You've been in a car accident in Poughkeepsie. Now what? You car is completely totaled. Your car insurance company keeps calling you. They want to "settle." You can't even think about that right now. You've had to spend days at Saint Francis Hospital because of your injuries. You haven't been to work in weeks because you had to recuperate. Your bills are adding up and someone has to pay them. Here's some general information to help guide you through the process should you be in a car accident in Poughkeepsie.
Stop at the Scene of the Crash
First, you must stop at the scene of the accident -- whether the accident involves a pedestrian, a moving car, a parked car or someone's property. New York state law requires drivers in a crash to stop and stay at the scene to exchange information or render reasonable assistance to the injured. Even worse, if you leave, you could be charged with criminal hit-and-run. Depending on the damage or injuries, you may be fined, sent to jail, or both. You also could lose your driver's license.
Do the Police Have to Get Involved?
In many cases, yes. Call the Poughkeepsie Police Department or 911 as soon as possible. If a person is injured or killed, you must report the accident immediately. If you hit a parked car, or other object like a traffic device, you must inform the owner. Leave a note with your name, address, license plate number and insurance information and report the accident to local police.
An officer will respond to your location and take a report. This means assessing the damages and interviewing key witnesses to help determine the likely cause of the accident.
What Happens at the Scene
The New York State DMV (NYS) provides an informative list of what to do at the scene. Be prepared to exchange information with the other driver -- your name, address and driver's license number; the registration number of the car you were driving; and the name your insurance company. Likewise, fellow motorists, passengers or pedestrians involved in the accident must share similar information with you.
When you are able, write down traffic and weather conditions. Draw a simple diagram of the collision scene and/or take photographs if you are able. At this stage, don't volunteer who you think is to blame for the accident. Generally, don't agree to pay for damages or sign any documents except a traffic ticket. Make sure you cooperate with the police officer investigating the case.
Do I Have to File An Accident Report with NYS?
If the property damage of any person is $1,001 or more, all the involved drivers are required by the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law to file form MV-104 (Report of Motor Vehicle Accident). File form MV-104 with the DMV no more than 10 days after the accident. The DMV can suspend your driver license if you fail to report an accident.
You also must file a report if someone is injured or killed during the accident.
How Do I Get a Copy of The Accident Report?
Call or visit the local police agency where the accident occurred. Ask the agency if your report is available and what the fee is.
There's another option. If the police reports have already been filed and processed by the DMV, you can use the online transaction to locate and access copies online.
Handling Insurance Companies
As soon as you can, report the crash to your insurance company. You are required to report a crash within 30 days to claim no-fault benefits. Your carrier will open an investigation of your matter. A claims adjuster will contact you and do any or all of the following:
- Request a copy of the police report;
- Take photographs of your car;
- Contact the other driver(s);
- Talk to any witnesses;
- Ask you to sign a medical release form to review your records;
- Contact your medical provider;
- Request for you to get estimates on vehicle damage.
New York State Insurance Level Requirements
New York is one of a growing number of states with a no-fault insurance program. As a driver of a car registered in this state, you are required to purchase New York State (NYS) liability insurance from an in-state provider. Out-of-state coverage is not valid. Here are the minimum levels:
- $25,000/50,000 for injury;
- $50,000/100,000 for death; and
- $10,000 for property damage caused by any one accident.
Tell me About No-Fault Benefits
No-fault automobile insurance is designed to cover any injuries you sustain as a result of the accident, provided you were not intoxicated by drugs or alcohol or engaged in other criminal behavior. It doesn't matter who is at fault. Your own insurance company will pay out of pocket for personal injuries up to the policy limits of $50,000 (or higher if your policy has more coverage). This means you don't have to sue the other party's insurance company to take care of medical bills and other resulting damages such as lost wages. Simply contact your own insurance carrier and make a claim.
Seeking Compensation Beyond No Fault-Coverage
As the victim in a car accident, you retain the right to sue in a Poughkeepsie court for personal injury losses. You can seek money damages for your loss. These damages may include lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage and more.
You may want to speak with a Poughkeepsie car accident attorney to learn more about your options. Many lawyers take auto accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, this means you do not pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees if you lose the case. If you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the money you get. A settlement is considered a "win" for purposes of payment.