What to do if you are in an Accident During the Quarantine

It feels like the world is at a standstill. In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve,” unprecedented preventive measures have been implemented.  In New York State, 100% of the non-essential workforce is suspended and ordered to stay home. As of this writing, New York is on pause until May 15, 2020. Social distancing barged into our lives is here to stay for at least the foreseeable future. Everyone over the age of 2 and who is able to medically tolerate wearing a mask/covering in public must do so unless they can maintain a distance of 6 feet from other people at all times. At this time, there is no confirmed plan for re-opening New York State. We’re in uncharted territory in unprecedented times.

Although there is a sharp decrease in the number of vehicles on the road, there are plenty of essential workers commuting to and from work. Additionally, even though New York is on pause, we are able to leave our houses, and therefore, many of us are still driving. We have to travel to grocery stores, to seek medical treatment, pharmacies, and other essential establishments. Unfortunately, even with the decrease in traffic, Long Islanders are still finding themselves involved in motor vehicle accidents. With several COVID-19 patients in hospitals, accident victims who need medical attention are faced with additional concerns. Some are choosing to forgo necessary medical treatment in fear of being exposed to the coronavirus. Doctors’ offices may be closed. The courts are closed. Lawyers’ offices may be closed. What do you do?

What to do I do if I am injured?

Seek medical attention the safest way you are able without compromising the care you will receive. Emergency responders and police officers are required to wear masks at the scene of the accident.  Social distancing should be maintained if possible, however, if you need medical care, that may be unfeasible.  If you don’t need to be evaluated medically, aim to maintain social distancing guidelines, keeping 6 feet between you and everyone else.

If you are experiencing life-threatening injuries, you will be transported by ambulance to the nearest emergency room.  Saving your life at that point is more important than potential exposure to COVID-19.  Catastrophic injuries that are not apparently life-threatening should also be treated at a hospital. For example, most fractures should be treated at the hospital. If you are a high-risk patient (over 65, immunocompromised, diabetic, or suffer from heart disease) and you are positive you can be evaluated by the appropriate specialist without causing additional damage to the injured body part, you may wish to forego hospital treatment.  Many specialists are examining patients on an emergency basis.

Choosing to visit a walk-in clinic instead of a hospital may add an extra stop in between the emergency room. If you require immediate care the walk-in cannot provide, they may direct you to go to the emergency room. Typically, walk-in clinics do not have direct connections with specialists to whom they can refer; while they can provide recommendations, it’s unlikely they’re going to arrange for you to be examined by a specialist on an emergency basis.  Thus, unless you can find a specialist who will promptly examine you on your own, avoiding the emergency room may be futile. Nevertheless, if you’re uncomfortable going to the emergency room during this pandemic, a walk-in clinic may be able to offer temporary care.  Several walk-ins are able to place stitches and tend to wounds and lacerations. Walk-ins typically have X-ray capabilities, however, fractures that require surgery or heightened care are not appropriate for walk-in care.

Less urgent injuries may be evaluated by specialists seeing emergency patients, physicians evaluating patients virtually, or by visiting a walk-in clinic.  Regardless of the severity, you should never forgo medical evaluation or treatment. No matter where you receive initial treatment, follow-up care should be taken seriously and treated as a priority.  Remember, safety first.

What do I do at the scene of the accident?

While it is always important to take pictures and document the accident, now it is more important than ever. Rushing away from the scene without obtaining the proof you normally gather could be detrimental. Take photos of your vehicle, the other vehicle, any property damage, skid marks in the road, apparent causes, and everything you can capture. The police should be called to the scene to document the report. However, if a police report is not filed, obtain the other drivers’ information. Keep in mind, just because you were involved in a motor vehicle accident does not mean that you should disregard social distancing guidelines. If you are able, wear a mask. Aim to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between you and others at all times.

What do I do when the insurance companies contact me?

You must report the accident to your insurance company within 24 hours or as soon as you are medically able. However, you should not speak to the other vehicle’s insurance company without speaking to a lawyer. Avoid providing recorded statements. Tocci Law is still in business and we are working remotely. We can arrange a telephone or virtual consultation, and thereafter, virtual, telephone, and email representation until we are back in the office.  Be aware, insurance companies do anything to save a dollar. They are aware of the financial hardship everyone is facing right now. They have been using this to their advantage.  They may offer you a nominal amount of money in full and final settlement for any claims you have or may have in the future. The insurance companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars paying people off cheap. Meanwhile, you could be left with serious, permanent injuries that affect you for life and hinder your ability to earn a living and support your family. Speak with a skilled attorney to ensure you are legally protected.

Can an attorney help me during the quarantine?

Yes! Tocci Law is operating remotely and virtually. We are able to conduct consultations and meetings. You can hire our firm to represent you electronically. We are able to represent you with the insurance companies electronically as well. At the time of this article, the courts are not permitting non-emergency lawsuits to be filed.  Court appearances for non-emergency cases are not being conducted. That doesn’t mean we can’t prepare your potential claim, negotiate with the insurance companies, and provide you with personalized legal advice.  We’ll be ready when the court proceedings are reinstated. You can contact us by telephone or e-mail and we have Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime capabilities. We look forward to meeting you in person once we are able to see clients in the office.

Law Offices of Jennifer G. Tocci, P.C., (631) 353-7676 // jentocci@toccilaw.com // 353 Veterans Memorial Highway, Suite 200, Commack, New York 11725