What to do after a car accident

Being involved in car accident is a jarring and sometimes life-altering experience.  If you are physically able to do so, the following is a list of tips to help protect your rights:

  • Take pictures.
  • Take pictures of the vehicles before they have been moved after the accident. This may help support your liability arguments against the other driver.
  • Take pictures of the other vehicle’s license plate, the other person’s driver’s license, registration and insurance card. Don’t rely on anyone to get the other driver’s information.  The police sometimes make mistakes and your insurance company is not there at the scene to secure this information.
  • Take pictures of the intersection and layout, including any traffic control devices that the other driver may have disobeyed.
  • Take pictures of the damage caused to your car. Not a close up, but a larger area so that you know how the damage looks to a person standing 5 feet away.
  • Call the police.
  • Make sure to call the police and get a report, even if you have to wait for some time (which is unfortunately the norm when you are involved in a car accident in New York City).
  • Obtain a police report.
  • Seek medical treatment.
  • If you feel pain it is very important to seek emergency medical treatment. Describe your pain to the police and make sure to complain about each body part that is bothering you following the accident, even if it’s only a slight discomfort.  Most doctors and nurses will explain that pain following a trauma usually gets worse before it gets better. Make sure to describe it to the police and go see a doctor.
  • If you decided against going to the emergency room, but start feeling pain in the days following a car accident, you should get into a doctor as soon as possible. Whether it is a First-Med/Urgent Care type facility or your own Primary Care Physician, make an appointment and get seen.  The quicker the better.
  • Medical bills related to a car accident are covered by New York’s no-fault law, which means that you don’t have to worry about who will pay the bill.
  • Report the car accident to your insurance company.
  • Call your insurance company and give them a full report of the incident. Be honest and direct. Your insurance company will investigate the claim on your behalf.
  • Do NOT say “I’m Sorry.”
  • Even if a person has not done anything wrong, human nature sometimes brings out an apology after a car accident. Once you say “I’m sorry,” in any context, that can be deemed a “Party Admission” and will be used against you in Court.
  • Do NOT lose your cool.
  • Obviously, these are frustrating and tense moments in the aftermath of a car accident, but do your best to try to keep calm. If you are acting irrational, the police and ambulance personnel will likely note your actions on any official report and they are more likely to believe the other person who is acting rationally.
  • Do NOT sign anything.
  • In the days following a car accident you may be contacted by an insurance company offering you $500 or $1,000 in return for signing a piece of paper called a “Release.” The insurance company representative will say that they are sorry that you had to go through this and they want to compensate you for your trouble. They will show up at your house with a check and the Release.  Do not fall for this trick!
  • In the days following a car accident you are not thinking clearly, you are not sure what the future will hold with respect to your injuries and the reality is that you are simply not in the best position to decide whether you want to sign away your rights. If you are presented with this situation, politely decline the offer and contact a local personal injury lawyer.  The attorney will advise you of your rights so that you can make an informed decision.
  • Do NOT allow yourself to become part of a no-fault scam.


  • There are several versions of this scam, but the most common is where a “Good Samaritan” approaches you following an accident. They happened to be nearby.  They can’t believe the other driver did that to you. Of course they’ll be a witness for you.  They also happen to know of a great medical facility who will handle everything.
    • This is a scam. This person is called a runner and if you go to that medical facility, they will pay him some amount of money for delivering you.
  • Another common scenario: following a car accident you are taken to the emergency room. You are discharged and all of a sudden your phone is ringing off the hook.  The people calling say that they are from the “Injury Helpline” or “New York Injury Line.”  They are assigning you a doctor and a lawyer to help you with your case.
    • This is a scam. The people calling you have paid someone in the hospital for your information.
  • The medical facilities who take part in these schemes are more focused on billing, not your treatment. They may get into trouble and close down, making it difficult to get medical records and decreasing the value of your potential case. The bottom line is that you should be choosing your lawyer and your doctor – don’t let them choose you.
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