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Working with a Lawyer After a Car Crash in New York

What to expect from a personal injury claim

Over the course of her 40-year legal career, Cheryl Eisberg Moin has seen “every kind of accident and every kind of legal problem.”

When it comes to motor vehicle accidents, the personal injury lawyer and partner at Hill & Moin in Manhattan advises going to urgent care or the emergency room if there’s any thought they might be injured—and even if they’re otherwise cautious due to the pandemic. “People don’t like ambulances, and we’ve seen a lot of people who will refuse medical attention, but I tell them to go to the doctor. That’s my mothering instinct.”

And once your immediate medical needs are addressed? “Call an attorney,” says Moin. “Many times, we find clients come to us later on and have made mistakes that may hurt them going forward in their case.”

Mistakes can include saying the wrong thing in the aftermath of an accident, says Carmen “Jack” Giordano, founder of Giordano Law Offices in Harlem. “Make sure you understand that everything you say is going to be written down: in a police report, to the EMT, the ambulance driver, to the hospital and emergency staff. If you’re not careful about what you say”—for example, saying that you’re OK or telling the other driver it’s not their fault—“and how you say it, it can hurt your case.”

New York is a “no-fault” state, which means that a driver’s own insurance typically covers up to $50,000 of their costs—including medical bills and lost wages—after a car accident, regardless of who was at fault. But there’s a strict deadline: No-fault applications must be submitted within 30 days of the accident. “If the application isn’t submitted within the 30-day period, there is a very strong chance your medical bills won’t be paid by the no-fault carrier,” says Moin.

Adds Giordano: “In emergency rooms, they’re very focused on clearing a patient as quickly as possible for discharge, and then telling them to go to their primary care doctor. Sometimes serious injuries—a neurological injury; a herniated disc or a bulging disc; a torn ACL—manifest themselves later down the line. It can even be a few weeks or more. And then we’re all busy in our lives, and a lot of people are allergic to doctors and lawyers, so you can blow that 30-day limit for no-fault, which is disastrous.”

A personal injury attorney will dig into the details of the accident—reviewing the police report, speaking with eyewitnesses and medical personnel, investigating and photographing the scene, digging into previous accident history and much more. “If an individual calls us right away, we have a list of things that we will tell them to do, depending on who else was involved in the incident,” says Moin. “There’s really nothing like sitting down with an attorney to go over every contingency and every possibility when you’ve been involved with a vehicular accident.”

Giordano says an attorney can help with everything from getting the necessary medical treatment to making sure a police report is filed. “We take care of the investigatory aspect of it so they wouldn’t have to worry about that,” he says.

And if you’re worried about the cost, many personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee arrangement, which means they’re paid a portion of a client’s winnings or settlement. “They’re not going to have to start paying the lawyer [immediately],” says Giordano.

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