Being in a car crash can be scary. One moment you are driving along, minding your own business, and next thing you know the world seems to turn upside down. But once the initial shock subsides, there are a few things to know in order to get your life back to normal as quickly as possible. If multiple people are involved, than others may take some of these steps, but be sure to do everything you can to keep yourself safe and protect your rights.
The first thing to do is contact emergency services, so that a police officer can arrive at the scene and medical attention can be given to anyone who needs it. If someone is noticeably injured, then be sure to relay that information over the phone when speaking with an emergency dispatcher. Once emergency services have been contacted, remain at the scene to ensure your rights are protected. In New York, leaving the scene as a driver if only physical damage occurs is a traffic infraction and can result in jail time; while leaving the scene of a crash in which someone is injured is a misdemeanor that can result in up to a year of prison time.
Once the police arrive, you should cooperate with the officer in any reasonable way possible. Unless there is serious damage done, or visible injuries, a police officer might not file a report for a crash. If you are worried about liability and want to ensure a police report is filed, then notify the officer who arrives that you feel injured. Even if you are not bleeding or otherwise noticeably injured, if you tell the officer that you feel injured, then a police report will be filled out.
Answer any questions the police officer asks you honestly, but do not make any statements about guilt or responsibility for the crash. Since the police report can be used in legal proceedings later, you do not want to make any statements that could be used against you. Explain what happened, but do not use phrases like “it was my fault.”
After a crash, limit communication with insurance companies as much as possible. Once you have received any medical attention you require, contact a lawyer who specializes in personal injury cases, especially one with a focus on vehicular incidents. If you have been in a New York car crash, even if it is not your fault, contact Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, (212) 986-7353 to make sure your rights are protected. Even your own insurance company may want to limit how much assistance they offer you, so avoid giving any statements to insurance representatives or medical professionals without your lawyer present.