Whenever you are in an accident, contacting the police is helpful. They have the knowledge and expertise necessary to identify the person at fault and can file the report that your insurer needs.
A minor car accident is one in which everyone involved walks away without any injuries and with minimal damage to their personal property. Not all accidents are minor though. Whether you hit someone from behind because they came to a stop in the middle of the road or back into someone when pulling out a parking spot, you are responsible for the injuries and damages that they sustain. Simply having auto insurance may not solve all of your problems because the injured party can sue you for more than what your policy covers. If you get sued for a car accident, there are several things that you can and should do.
Call Your Insurer
Before you freak out and begin thinking the worst, call your insurer. You should do this at the scene of an accident or as soon as you get home. This gives you the chance to talk about the details and share the police report if you had one done. Most states require that the police come to the scene of an accident if it involves serious injuries or property damage above a certain amount. Your insurer can also give you information about your policy and its maximum coverage.
Get a Written DMV Report
New York is one of several states that requires a report from the Department of Motor Vehicles. You have up to 10 days after the accident to file your report. A report is mandatory for all accidents causing a minimum of $1,000 worth of damage. If you do not file a report, the court will not look favorably at you. The judge can determine that you owe high fees for not getting a report or not having one done within the time limit. You also risk the judge siding with the other person.
Make Sure a Lawsuit is Allowed
A common problem that many lawyers see is that their clients do not make sure that others can use them for accidents. Make sure that you talk to a New York car accident lawyer to discuss the details of the case and make sure that the party can file suit against you. An injured party can file a lawsuit against you if your actions resulted in the death or dismemberment of anyone involved. You also face a lawsuit if the accident caused the death of a fetus or anyone in the accident sustained injuries and had medical bills that totaled more than $50,000.
Stay in Touch with Your Insurer
Another mistake that some make is that they attempt to settle out of court and without legal help. If anyone involved in the accident sues you, never speak to them in person, over the phone, or through the mail. Do not write them back when they send you a letter or talk to them when they call. You should forward all paperwork to your insurer. When they call, always tell them to contact your insurer. You only need to worry about hiring a lawyer if your insurer will not help you.
Get Legal Help
Police officer leaning in window of car after accident; image by Matt Chesin, via Unsplash.com.
Working with a lawyer can help you decide whether to settle out of court or go before a judge. Ignoring the paperwork that you get from the court is dangerous because it may result in a default judgment. The court can place a lien against your bank account or garnish your wages to pay the lawsuit. A lawyer can help you decide what to do next and identify all the steps that you need to take. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 36,000 people died in car accidents in 2019 alone. The lawsuits filed on their behalf cost millions of dollars. You want to make sure that you have someone by your side who can either settle the case or help you escape serious financial repercussions.
Whenever you are in an accident, contacting the police is helpful. They have the knowledge and expertise necessary to identify the person at fault and can file the report that your insurer needs. If you receive notice that someone in the accident plans to use you, there are things that you can do to protect yourself. Make sure that you talk to your insurer and meet with a lawyer as soon as possible.