How Soon To Contact An Attorney After A Car Accident

Hiring an attorney might not be the first thing on your mind after you’ve been in an accident. Maybe you are severely injured and all of your focus is on the treatment and healing of those injuries. Maybe you’re not so injured that you need to take much time off, and can manage the treatment in between your obligations. Or perhaps you’re not even sure if you’re injured at all; you’re sore and not yourself, but nothing is broken or requires surgery and you’re feeling fortunate that you were able to walk away afterward. For several reasons, a lot of people are hesitant to contact an attorney at all. Some of those reasons being that they’re reluctant to be involved in a lawsuit; they think they can handle it themselves and they’re worried about costs. A few people even fear that hiring a lawyer makes them appear greedy.

How soon after an accident should you contact an attorney?:

The short and long answer is: immediately.

Insurance companies are usually eager to get statements from every party involved. However, you should never trust the insurance companies. While they have cleverly constructed statements that make it sound like they’re worried about you and your safety and mislead you into thinking the interaction is friendly, non-hostile, and that they’re on your side, nothing could be farther from the truth. The insurance companies are NOT on your side. They are recording every word you say and will use that information against you in any way possible. Once you hire an attorney, unless permission is given, the insurance company should only be contacting your attorney regarding the matter. An attorney will know what to say to protect you. However, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t report an accident while attempting to hire an attorney or considering whether to hire an attorney. Most insurance companies have written policies that require you to contact them within 24 hours or “as soon as physically able.”

Time Limitations:

In New York, the statute of limitations, or the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit, is three-years from the date of your accident. However, waiting for three years to hire an attorney could severely damage your case. There is a lot of work that may be required prior to preparing to file a lawsuit. Waiting to hire an attorney for an extended period of time after an accident can prevent important evidence, such as witnesses and documents, from being preserved. Without proper evidence, your claim could be much weaker than if you had a skilled attorney handling your case sooner. Additionally, in certain cases where the government could be a responsible party for your injuries, the time restraints critically shorten, with proper legal documents required to be filed and served within ninety days. This may occur where the road is unsafe, causing or contributing to your accident.  A skilled attorney will be able to decipher whether the government could be at fault for your injuries. Furthermore, where there are parties not from New York or where the accident occurred in another jurisdiction, the statute of limitations might be shorter. A skilled attorney will be able to determine the proper statute of limitations and time restraints in your case.

No Fault Insurance: this New York insurance is designed to cover medical expenses for injuries legitimately sustained as a result of an automobile accident, regardless of who is at fault. (Hence the name, “No Fault.”) The No-Fault application often intimidates people. While it is easy to put it off and forget to send in the application, it is important to understand that there are time constraints. In most cases, the application must be submitted to the insurance company within 30 days. Failure to do so could result in the insurance company denying coverage of No-Fault benefits. Remember, the No-Fault application should still be submitted to your insurance company, despite another party being at fault. While this may seem non-adversarial and simple, often times it’s not. Even if you timely and properly submit your application, your claims may still be denied, requiring you to proceed to arbitration, merely to have an arbitrator determine whether or not your medical treatment should be covered. For more information regarding No Fault contact an attorney as soon as possible.

 Why should I hire an attorney?:

The chances of receiving the compensation you deserve for your injuries are much higher if you hire a proficient attorney. As we touched upon earlier, the insurance company’s goal is to save the business as much money as possible. If you settle for a sum of money that appears adequate, you could bar yourself from recovering a fair amount. Often times, there are injuries that aren’t immediately apparent. Even where you later find out you’re more injured than you first realized, if you settled your case prematurely, you can’t recover more money for those newly discovered injuries. When an attorney does not represent you, the insurance company may assume you have little knowledge of the courtroom and legal system and may intentionally low-ball an offer or refuse to make an offer unless a lawsuit is filed. An attorney will be able to determine how much your case is worth, which is dependent on multiple factors. Your attorney will take into consideration the extent of your injuries, which parties may be at fault, your expenses and time off from work. Every case and situation is different. It is better to retain an attorney as soon as you’re able in order to prevent being bullied by the insurance company and destroying your case.

For a personalized and free case evaluation, call the Law Offices of Jennifer G. Tocci, P.C. (631) 343-7676.

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