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Motor Vehicle Accidents — What To Do? Part One

 

An automobile accident is one of the most shocking and traumatic experiences that a person can endure.  The suddenness of the accident and the violence of the crash are memories that do not fade with time.  Though cars are being made to protect occupants, devastating injuries still occur with alarming frequency.  Lives are lost or forever changed when motor vehicle crashes happen.  In this series of posts, I’d like to walk you through the experience from the accident right through the whole process.

The most important thing to do is to get help quick.  If you have been involved in a car accident, call 911 on your cell phone and get help immediately.  If you are hurt get immediate medical attention.  I’ve worked with thousands of people who have been involved in car accidents.  I am amazed at how often seriously injured passengers or drivers refuse medical treatment either at the scene from emergency medical personnel or, once taken to the hospital, refuse treatment from the emergency department!  Never refuse treatment!  Many people involved in car accidents experience delayed symptoms of their serious injuries because of the shock, mental trauma and adrenaline rush of being in such a sudden and traumatic event!

Of course if you really have bad injuries, you’ll be taken swiftly to the hospital.  While you are at the hospital, the police and others will take care of your car and ensure that others involved in the accident are interviewed and, if necessary, taken care of medically.

Here is a word of caution. Unless you are taken away by medical care providers due to serious injury NEVER LEAVE THE SCENE OF THE ACCIDENT BEFORE THE POLICE ARRIVE!  

When you leave the scene of an accident, there can be CRIMINAL repercussions.  There are two statutes that cover unlawfully leaving the scene of an accident. VTL 600-1a is for accidents in which there is only property damage and no injuries. The statute mandates that a driver is who is or may have been at fault in a property-damage-only accident share license and insurance information with other driver involved. It is not required for drivers to call the police or wait for police to arrive when no one is injured in an accident and the estimated cost of the damage is less than $1,000.  My opinion is that almost every accident in which two cars have collided causes property damage of more than $1,000.  So, my advice?  If you are involved in an automobile accident and there has been a collision with any property damage, exchange insurance information with the other driver.  You should also always ask if anyone was hurt — or determine if you were hurt — before leaving the scene.  If you were hurt, make sure you call 911!

Under VTL 600-2a, when an accident involves injuries drivers involved must, unless you are too injured, call the police and file a report. The drivers must also exchange name, address and insurance information with other parties involved in the accident. This is true no matter who caused the accident.  Failing to do either is something that could cause you to be charged with a crime. There are separate penalties for failing to exchange insurance information and for leaving the scene before police arrive. So, if you fail to exchange insurance information and leave the scene of an accident, that could cause two separate charges.

The police will ask you questions for their reports on how the incident happened.  Be as calm as you can, as the police officer is trying to help find out what happened.  They also, most importantly, want to make sure that you are not hurt.  Depending on where the accident occured, you will be speaking to the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Officer, the Canton Police, Potsdam Police, Ogdensburg Police, Malone Police, Saranac Lake Police, Plattsburgh City Police or the New York State Troopers.  All of them are well-qualified to deal with these terrible events.

In my next post, let’s talk about the next step, after you leave the hospital.

In the meantime, if you do have any questions, please give us a call at 866-721-8231, or e-mail us at jnichols@pnglawfirm.com.  Or you can drop by our offices in Potsdam, New York or Malone, New York.  We are eager and happy to help.  We take your legal issues very seriously as they can be life-changing.

 

Joe Nichols

 

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