Knowing how to respond to a serious car accident in Syracuse can be confusing. You often have so many things to worry about, including getting the best possible medical care at Upstate Community Hospital or another medical facility in Syracuse.
But it’s important to realize that you need to act fast after your accident. Otherwise, the evidence you need to build a strong legal case might no longer exist. And without that evidence, you might have a hard time getting the money you rightfully deserve for medical bills, vehicle repairs, replacement income, and other accident-related expenses.
This is why you need to meet with an experienced Syracuse car accident lawyer right away. They know what steps you need to take after a serious accident in Onondaga County. Below, you can learn more about some of these steps. But the bottom line is the sooner you talk to an attorney, the better.
Call 911 and ask the police to respond to your accident
You need to call the police right away after your accident. If someone sustained a serious injury or was killed in your accident, you are required by law in New York State to contact the police.
Depending on where your accident happened in Syracuse, a police officer from the Syracuse Police Department (located at 511 South State Street in Syracuse) or a state trooper from the New York State Police (NYSP) Troop D barracks, Zone 2 office at 101 Constellation Way North in North Syracuse (located near I-81 and Syracuse Hancock International Airport) will likely respond to your crash.
By having a police officer or state trooper respond to your accident, you will also have an official record of your crash. This is because the investigating officer or trooper will create a New York Police Accident Report for your crash. Insurance companies pay close attention to these reports when deciding how much money to pay injury victims and when determining who was at fault.
Seek immediate medical attention
Even if you feel fine after your accident, have an EMT, an emergency room doctor or another medical professional examine you as soon as possible after your collision. Many accident-related injuries are not visible and can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Don’t take chances with your health. Seek immediate medical attention after your accident. If necessary, ask the police dispatcher to send an ambulance to your accident, especially if you or anyone else appears to have a serious injury.
Talk to witnesses who saw your accident
If someone saw your accident, their description of what happened can be a powerful piece of evidence in support of your accident claim. So if you see a passerby or anyone else who may have seen your accident, make sure you get their full name and the best phone number to reach them at. That way, investigators can interview eyewitnesses about your accident.
Take pictures of your accident
If you have a cellphone, take as many photos as possible of your accident. If possible, try to take these pictures before anyone moves their vehicles. That way, you can capture images of exactly what happened. However, only take photos if you can safely do so.
Along with taking pictures of the crash itself, try to get as many photos as possible of other important details. This can be anything from the weather at the time of the crash (was there snow or ice on the road?) to traffic signs (stop signs, speed limit signs, etc.) to skid marks caused by any of the vehicles involved in the crash.
If the other vehicles involved in the crash did not leave any skid marks on the road, make sure to take pictures of that important detail as well. Often, a lack of skid marks is due to a driver not slowing down before a crash. This is especially common in accidents caused by distracted drivers, drunk drivers, and drivers who fell asleep at the wheel.
Exchange information with the other driver(s)
Another rule in New York requires all drivers involved in the collision to share information after the crash. As a result, you and all the other drivers involved in the accident need to share the following information:
- Phone number
- Driver’s license number
- Insurance information
- Don’t discuss your accident
It’s natural to want to talk about your accident with other people at the scene of your collision, but don’t. The reason why is anything you say could later be used as evidence to reduce or deny your injury claim. Insurance companies often talk to everyone involved in an accident. And if you said something that could be misinterpreted – even something as simple as “I’m sorry” – your words could end up costing you thousands of dollars in lost injury benefits. Don’t discuss your accident with anyone other than the investigating police officer. And even then, keep your comments brief until you talk to a lawyer about your accident.
Call your insurance company
If you want to be compensated by your insurance company for your accident, you need to tell them within 30 days of your collision. New York has a “no-fault” insurance system. This means your insurance company is generally responsible for compensating you for your injury-related expenses, regardless of who was at fault.
Because your insurance company may be the one responsible for compensating you, keep your comments brief when you talk to them. Even though you would think they would be on your side, it’s not unusual for insurance companies – even your own – to do everything they can to pay you as little as possible.
Don’t talk to the other driver’s insurance company
Soon after your accident, the other driver’s insurance company will contact you. When they do, don’t talk to them, no matter what they say. Even if they claim they just have a few simple questions, what they’re doing is looking for information they can use to pay you less or reduce your claim so their client can get more money.
One of the reasons why you should be hesitant to talk with someone from the other driver’s insurance company is due to New York’s “pure” comparative negligence insurance system. Under this system, how much money you get can be reduced by what percentage you are found to be at fault. For example, if you were 30 percent at fault, your injury claim would be reduced by 30 percent. So if you were initially entitled to receive $100,000, you would instead receive only $70,000 for your accident.
Ask for a copy of any settlement offer you receive
Another reason why insurance companies might contact you immediately after your accident is to make a settlement offer. This is a one-time payment to permanently resolve your case. You might be tempted to accept such an offer, especially if you already owe thousands of dollars in medical bills, vehicle repairs, and other expenses related to your accident.
But the reality is settlement offers made soon after an accident often don’t come close to covering all injury-related expenses. And if you accept a settlement offer, that’s it. You can’t ask for more money in the future, even if your accident-related expenses increase dramatically months or years after your accident.
So what should you do? Don’t make the decision on your own. Review their offer with your lawyer and decide whether you should accept it or ask for more money.
Get a second opinion from another doctor
Some car accident-related injuries take several hours or days to develop after a serious accident. This is especially true for whiplash (a type of neck injury) and concussions (a type of traumatic brain injury).
This is why it’s important to have a second doctor examine you a few days after your accident. Even if you feel fine, you could have an injury and not even realize it. That’s why doctors perform certain medical tests – to diagnose exactly what’s wrong.
Follow your doctor’s advice
Seeing a doctor a second time is often just another step on your road to recovery. If a doctor discovers something wrong with you, they might recommend additional medical treatment, advise you to take time off from work to rest, or prescribe certain medications or physical therapy to treat your injury.
Don’t ignore your doctor’s advice. Do whatever they tell you to do to get better. This is important for both your health and your legal rights. Insurance companies may deny your injury claim because you refused to follow your doctor’s instructions. This can be a big deal since many injury claims can easily add up to thousands of dollars or significantly more. Don’t jeopardize your injury claim. Follow your doctor’s instructions.
Contact a Syracuse car accident lawyer right away
There are so many legal issues that can come up after a serious accident in Syracuse. An experienced attorney can address all of these issues and help you in many other ways as well. In particular, your lawyer can deal directly with insurance companies on your behalf.
Insurance companies do everything they can to pay injury victims as little as possible or nothing at all. When you have a Syracuse car accident attorney who knows how to take on insurance companies on your side, you can set the agenda for what happens next.
Many insurance companies agree to cooperate once they see that you have an experienced lawyer who understands how the legal system works in Onondaga County. And if insurance companies refuse to negotiate a fair settlement offer in good faith, your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf seeking damages, the legal term for financial compensation.
The stakes are high. Your injury claim could be worth thousands of dollars or significantly more. Give your legal case the best opportunity for success. Contact an experienced Syracuse car accident lawyer listed on this website and schedule a free case evaluation.