2006-03-17 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey Pheffer
Audrey Pheffer The moments after a car accident are bad enough without factoring in all of the surrounding details that arise. It is only a matter of time before the inevitable questions surface.

When and how does one report an accident?

When should motorists exchange information?

When should motorists notify their insurance company?

As a general rule, what exactly does car insurance cover?

Immediately following the accident, motorists should make sure that they and their passengers are unhurt and then check to make sure any other involved motorists are not injured.

If there has been an injury or a fatality, the police should be called to the scene immediately. It is a crime to leave the scene of a fatal or personal injury accident. Also, if there is an injury or fatality, all involved parties and the police must file an accident report form, known as an MV-104, with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days of the accident.

Failure to submit an accident report in a timely manner can result in license suspension.

All involved parties should notify their insurance agent as soon as possible.

If the property damage is less than one thousand dollars, all involved motorists must exchange information, but the motorists do not have to report the accident to the police or the DMV. Motorists should notify their insurance company.

While not required by law, it may be helpful to call the police to the scene of a property damage accident in order to assign fault.

If no one is injured, but personal property has been damaged, and you believe that the damages may exceed one thousand dollars, all involved parties must exchange information, which should include first and last name, personal residence, insurance carrier, insurance policy number and effective dates, driver's license number and plate number.

Accidents that cause more than one thousand dollars in property damages require all involved parties to file an accident report form with the DMV within ten days.

If personal property is damaged or a domestic animal is injured, the motorist must notify the owner or the police.

All involved motorists should also notify their insurance agents as soon as possible.

If there is no property damage and if no one is injured, the authorities do not need to be notified, but it may be a good idea to exchange information with other involved motorists in case either person later finds damage caused by the accident.

Motorists should contact their insurance agents to find out what their policy covers because insurance coverage and limits vary.

Generally, a few rules do apply.

Collision coverage is an elective coverage that covers damages to the insured's vehicle that are sustained in a one-car collision or in a multiple car collision in which the insured is at fault.

Collision coverage is subject to a deductible. If the driver is involved in a multiple car accident and is not at fault for the damages sustained by their vehicle, then the at-fault driver's property damage liability will cover victim's property damages up to the covered amount stated in the policy.

Personal injury protection, sometimes referred to as "PIP" or "no-fault coverage," covers the actual economic losses of the driver and any occupants in your car or any pedestrians injured by your car, regardless of fault or negligence.

Actual economic losses include medical bills, lost earnings, and other expenses related to the injury, up to $50,000 per person, which is the minimum amount required in New York.

To learn more about accident reporting, please visit the New York State DMV's Frequently Asked Questions page at www.nydmv.state. ny.us/dmvfaqs.htm or the New York State Consumer Protection Board's Consumer Law Help Manual at www.consumer.state.ny.us/clhm.htm. Your insurance agent may also have some helpful tips.

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