By Ashley Lofters
Each year, 11,000 pedestrians and 3,500 bicyclists are injured from car crashes in New York City, according to Carol Wood. It was statistics like this that drove her to create NycCarAccident.net, a nonprofit website providing information for pedestrians and bicyclists who have been injured in car accidents.
“People who have been hit don’t know what to do,” says Wood. “And because these things happen all the time, this information should be available to people. We need to help people be aware and reduce the frequency of crashes.”
Wood’s idea for the website, which launched on Feb. 29, emerged from her research on crash victims that became her master’s thesis in Baruch College’s master’s program in business journalism (which is now defunct). During her research, Wood found very little information was available for crash victims, and the information that she did find was never available in one place. “As I was researching what happens to people who are hit by cars, I thought the only way I could make sense of everything was to build a website that had hyperlinks on it,” she says.
Wood spent two months putting the site together, interviewing dozens of victims as well as specialists in medicine, public health, law and transportation advocacy. “With something as common as a car crash, the information comes to you because everyone has a story to tell,” says Wood.
As a transportation advocate for 15 years and a cyclist herself, Wood had a personal motivation for informing the public. “Sometimes you don’t know if you’re injured; it happened to me,” she says. “I was hit and I ended up on my back on Park Avenue South.” Wood says she still has back pains that could stem from her accident.
According to Wood, after being hit you should send a letter to anyone with whom you might make a claim. “You have to send them a notice saying you were hit if you want to file a claim within 30 days,” she says. “You don’t have to actually make a claim if you don’t want to, but you need to protect your rights.”
Wood details how to file a claim in one of the several sections on the site. The sections are: “At the Scene of the Crash,” “Reporting the Crash,” “Insurance for Peds & Cyclists,” “Getting Legal Assistance,” “How to File an Insurance Claim,” “Disputing an Insurer” and “Dramatis Personae.”
The site also offers an annotated bibliography of sources consulted by Wood. For people on the go, a wallet card containing the site’s important bullet points can be downloaded. For those with more time, there’s a link to the full thesis.
One vital fact on site is that a car owner’s no-fault insurance coverage will pay for the medical expenses of pedestrians and cyclists who are struck by a driver, regardless of who was at fault. Few accident victims are aware of this, Wood says.
Despite all the hard work that Wood has put into her site, she is determined to keep it noncommercial and insists that producing knowledge is all the profit she needs.
“I’m not taking any advertising,” she says. “I thought that any commercial aspects would diminish the public’s trust. I had to do the work anyway, so I don’t want to monetize this. I don’t want anyone making a profit off of this.”
Only a week after the site was launched, Wood had already received praise for it.
“It’s a resource that is not being used to draw the person into a relationship with a lawyer – which I don’t think is a bad thing – but as a noncommercial and nonprofit source of information; I’m hoping that people will distinguish it from other information and realize that it’s reliable,” says Steve Vaccaro, a lawyer with Rankin & Taylor Lawyer whom Wood consulted during her research. “It will help them navigate this difficult no-fault system.”
Wood is hopeful the site will be a helpful resource to victims. “I strongly believe in karma,” she says. “So it will pay off in the end.”