What to Do If You’re in a Car Accident in New York


According to the New York Police Department, a car accident occurs in the city about every two minutes. In February 2021 alone, a slow month statistically, the NYPD reported a total of 6864 motor vehicle collisions throughout the city’s five boroughs, resulting in 2503 injured and 10 killed. Although in 2020 New York State had the lowest per capita fatality rate for motor vehicle crashes of any state, at 4.8 per 100,000, a total of 876 fatal accidents still occurred throughout the state, resulting in 931 fatalities. 

While the relatively low fatality rate is indeed something about which the state can take pride, many of the accidents that weren’t fatal still resulted in substantial vehicular damage, injury, lost work and even hospitalization that can cost substantial amounts of money, not to mention the time and inconvenience involved in repairing vehicles, doctor’s appointments and physical therapy for serious injuries. All these lead to financial loss, for which a person involved in a car crash in New York can be compensated. 

What to Do

Regardless of where it happens, getting into a car accident is a traumatic experience, and because they’re fairly common events, knowing what to do when they happen is just good preparation. In New York, car accident laws require that those involved in a vehicular accident wait at the scene, exchanging information and rendering reasonable assistance to anyone who’s injured. Leaving the scene of an accident, especially if there are injuries, can result in hit-and-run charges, along with fines, jail time and potential loss of driver’s license. 

Calling Police

It’s important to call the police or 911 as soon as possible after an accident; if someone is injured or killed, the accident must be immediately reported. If you hit a parked car or other stationary objects, it’s a requirement to inform the owner by leaving your name, address, license plate number and insurance information at the scene if that person isn’t available or known. Local officers will respond to take a report, assist anyone who’s injured and interview witnesses to determine the cause of the accident. 

Gathering Information

If the accident involves another vehicle, information such as name, driver’s license number, vehicle identification number, name and address of car owner and driver, insurance company and policy number should be exchanged. It’s important that any investigating officers have complete insurance information for all parties involved. 

It’s a good idea to also collect contact information from: 

  • Any potential accident witnesses
  • Passengers in any other cars involved in the accident
  • The owners of any vehicles involved

Take note too of weather or traffic conditions. Sketching a simple diagram and taking photos of the scene is also a good idea, if possible.

Reporting to DMV

New York car accident laws require that anyone in an accident where property damage exceeds $1000, or where someone is hurt or killed, needs to report it using a DMV form. These forms can be obtained online, and this must be done within 10 days after the accident otherwise it may result in a suspended license. 

What Not to Do

The information you provide after an accident can affect payment of any claims. Anything you say (or write) can and will be used against you by an insurance company – even your own insurer – if a claim is filed, and especially if it ends up in court. 

Here’s a list of what you shouldn’t say after a car accident: 

  • Don’t admit fault, ever.
  • Don’t agree to a settlement without discussing it with an attorney, as insurance companies for any liable parties will probably offer a lower than acceptable settlement.
  • Don’t give opinions about who caused the accident.
  • Don’t lie about the accident; if you don’t know the answer, don’t give an opinion or offer an estimate.
  • Don’t make statements immediately after a car accident, as shock, stress or confusion may affect your answers.
  • Don’t offer names of anyone with whom you’ve spoken concerning the accident, including family, friends or medical professionals.
  • Don’t provide any official or recorded statements unless a personal injury attorney counsels you to do so.
  • Don’t sign any release forms that allow an insurance adjusters access to medical records, as possible pre-existing conditions might be taken into account to deny a claim.
  • Don’t state that no injuries occurred, as some effects of injuries only become apparent later.
  • If you’re in doubt, find an attorney who’s knowledgeable about New York car accident laws to advise you. 

Basics About New York Car Accident Laws

If you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident in New York, it’s important to understand the basics of the state’s car accident compensation laws. 

Limits on Filing a Claim

New York car accident laws limit the time after which an accident victim can claim, which is known as the statute of limitations. A legal claim must be filed within three years of the date of an accident. 

State laws also limit how much a person can claim, based on legal elements known as “comparative negligence” and “no-fault” rules. 

Filing a “No-Fault” Claim

As one of only a few states, New York requires that a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle must first file a claim against his or her own insurance for any injuries resulting from a car accident. In a limited set of circumstances, a claim can be filed against another driver’s insurance via a lawsuit. 

The following are examples of injuries for which injured parties can make such claims: 

  • Broken bones
  • Considerable constraints on bodily functions or systems
  • Experiencing full disability for 90 days or more
  • Extensive disfigurement
  • Permanent damage affecting the use of limbs or organs
  • Substantively full disability for 90 days

Such injury claims also open the way for claiming non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. In order to prevail in such cases, however, another party must first be proved as negligent. 

Comparative Fault

Under New York car accident law, this means that damages are awarded according to the percentage of fault each party has in the accident, as determined by a jury or judge. This is referred to as “comparative fault” and allows courts or juries to attribute a certain amount of blame to both the defendant and plaintiff in a personal injury case. For example, if damages are $5000 and the court decides the defendant was 70% responsible for the accident, the plaintiff would be awarded $3500.

Types of Damages

Typically, both economic and non-economic damages can be claimed 

These can include: 

  • Costs of car rental
  • Loss of affection or companionship due to injuries
  • Lost earnings
  • Medical costs related to the accident
  • Pain and suffering
  • Repair or replacement of the vehicle
  • Wrongful death

While economic damages like lost earnings or car rental can be assessed, non-economic factors like loss of affection or pain and suffering are more difficult to determine. 

Filing a New York Car Accident Claim

After all this, it’s important to approach an experienced and reputable personal injury attorney. The Laufer Law Group knows New York car accident laws and can help you with your claim. With over two decades of experience, our law firm has taken on negligent drivers, car manufacturers, insurance companies and other liable parties in motor vehicle accident cases. We know all the major causes of serious auto accidents involve negligence. 

Whether your accident involves broken traffic laws, distracted driving or defective equipment, we can help decide if you have a suitable case. If you believe that you or someone close to you has been injured due to the negligence of someone else in a car accident in New York, please contact the Laufer Law Group. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.

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