In western New York, vehicles are almost constantly exposed to the possibility of damage involving snow and ice, flooding, vandalism, and theft – as well as collisions with other vehicles.

Over time, damage to a vehicle is virtually unavoidable. But who pays for damages? How can a car accident law firm help?

If your vehicle is damaged in a traffic accident – or in any other way – will your automobile insurance provide the coverage you need? Keep reading, and you’ll learn:

1. what auto insurance coverage is required in New York
2. what auto insurance coverage is available
3. how to cover the costs of vehicle damage repairs
4. what to do if you are injured in a traffic collision

WHAT AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE IS REQUIRED IN NEW YORK?

New York State law requires motorists to carry these minimum coverage amounts:

1. $25,000 of coverage for bodily injury to one person in a single accident
2. $50,000 of coverage for bodily injury to multiple persons in a single accident
3. $10,000 of coverage for property damage in a single accident
4. a mandatory $50,000 of “no-fault” coverage

New York law additionally requires all automobile insurance policies to provide uninsured motorist coverage for bodily injury, subject to the same minimum coverage amounts.

Many drivers pay for a higher liability limit and for added injury protection beyond the minimum coverage amount set by law, and it’s smart to do that if you can.

WHAT’S YOUR PRIORITY IF YOU’RE INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT?

If you are involved in a traffic accident in New York, seek medical attention immediately if you or anyone else in the accident is injured. If you are not treated at the scene, have a medical exam conducted within 24 hours for latent or difficult-to-detect injuries.

As soon as possible – and within the first 24 hours – notify your auto insurance company that you’ve been involved in an accident and that your vehicle sustained damage.

Get the date, time, and the name of the person you notified at the insurance company. Confirm the information with a letter or an email.

WHAT ARE COLLISION COVERAGE AND COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE?

What happens next will depend on the specific coverage that your policy provides.

1. Collision coverage offers protection when you are the at-fault driver in an accident. If you crash into another vehicle or damage other property – like a building – collision coverage pays for it.

2. Comprehensive coverage offers protection when your vehicle is damaged in some way other than a traffic crash – theft, flood, vandalism, or a collision with a deer or some other animal.

If you lease or finance your vehicle, you will probably be required to have both comprehensive coverage and collision coverage. Coverage costs can usually be lowered if you’re able to increase your deductible.

WHO REPAIRS YOUR VEHICLE? AND WHO PAYS?

When you submit a damage claim, an auto insurance company will usually send you to a garage or body shop that the company works with routinely – and you may get faster results that way – but if you prefer to use another shop or garage, you have that right.

If you’re in an accident that is the other driver’s fault, you may submit a claim against that driver’s company and policy or against your own collision coverage.

WHAT IS GAP INSURANCE?

If your vehicle is “totaled” – that is, if repairing the vehicle will cost more than the vehicle is worth – you could conceivably owe the leasing company or bank more than the insurance company will pay you.

Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) insurance fills the gap, you might say. If your vehicle is appraised at $8,000, and that’s what you’re paid, but you still owe $10,000 on your lease or loan, GAP covers the difference.

HOW DO YOU NEGOTIATE A DAMAGE CLAIM?

If your vehicle is declared a total loss, be sure that all of the vehicle’s upgrades and repairs have been considered. Research car values online or speak with several dealers.

When you negotiate with an insurance company, be cooperative, stick to the facts, and don’t jump at the first offer – it’s going to be low.

That’s to be expected. You may have to speak with the adjuster several times, but most insurance adjusters in New York are professionals who want to settle your claim properly and promptly.

If you can negotiate a vehicle damage claim on your own, and if you’re satisfied with the final amount that you’re paid, it may be more expedient than retaining an attorney – provided that the only damage you’ve sustained is vehicle damage.

WHAT IF YOU ARE INJURED IN A TRAFFIC CRASH?

You can replace a car or a truck. But if you lose your health, regaining it could be a lengthy and difficult challenge. Don’t take any unnecessary risks.

If you’ve been catastrophically injured or permanently disabled, you’ll need the maximum amount of compensation that’s available. Care for severe spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries, for example, could cost several million dollars over a lifetime.

If you’ve been injured in western New York by a negligent driver, and you need to file an injury claim as well as a property damage claim, put your case directly in the hands of an experienced Rochester personal injury attorney.

HOW CAN AN INJURY LAWYER HELP?

A personal injury lawyer is a trained negotiator who routinely negotiates with insurance companies on behalf of clients.

When you’ve been injured, and you need compensation, you must have an advocate who understands how auto insurance companies negotiate injury claims – and who knows what it takes to negotiate the best possible settlement.

In the state of New York, most personal injury matters are settled out-of-court.

In the rare cases when an insurance company does not make a reasonable settlement offer, a Rochester personal injury attorney will take your case to court and fight for the compensation and justice you deserve.

IF AN ACCIDENT HAPPENS, WHAT STEPS MUST YOU TAKE?

If you’re involved in a traffic accident in western New York:

1. If anyone is injured, summon medical help immediately.
2. Even if you feel fine, have a medical exam in the first 24 hours.
3. Call the police and find out how to obtain their completed accident report.
4. Trade contact and insurance information with the other driver(s).
5. Take photographs and try to get the names of eyewitnesses.

A good injury lawyer can fight aggressively on your behalf, but at the accident scene, you’ll have to start thinking immediately about liability and compensation – without an attorney’s help.

But if you are seriously injured in a traffic collision, or if you’re okay, but your vehicle was damaged, you have rights, and auto insurance companies have obligations.

If your vehicle was totaled, stand up for your rights, and if you’ve been injured, get an attorney’s help. That’s one of your rights.