We can all expect to get involved in at least one crash – and maybe more – over the course of our lifetime. In fact, the insurance industry estimates that the typical driver will be in an auto accident about once every 17.9 years, Forbes reports. Even if you are a safe driver, you can’t stop others from acting carelessly and crashing into you.

We may realize that a car accident is a possibility every time we pull into the street in New York City and elsewhere. Still, many of us don’t know what to do after a car accident or understand how the process of filing an insurance claim and/or personal injury lawsuit works.

Here are answers to 10 of the most common questions that people in New York have about car accidents:

1. What is the best way to avoid getting in a car accident?

Alcohol use remains one of the biggest risk factors in automobile collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that alcohol plays a role in about 31 percent of all traffic deaths. Again, you cannot stop other people from drinking, texting, reading or doing other distracting things while driving. However, by staying alert, sober and focused at all times, you give yourself the best chance of avoiding a crash.

2. What is the first thing I should do if I’m in a car accident?

First, check yourself and others for injuries. Call 911 right away so police can arrive, secure the scene and file a report about the crash. You should then move on to getting medical attention immediately. You want to make sure that a doctor diagnoses and treats your injuries as soon as possible.

3. Will my insurance premiums go up after a car accident?

If you are at fault in a car wreck, your insurance premiums will likely go up. This is called a surcharge. According to the Department of Financial Services, New York generally permits accident surcharges in two scenarios: (1) You cause a wreck that hurts someone or damages property; or (2) you are convicted of certain traffic violations. Otherwise, you should not be concerned about your premiums after a crash.

4. What will happen to my car if it is towed?

Towing and storage companies charge high prices. If you must tow your car, you should try to use your own service through an auto club or your insurance company. If the police tow your car, you should do everything you can to get your vehicle out of storage fast. If possible, you should try to get a photo of all cars involved in a crash before they are moved or towed away.

5. Should I go to the hospital if I feel okay?

You do not necessarily have to go to the emergency room. Still, as early as possible, you should call your primary care doctor as early as possible and schedule an appointment. Don’t diagnose yourself. A doctor should thoroughly examine you and start your treatment.

6. What happens if the other driver is uninsured?

New York ranks second in the nation for the most insured drivers, with only about six percent of the drivers on our roads lacking the required insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Still, you face the risk of getting into a crash with an uninsured driver. An attorney can guide you through your options. Those options may include filing a claim through your own uninsured motorist (UM) policy.

7. Who should I call first?

Call the police first. Use your own judgment, but if you were heading to work, you should let your employer know you were in a wreck. Once you have received medical attention, and a doctor or hospital has checked you out, you should call an experienced personal injury attorney right away.

8. What should I say when talking to the insurance company?

In short: nothing. The insurance company wants to pay as little as possible to resolve your claim. So, anything you say to the insurer can – and most likely will – be used against you. If an insurer contacts you, then you should refer the insurer to your attorney.

9. Do I really need to hire a lawyer?

Not always. If liability is clear, and your damages are minimal, then you may be able to pursue your claim without a lawyer’s assistance. Still, since a consultation is free. You should at least sit down and discuss the situation with a lawyer and receive guidance before you make that decision.

10. How do auto accident lawyers get paid? 

It depends on the law firm. However, at Zlotolow & Associates, P.C., we do not charge for initial consultations. Additionally, we do not charge any legal fees unless we secure compensation for you through a settlement or judgment. If we obtain an award for you, our fees will represent a percentage of that amount. To learn more, contact us today.