What You Should Do If You Are In a NY Car Accident

by Peter DeFilippis, Esq.

We all know accidents can happen – but what happens next depends on what you do to protect yourself.

Follow these five rules, keep a copy of this article in your vehicle and call us at (212) 227-4001 or (914) 478-7777.

We are available 24/7 and can help you through this stressful ordeal. Our accident attorneys at Peter DeFilippis & Associates can offer you additional guidance and assistance and walk you through the necessary steps following an auto, truck, motorcycle, bus, bike or pedestrian accident.

Remember, speak to us before you discuss the accident with any insurance company representative. It can make all the difference in your case. The insurance companies do not always have your best interest in mind regardless of what is said in their comforting commercials and advertisements.

Number 1: Call the Police, It is the Law

If a person is injured or killed, under NY law, those involved must exchange information and report the accident immediately to the POLICE. They’ll write a  record of the incident showing who was involved and what happened. Obtain the officer’s name, precinct address and phone number. They will give you a slip of paper to get the report from the precinct when completed. In some cases you may only have 30 days to obtain the final report from the precinct before it’s sent to the DMV in Albany. If you are able, be sure the police listen to your statement as to how the incident happened and any injuries.

DO NOT accept blame or argue with anyone at the scene of the accident. Many factors and variables are analyzed before fault, if any, can be assessed. Don’t jump to conclusions at the scene and instead focus on attending to your health and gathering information, if possible.

Don’t let the other driver convince you to forego calling the police and “just go through the insurance” or that they will “take care of it.” People often change their story when they leave the accident scene, especially when the police are not involved.

IF POLICE DO NOT RESPOND, obtain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all those involved and any witnesses. Report the accident to the nearest police precinct. A report of an auto accident must be made within 24 hours of the incident.

IF A MOTOR VEHICLE IS INVOLVED, New York state law requires drivers in a crash to stop and stay at the scene to exchange information or render reasonable assistance to the injured. Carefully record the license plate number, insurance company name and address, policy number, and from all driver’s and owner’s their names, addresses, and telephone numbers. Under NY State law vehicle owners and the employers of a negligent driver are (vicariously) liable so obtain the owner an/or employer information as well.

Number 2: Get All Witness Names, Addresses, and Telephone Numbers.

If any drivers, passengers or witnesses refuse to identify themselves, jot down the license numbers of their automobiles or take photos of their vehicles and plates. Be sure to get all information from anyone who will be towing any of the vehicles involved in the incident including the facility’s location and phone number where they will be storing your car.

Number 3: Take Photographs

TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS of damage to all motor vehicles, license plates, drivers, witnesses, traffic control devices, the position of vehicles on the roadway, any skid marks of any vehicles, and the roadway in general. If it is an accident involving a pedestrian, photograph the crosswalk and walk signal.


TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS of anything else struck in the collision, such as a guardrail, tree, or curb.

TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS of any identifying information on the side of  any tow truck(s) and the license plate number.

Number 4: Seek Immediate Medical Attention

Even if you don’t feel pain immediately, you run the chance of overlooking a serious problem or condition if you do not take care of yourself immediately.

Allow EMS to perform an examination and go to the nearest emergency room for any necessary treatment or testing.

Follow up with your doctor.

AVOID STRANGERS who may suddenly show up at the scene or the hospital claiming to be “investigators” or claiming to work for some unidentified law firm. These are the true “ambulance chasers” and apart from engaging in illegal activity they will ultimately hurt your case. Their promises are false and they do not have your best interest in mind.

Number 5: Call Us at (212) 227-4001 or (914) 478-7777 for Expert Advice. We’re available 24/7.

ALWAYS speak to your legal counsel before speaking to an insurance company. Being involved in a car accident is a stressful event that can involve complex legal issues concerning liability and injuries.  If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing that you can do is to talk to an attorney right away. Our experienced car accident attorneys can help you understand your rights during this difficult time.

IF SOMEBODY FROM THE INSURANCE COMPANY CALLS TO SPEAK WITH YOU, tell them you are represented by attorneys and advise them to direct ALL questions to your lawyers.

DO NOT sign any forms or releases, or make any statements over the telephone, in person, or in writing without first obtaining the advice of an attorney. Most insurance companies tape record their phone conversations, so guide yourself accordingly.