There you are, driving home from Highland Park after the Lilac Festival. You're humming a catchy tune from one of the bands and still picturing the amazing lilacs in bloom when you get a hankering for a famous garbage plate. As you get off the 490, all of a sudden you feel a jolt from the rear as the car behind you slams into your bumper.
In an ideal world, the other driver in any car accident would pay for all of your damages, including any hospital bills or lost wages, but that's not always the case. Sometimes the only way to recover your damages is through the court system and what you do from the moment you get out of your car to inspect the damage can impact your case. Here are some ideas and guidelines to help you understand what you need to do after a car accident in Rochester.
I'm Still Shaking From the Accident. What Should I do Next?
Each car accident is different and, depending on the injuries of those involved, the vehicle damage and the location of the accident, it may not even be safe to get out of your car. When that's the case, remember to turn off your engine and call 911 or the Rochester Police Department as soon as possible.
However, when it's possible to get out of your car, you should try to document the scene as best you can. If you have a cell phone handy, use it to take pictures or videos of the location of the vehicles and their damage as well as any injuries.
Where possible, you and any other drivers should try to move your vehicles to the shoulder to avoid other traffic and to better inspect the damage and exchange information. It's not always easy to remember what information you need, especially if you're still shaken up after the accident. To make things easier, keep a checklist in your glove compartment.
At a minimum, you want to make sure that the other driver physically hands you his or her license and insurance information. Don't just rely on the name, address and phone number that you may be given verbally. You also want to know the name and contact information for the car's owner (if different from the driver) as well as the contact information for any other passengers or witnesses.
What Shouldn't I Say?
If you end up in court after a car accident in Rochester, what you say (or don't say) could come back to haunt you. So you should always try to avoid making statements indicating your liability or potential liability after an accident. After all, in many cases it's not always clear who was at fault. Even if you think you caused the accident, you may not be aware of what the other driver was or was not doing just before the collision.
Getting the DMV and Insurance Companies Involved
If your car accident in Rochester involved over $1,000 in property damages or any injuries, then you're required to report the accident to the DMV, which has an office off Main Street near Frontier Field. Typically, you will just need to fill out and submit a form relating to the incident as well as any other information the DMV may request.
When it comes to insurance, New York is a no-fault automobile insurance state which means that your own insurance company will pay for any injuries you sustained up to your policy limit. However, to claim these no fault benefits, you must report the accident to your insurance company within 30 days.
With property damage claims, at a minimum your insurance policy covers property damage to other vehicles (if you're at fault). Each driver's insurance companies will investigate the claims and may interview you and other witnesses in order to determine fault and liability. If your case is not fully resolved through your insurance companies, you may decide to take the other driver to court.
Your Case in Court
If you find yourself at the courthouse door as a result of your Rochester car accident, one of your first decisions is how you will file your case. This can depend on the amount of damages you're seeking. For example, if your claim is only for money damages and is less than $5,000 (not including interest and costs), then you may need to file a small claims case.
Before going to court you should at the very least consult with a personal injury attorney to make sure that you understand the process and are requesting all of the damages that you're entitled to under the law.
Injured in a Rochester Car Accident? A Local Attorney Can Help
Between insurance companies and the courthouse, the process of recovering after a car accident in Rochester can be complicated. For instance, liability may hinge on a piece of evidence requiring expert review. Having an attorney by your side can make all the difference and remove a considerable amount of stress from your life. Get in touch with a local accident law attorney today.