New York is home to the city that never sleeps, and apparently that includes its streets. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) reports that more than 700,000 cars stream into Manhattan each day, 255 million cars per year. With that much traffic, anyone driving in the “Empire State” should be aware of New York state car accident laws.
Keep reading to learn New York’s reporting and no-fault rules of the road—and when you should get a lawyer. Because it’s hard to take a bite of the Big Apple if you got sideswiped before you even get there.
What to Do at the Scene of the Crash
In 2022, there were 100,508 car accidents in New York City alone. That’s over a hundred thousand reasons why you need to know what to do at the scene of a crash.
Next, if there are injuries or fatalities, New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (VAT) requires you call the police. Also note, it’s a crime to leave any accident scene where there are injuries or death according to New York VTL 600. If the accident results in a parked car or other property incurring damage, you must locate the owner.
The law doesn’t require you to call the police for accidents without injury, but it’s still a good idea to get a police report. Especially since an officer can record missed details while you’re suffering from the effects of a car accident.
Information to Record After the Crash
Whatever the crash scenario, it’s important for you to personally collect as much information from the scene as possible. Be sure to get the following for any other involved parties after an accident:
- Contact info (full name, address, phone, email)
- Driver’s license number
- Insurance ID card/policy number
- Car registration and license plate number
- Car make, model, and color
Additionally, take photos of vehicle damage, injuries, your surroundings, and anything else you feel may be pertinent to the crash.
Also, don’t apologize or take responsibility at the scene, even if you feel you were responsible. You don’t want to endanger your ability to get a decent settlement, even if it’s coming from your own insurance.
How to Report a Car Accident in New York
Any driver in a New York car accident must individually file a crash report within 10 days according to VAT § 605. This is true on either one or both of the following scenarios:
- Injuries or fatalities resulting from the crash
- Property damage in excess of $1000
Failure to file may lead to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspending your license until they receive your report.
To satisfy the filing requirements, you must fill out and submit the Report of Motor Vehicle Accident form (MV-104).
The accident will show up on the records of all drivers in the collision. But just because it’s listed on your record doesn’t mean you’re responsible. The DMV does not try to investigate or make any determination of fault in a crash.
New York is a No-Fault State
New York state operates under a no-fault insurance system. Drivers in a New York crash must first collect compensation from their own insurance before suing the at-fault party. This is true even if they were not responsible for the accident — thus the term “no-fault.”
Insurance companies will try to pay the least amount of money possible to claimants. Yes, even if you are not at-fault and are their client. It’s crucial to retain a skilled car accident attorney in states with no-fault policies. A lawyer experienced in New York car accident law will help you get a better settlement than the adjuster’s first offer.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Laws in New York
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is another name for no-fault insurance benefits. In New York, drivers must carry a PIP policy to register a car with appropriate license plates, according to 11 CRR-NY 65-1.1.
The purpose of PIP is to keep coverage separate from any litigation or other claims. That way it can help individuals get reimbursement for economic losses — like medical bills and lost wages — without delay.
In New York, the PIP basic minimum coverage a driver must carry is $50,000. This will cover you in the event of an accident, but also any passengers or pedestrians hurt in the incident. However, under most insurance policies, if the driver’s intoxication contributes to the accident, the insurance company can refuse payout.
It’s important to note that New York’s no-fault insurance rules apply only to car accident injuries, not to vehicle damage. When it comes time for car repairs, there may be a possibility to claim against the other driver’s liability insurance. But of course, this depends upon which driver turns out to be more at-fault.
Comparative Negligence in New York Car Accident Law
When determining responsibility in a New York car accident, the state uses the pure comparative fault model. Multiple parties may share some percentage of the blame in an accident, suing for injuries even when partially-guilty.
To understand this better, consider the following example. Let’s say you are driving over the speed limit, but another car runs a stoplight and you two collide. Each of you are in part “guilty” of causing the crash.
The pure comparative fault model means that each party pays according to how responsible they are for the accident. This is different from many other states like Colorado which permit you to collect only if you’re less than 50% at-fault.
The NY comparative negligence system allows you to still collect 5% in damages even if you’re 95% at-fault. Of course, the flip side is you’re responsible for paying 95% of the damages for everyone else. So, it’s not that big of a win.
The assignment of what percentage of fault is yours will likely come from a judge or jury. Your goal should be to receive the smallest percentage of fault possible so you can get a bigger settlement. Yet another reason to have a really good car accident attorney on your side.
Liability Insurance Requirements in New York
If you find yourself on the hook for a large percentage of an accident, you’ll definitely need insurance. This is partly why New York car accident laws require all motorists to carry a minimum amount of liability coverage, according to N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 341.
These insurance minimum amounts are in addition to your PIP, and fall into the ratio of 25/50/10:
- $25,000 for bodily injury per person
- $50,000 total liability for all persons per accident
- $10,000 for property damage per accident
The law also requires you to carry uninsured motorist coverage (UIM) in these same liability amounts.
Also note, for injuries resulting in death, the $25,000 individual limit doubles ($50,000), and the $50,000 per-accident limit becomes $100,000.
If law enforcement catches you driving without auto insurance in New York, there are strict penalties. These include potential revocation of your driver’s license and registration and fines up to $1500. These laws may be partially responsible for New York having the third lowest number of uninsured drivers in the country.
For more on New York car insurance requirements, visit the New York Department of Financial Services.
Types of Damages in New York Car Accident Law
If your injuries reach a certain level of seriousness, you may sue the more at-fault driver beyond your PIP coverage. This also holds true when there’s copious amounts of property damage, where you may claim against the other driver’s liability.
When it comes to what types of damages an accident victim may seek, they generally fall in these main categories.
These are damages that are tangible — monetary and otherwise measurable losses resulting from the accident. Common examples of economic damages include:
- Medical bills
- Lost work, wages, or employment
- Lost property
- Car repairs and maintenance costs
- Purchase of assistive devices (like wheelchairs)
These are damages that are less quantifiable, thereby making them sometimes harder to prove but no less hurtful. Common examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Permanent disfigurement
- Diminishment of reputation
- Loss of enjoyment of life
It is rare for successful claims to include punitive damages in New York. However, it can happen in particularly egregious cases such as a drunk driver who causes an accident with multiple deaths. These damages are meant to serve as a deterrent and become part of a settlement purely to punish the defendant.
New York Statute of Limitations on Car Accidents
Every state has a time limit before which you must file a lawsuit. Note that this is different from the timing for starting a claim with your insurance.
In New York, the deadline for initiating a case is three years from the date of the crash. This is pursuant to New York State Civil Practice Law & Rules §214.
There are a few other exceptions that may extend the statute of limitations a bit. These include if the victim is under the age of 18, which is under a legal disability according to NY CPLR § 208.
Another exception occurs if the person causing the accident leaves the state before the defendant files the case. If they’re gone for more than four months that absent time won’t count in the statute limit.
Basically, the best rule of thumb, however, is to consult with your lawyer and file as soon as possible.
LegalASAP Will Connect You To a New York Auto Accident Lawyer
If you’ve read this far, it’s obvious there are many loopholes and rules within New York car accident law.
To make sure you’re getting the best settlement possible, we highly suggest scheduling a free consultation with a lawyer. Let LegalASAP connect you with a qualified auto accident attorney covering your area today!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann