show calls received at or placed from a bar, or texts or social media posts that incriminate a drinking driver.

If you think you have a legitimate dram shop law claim, a car accident attorney from Cohen & Jaffe could discuss your case with you for free and investigate a potential claim on your behalf.

What kind of compensation could I obtain through a lawsuit in my car accident case?

The compensation (damages) obtained in a personal injury lawsuit may include compensatory damages for economic and non-economic losses and, in some cases, punitive damages for the defendant’s egregious conduct.

Economic damages repay the accident victim for direct costs of the accident. They include money for:

  • Medical bills (past, current and future).
  • Property damage (to a vehicle, typically).
  • Lost wages.
  • Lost earning capacity and future lost income.

Non-economic damages may be awarded in the car accident victim has suffered a “serious injury” as defined in New York State Insurance Law § 5102. Non-economic damages may include money for:

  • Dismemberment.
  • Disfigurement.
  • Fracture.
  • Loss of a fetus.
  • Loss of the use of a body organ or body system.
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system.

Punitive damages may be awarded if the at-fault driver’s actions equate to gross negligence or reckless disregard for human life. Punitive damages are usually a multiple of the amount awarded as compensatory damages.

Will I have to go to court as part of a car accident lawsuit?

Not necessarily. Most car accident claims are settled out of court through negotiations and don’t require the plaintiff to appear in any formal setting.

It’s only when an insurance company refuses to provide a fair and reasonable settlement that a case must go to court. Even then, the plaintiff may not need to testify.

Whether you accept a settlement offer is your decision. We will advise you of any offer we receive and provide our assessment of it. If you accept a settlement that meets your financial needs, you can put this episode behind you and get on with your life.

If you must go to court and testify, we will make sure you are prepared. We cannot tell you what to say in court, but we can help you go over your story and advise you about information you should share and questions you are likely to be asked by opposing attorneys.

The car accident attorneys of the Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe work to negotiate fair settlements for our clients so that they can obtain the maximum compensation they need as quickly and with as little burden on them as possible. When an insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, we take all measures to prepare our clients to win in court, and stand up for them each step of the way.

How can I afford a lawyer to handle my car accident lawsuit?

You can afford a Cohen & Jaffe lawyer because you pay no money up front for our services. You don’t pay us until we obtain money for you.

Our legal services are provided on a contingency-fee basis, which means our fees depend on our – and your – success. Then our legal fee will be a set percentage of the settlement or court award you have won. We will also seek reimbursement for the expenses we will pay up front to develop and process your claim.

This ensures that you risk nothing by retaining us to represent you. It also ensures that we only accept cases that we expect to be successful. Since our fee is determined by how much money we recover, it gives us an incentive to identify all compensation available to you and work to the best of our ability to recover it.

All of our work for you begins with a legal consultation about your case that we provide at no charge whatsoever and with no obligation for you to retain us for any further work.

We’re ready to get started as soon as you are. Call us now or fill out our online contact form for a free claim review.

My car accident was some time ago, but I have only recently come to the point that I cannot pay my medical bills. Is it too late for you to help me?

There are deadlines for filing personal injury lawsuits in New York. It is always best to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a serious accident, but it may not be too late.

New York law includes a statute of limitations on personal injury lawsuits, which means there is a time limit within which you may sue a person or company. There are different statutes of limitations for various types of lawsuits.

In most car accident cases, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the defendant is a government body, notice of a claim must be given within 90 days.

The statute of limitations is only one reason it is wise to contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as you can after a cart crash in New York.

Personal injury lawsuits are complicated and can take a long time to develop. They require investigations that include examining vehicle damage and medical records, interviewing witnesses and, in many cases, consulting with medical experts and accident reconstruction specialists about technical issues. We may need to get court orders to obtain certain evidence needed to prove a claim, like a driver’s cellphone records, debit / credit card receipts, or job or school attendance records.

It is best to start as soon as possible if you think you have a car accident claim. Please contact us today.