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What should New Yorkers do following auto accidents?

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Knowing what to do following a New York auto accident may help drivers to ensure that they receive the compensation they are due for the resulting damages.

Very few motorists get behind the wheel of their vehicles thinking that they will be involved in a collision. However, auto accidents occur all too often on the streets of New York City, and throughout the state. In fact, according to a New York State Traffic Safety Data report, there were more than 304,000 car crashes in 2013 alone. Since getting into a wreck is often a frightening experience for those involved, it may help people to know what to do after an accident before one happens.

Notify the authorities

Drivers and their passengers are often injured as a result of motor vehicle collisions. As such, it is advisable for people to ensure that they, as well as the occupants of their vehicles, are okay following an accident. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, motorists must immediately notify law enforcement if an accident occurs that results in minor or
serious injuries, or fatalities.

It is suggested that people refrain from moving their cars until the authorities arrive on the scene and instruct them to do so. This is the case as long as the vehicles are not blocking traffic. Drivers should keep in mind that leaving the scene of an accident is considered a criminal offense, and could result in serious charges.

Document the scene

Should people have to move their vehicles following a
motor vehicle collision, it is recommended that they document the scene. This may include taking pictures of the accident scene and the vehicles involved, as well as any visible injuries that they, or their vehicles’ occupants, may have suffered. While law enforcement will generally generate an accident report, having these pictures may be helpful should the need for legal action arise down the road.

Exchange information

As most people are aware, New York state law requires people to exchange insurance and contact information with the other motorists who are involved in motor vehicle accidents. It is also recommended that drivers obtain the names and contact information for the occupants of the other vehicles involved, as well as for anyone who witnessed the crash. Witnesses may provide valuable, unbiased testimony in the event that motorists have to go to court.

When talking to the other drivers, passengers, witnesses or law enforcement officers, it is important that people do not admit guilt. This may include something as simple as saying, “I’m sorry.” The insurance companies, or law enforcement, could use anything drivers say following an accident against them. This may impact their ability to obtain compensation for the damages they suffered as a result of the collision.

Consult with an attorney

Often, those who are injured in motor vehicle accidents in New York, and elsewhere, require medical treatment. Such care frequently results in undue expenses. Depending on the circumstances, however, the at-fault drivers may be held responsible for the resulting damages. Additional monetary compensation may be available for other harm sustained as a result of the crash, including injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages and more. As such, people who have experienced situations such as this may benefit from seeking legal guidance. An attorney may help them to understand their rights and options for pursuing financial compensation.

Jason Fuiman

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Co-Managing Partner and Chair of O'Dwyer & Bernstien's Labor & Employee Benefits practice, Jason has over twenty years of experience in the New York legal industry.