You're driving through an intersection on Central when a vehicle coming the other direction makes a left hand turn … right into the driver's side of your car. Car accidents like this one happen in Albany every day. If you've been in a car accident in Albany, you're probably wondering what steps you need to take to repair the damage to your property and possibly your person. This article discusses the steps you must and should take legally to ensure that you comply with New York law and recover the money you need to pay for damages resulting from your accident.
First Steps: New York Accident Reporting Laws
After a car accident, you may feel as if your head is spinning. There will likely be damage to your vehicle, and you, one of your passengers, or others may be injured. It seems like common sense that you should stop your vehicle in a safe place and check to see if anyone is injured. However, you may not know that under New York state law, you are required to exchange contact information, including proof of insurance, with any other driver involved in your accident. If the accident resulted in death, injury, or damage over $1,000 you must also file a form with the New York DMV.
After you've taken care of any injuries, addressed safety concerns, and exchanged information with other drivers, you should collect as much evidence as possible at the scene of the accident in case a dispute about liability comes up later. You may want to take down statements of witnesses and take photographs of the scene of the accident and any property damage. If law enforcement isn't at the scene already, you should contact them. A police report may come in handy later and may relieve you of your duty to report the accident yourself.
Next Step: Insurance Claims
You may have heard of "fault" and "no fault" states when it comes to car insurance. In "fault" states, people involved in accidents must pursue payment for damages from the at-fault party. This could mean filing an insurance claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company or suing the at-fault driver in a negligence lawsuit. In "no fault" states, drivers are required to carry no fault liability insurance and each driver typically pursues payment for property damage with his own insurance company.
New York is categorized as a "no fault" auto insurance state, so if you're in an accident in Albany, you'll file a claim with your own insurance company. All drivers in New York are required by law to carry no fault liability insurance that will most likely cover property damage and up to $50,000 in medical expenses.
You only have 30 days after your accident to file a claim with an insurance company, so don't delay! FindLaw's section on Injury Claims and Insurance has great tips for filing claims, getting the most out of your insurance settlement, and combating unfair settlement offers or denials of your claim.
But what if you or a loved one was seriously injured in your accident and the medical expenses total more than $50,000? In this case, you may still choose to file a lawsuit against the individual or entity that bears the fault in your accident.
Last: File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In New York, you have three years from the date of your accident or injury to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages resulting from the accident. Remember, your insurance company will likely cover your property damage and the first $50,000 of your medical expenses. Therefore, generally you should look into filing a lawsuit if your car accident resulted in a serious injury and someone else was at fault for your accident.
New York laws regarding accident and injury are complex. If you haven't already done so, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney about your lawsuit before moving forward. Check out FindLaw's Albany Courthouses page to access court websites and for more information on where you'll file your civil lawsuit.