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Guide to Car Accident Laws in New York

Common Types of Car Accidents in New York

Understanding New York car accident law is helpful for anyone living in the state. While you should always consult an experienced attorney, it is helpful to have a general understanding of the law and what to expect when involved in a car accident.

Common Types of Car Accidents in New York

When discussing New York car accident laws, some types of car accidents come up more than others. You should be aware of the following types of car accidents:

Head-on Accidents

These are rare but extremely dangerous. They have a higher chance of leading to serious injuries, such as spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries.

Rear-end Accidents

These are the most common type of car accidents in New York. In this situation, the front car may stop suddenly, causing the rear driver to collide with them. Legally, these are typically the fault of the rear car’s driver. Drivers are expected to leave enough space between vehicles to stop in time, regardless of the situation.


Certain car models have a higher risk of rollovers, depending on weight, the center of gravity, and load. Poor weather, obstacles in the road, and high speeds are also risk factors.

Side-impact Accidents (or T-Bone or Broadside Accidents)

These are most common at intersections if a car passes another. How severe the accident is will generally depend on what parts of the vehicles collide and which seats are occupied.

Side-swiping Accidents

These occur when two cars travel in the same direction. They are most common if a driver accidentally slides into the next lane or tries to change lanes without properly checking first.

Single-car Accidents

These are accidents that only involve one car. They can include hitting fences, posts, animals, potholes, or other objects. The driver may also slide off the shoulder, lost control due to poor weather, or have an issue with the vehicle. Common causes include distracted or impaired driving and poor weather.

Reckless Driving Accidents

This type of accident typically occurs if the driver ignores road rules and drives in a way that is dangerous to others on the road.

What Are the Car Accident Laws in New York?

Car Accident Laws in New York

It is impossible to concisely summarize all of the New York accident laws, which is why we dedicated a full article to the most common questions regarding these laws. The following are the most important of these laws to keep in mind:

Comparative Negligence

The laws regarding car accidents in New York also include any potential comparative negligence on the part of the plaintiff. In most cases, juries are expected to calculate both the damages and the percent of fault belonging to each party. The damages are then adjusted based on the share of fault.

The interesting part of this aspect of the New York car accident law is that it applies even if you are primarily at fault. In other words, if you have 90% of the fault, the other party would technically have to pay for 10% of your total damages.

No-fault Laws

New York is a state with no-fault car insurance. As such, you typically file claims with your own personal injury protection insurance after an accident. These benefits usually cover items such as medical treatment and lost wages.

Report Requirements

New York State requires you to report any car accident to the DMV within ten days of the accident if the accident caused injury, death, or property damage above $1,000. There is a specific Report of Motor Vehicle Accident form (MV-104) to fill out, and failing to do so can lead to a license suspension until the report is filed.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the deadline that you have to file a claim with the Court. New York State car accident law sets the statute of limitations for most car accidents at three years.

What Are the Auto Insurance Laws in New York?

Auto Insurance Laws in New York

The most important part of NYS auto insurance laws is the minimum requirements. There are five components of the NY auto insurance requirements, as follows:

  • Property damage ($10,000 per accident)
  • Bodily injury ($25,000 per person per accident)
  • Bodily injury ($50,000 total per accident)
  • Personal injury protection (PIP) ($50,000) (AKA No-Fault Coverage)
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury ($25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident) 

New York State does not offer the Alternative Proof of Financial Responsibility, which some states allow. The New York State DMV requires insurance, so don’t be misled if you come across this option.

The other crucial aspect of NYS auto insurance laws is the penalties for driving without the minimum car insurance in New York. You may face fines or have your vehicle impounded. Those fines increase over time and can be up to $1,500. The penalties become more severe the longer you drive without insurance. For example, after 90 days, your license will be suspended. The bottom line is that in order to drive in New York, you must have valid auto liability insurance coverage or surrender your plates to the DMV.

What Is the Minimum Auto Insurance Coverage in New York?

The minimum New York State auto insurance requirements include the following:

  • Liability insurance for property damage
  • Liability insurance for bodily injury
  • Personal injury protection (PIP; sometimes called no-fault coverage)
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury

What Is the New York State Minimum Personal Injury Liability Coverage?

New York State Minimum Personal Injury Liability Coverage

The NYS minimum personal injury liability coverage requirement is more specific than the quick overview already mentioned. Specifically, this aspect of the minimum car insurance NY must include:

  • $10,000 coverage for property damage in a single accident
  • $25,000 coverage for bodily injury plus $50,000 coverage for death for someone involved in a car accident
  • $50,000 coverage for bodily injury plus $100,000 coverage for death when at least two people are involved in a car accident

You may hear the liability insurance requirements in New York called 25/50/10 or $25,000/$50,000/$10,000 due to the above numbers.

Additionally, New York requires you to keep your liability insurance even if you aren’t using the vehicle, except for motorcycles in some cases.

The state does not allow you to use out-of-state insurance. It must be issued by an insurance company that the New York State DMV certifies and the New York State Department of Financial Services licenses.

Finally, the liability insurance has to be in the name of the person on the vehicle registration. However, if this is a challenge, you can add a second name to the vehicle registration. Only up to two names are permissible.

What to Do If You’re Hit By An Uninsured Motorist?

car accident lawyer

Suppose you are in a “car accident where another driver has no insurance” situation. In that case, you should treat your injuries and report the accident just like you would for any other collision. In New York, there is specific coverage to pay for damages or injuries caused by a driver without insurance.

This is a combination of personal injury protection insurance and uninsured motorist coverage, and New York requires both of these. While we mentioned the minimum requirements for each, you can also opt for higher coverage if you prefer.

The process for dealing with this situation starts by notifying your insurance company. You will then file the claim and submit any extra documentation, just like you would for any other claim.

Can You Sue an Uninsured Driver for Damages?

If your insurance policy does not provide enough coverage, you can consider suing an uninsured driver for damages. However, there is a limit of three years after the accident in which you can sue the driver.

It is also wise to work with a lawyer before suing an uninsured driver for damages. New York requires personal injury protection and uninsured motorist coverage can complicate matters. You will also need their assistance with paperwork and gathering evidence.

Is New York a No-fault State for Car Accidents?

What to Do After a Car Accident in New Rochelle, New York

As mentioned earlier, New York is a no-fault state for car accidents. The New York, no-fault car insurance law, means that regardless of who is at fault for the accident, you file a claim with your insurance company. This NY no-fault law is different from laws in some states where you would have to file the claim with the insurance company of the person who caused the accident.

This is why the New York State requires personal injury protection (PIP) insurance which applies to a no-fault car accident in New York. The state requires PIP coverage of at least up to $50,000. You have the option to get higher coverage in the case of New York no-fault car accidents. Please note that there are exceptions to no-fault coverage, including motorcycle accidents.

What Are the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in New York?

Car Accident Statute of Limitations in New York

The car accident statute of limitations in New York is typically three years. However, it varies slightly based on whether the crash caused property damage and injuries or death.

As a reminder, the statute of limitations refers to how long you have the legal right to sue and the time you have to file the initial complaint. Notably, the statute of limitations in a New York car accident does not refer to how long you have for the process to finish and for you to receive your settlement. You just have to file the claim by that date.

You will notice that the statute of limitations on car accident claim filings in New York is typically the same as any other personal injury case. The limit typically is three years, outlined in section 214 of the New York Civil Practice Laws & Rules. This limit applies to anyone injured in an auto accident, whether they were in the car as the driver or passenger, on a bicycle or motorcycle, or a pedestrian.

You will also have that three-year statute of limitations if there were no injuries, but you are seeking compensation for damaged property, like your car.

The car accident statute of limitations in New York only gives you two years, however, in case of death. Specifically, this applies if you plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Note that this two-year limit is from the date that the person dies. That may be a later date than the accident.

There are also situations where a motor vehicle accident is caused by a city, state or municipal agency. As explained below, these accidents have much shorter statutes of limitations.

In most situations, whether your claim is considered a wrongful death claim or a personal injury lawsuit will depend on if the negligence of the driver caused the accident. Your lawyer can help you determine which situation applies.

If you fail to meet the statute of limitations NY car accident rules, then you will be barred from ever filing a claim. Therefore, if you are interested in pursuing legal action, you should not delay and consult an attorney immediately.

How Long Do You Have to File a Claim for a Car Accident?

In most cases, you have three years to file a claim for a car accident in New York. This is the same limit as any personal injury claim.

However, while you have three years to file a legal claim for an accident, you need to notify the DMV and your insurance company sooner than this.

New York State requires you to file an insurance claim within 30 days. You will also only have ten days to report the accident to the DMV if the accident caused a fatality and/or personal injury and/or property damage in excess of $1,000.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident

In addition to the exception for car accidents that involve a death, there is also an exception for accidents involving a municipal vehicle. In that case, you only have 90 days in which you can file the claim and relevant paperwork.

Another exception is if the person injured is a minor. In this case, the statute of limitations extends to three years after they turn 18. This extends it to their 21st birthday and is called pausing or tolling the statute of limitations.

What Is the Time Limit to File After a Fatal Car Accident?

The time limit to file a wrongful death claim is just two years from the date of death, as opposed to the three years for non-fatal car accidents. It is important to note that some claims can have more than one cause of action. For example, in a case involving a New York car accident that leads to death, a complaint can be filed that claims both negligence and wrongful death.

In that case, there would be two different statutes of limitation that apply in the same case. As you can see, statutes of limitation can be complicated, and you should consult an attorney right away to determine what statute of limitation applies to your case.

Who Is Eligible to Sue for Compensation for a Car Accident in New York State?

Car Accident Laws in New York

It is also worth noting that you have to meet the New York serious injury threshold to be eligible to sue for compensation. The threshold defines “serious injury” as one or more of the following:

  • Death
  • Significant disfigurement 
  • Dismemberment
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Fracture
  • Permanent loss of the use of a body system, function, organ, or member 
  • Permanent and consequential limitation of a body member or organ
  • A significant limitation of a body system or function
  • Non-permanent medical injuries that prevent usual activities for at least 90 of the 180 days following the accident 

You need to provide medical documentation to meet the New York serious injury threshold.

Risks You Could Face by Delaying

It is always important to begin the process of filing a claim as soon as possible after a car accident.

Missing the Statute of Limitations or Deadline

The most considerable risk of delaying is that you will miss the deadline for a car accident case in New York. If you put off filing, the statute of limitations may pass. You may also think you have more time than you really do and unintentionally miss the deadline. One example would be if you thought you had three years but actually have two years as it is a wrongful death claim. Another example would be if you have a shorter statute of limitations because a municipal vehicle was involved.

Even if you start gathering evidence and completing paperwork before the statute of limitations, you may underestimate how long it takes to gather the required information and evidence.

Even just the process of investigating the accident and gathering evidence can be surprisingly time-consuming. This is especially true if you didn’t take photos of the scene or get the contact information of witnesses. Even if you did get their contact information, the process of contacting them for evidence could take time. The process of evaluating your financial hardships can also take more time than you realize.

To provide an idea of why it may take so long to gather evidence, consider some of the sources you will need. We already mentioned gathering witness testimony. Your lawyer may also want to gather surveillance footage, dashcam footage, and any photos you or others took of the scene.

Evidence Being Harder to Gather

There is also a serious risk that delaying your claim may make it harder to gather evidence. For example, surveillance footage may be deleted or written over after a certain amount of time. Or witnesses may not remember the incident as well as time passes.

Delayed Treatment or Bill Payment

It should also go without saying that the longer you take to file a claim, the longer you will have to wait for your car accident to be resolved either by settlement or a jury verdict in New York. This can lead to financial challenges or even cause delays in your medical treatment. Depending on the size of the settlement, this delay can have serious consequences for your finances. For example, you may not be able to afford basics such as food and shelter in the case of an accident with significant bills.

Even if you are able to delay payment on relevant medical or other bills, you would likely still have to put up with phone calls asking for that payment.

The important message is that you should not delay the filing of your claim. If you are interested in pursuing legal action, you should contact an attorney immediately.

Damages related to a New York Car Accident Injury

Full length of a young female bicyclist fallen down on street with serious injuries after traffic accident with the 4×4 car of a young man

In most cases, your no-fault insurance will cover the lost wages. You may also recover lost wages from your accident as part of the claim process or lawsuit. However, you will need to show that the accident injury caused those lost wages. For example, if you break a limb, you could use employment records and medical documentation to prove you lost wages due to the injury.

No-fault Limits to Lost Wages

While your no-fault insurance will cover your lost wages, it only does so up to a certain limit. Remember that in total, no-fault will cover $50,000 of combined lost wages and medical expenses. Depending on your medical expenses, you may quickly reach that limit.

Additionally, no-fault only pays up to 80% of your income and only pays up to $2,000 per month. This is not enough for many New Rochelle residents.

This is where the ability to file a lawsuit comes in handy. If your lost wages exceed this amount, you can file the lawsuit, assuming you meet the serious injury threshold mentioned earlier.

Lost Earning Capacity and/or future loss earnings

This will apply if you have long-lasting or permanent disabilities from the accident that affect your ability to work. The injury does not have to eliminate your ability to work ultimately. It is sometimes enough if it limits your ability to work. It is occasionally sufficient if it limits your ability in some significant way.

Typical documentation and/or evidence that is used to prove future loss of income include employment records, tax records, and/or economic expert evidence.

Aggravated Pre-existing Conditions

It is also worth noting that if you have a pre-existing condition that the accident aggravates, this may qualify as damages.

Types of Compensation You Can Recover in a New York Auto Accident Case

Under New York accident laws, you may be eligible for a few types of compensation, including:

Lost Wages and/or Future Loss of Income and/or Benefits

This type of compensation includes the wages you lost due to time off work during recovery. It accounts for what you would have earned if the accident did not happen. It will also typically include future wage losses, called lost earning capacity. It also may account for any benefits that you may have lost due to your inability to work.

Medical Expenses, Past and Future

Perhaps the first type of compensation you think of regarding car accidents is for medical expenses. These include emergency treatment, prescriptions, surgeries, other treatments, doctor consultations, and more. It can also cover medical aids, like prosthetics, wheelchairs, or crutches.

In the case of permanent or long-term injuries, it can also include compensation for future medical expenses.

Pain and Suffering

This can include physical, psychological, and emotional damage. The amount you receive for this will depend on your prognosis, the type of injury, and how long it will likely last.

Emotional Distress or Mental Anguish

These overlap with pain and suffering somewhat. Examples of emotional distress can be anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fear of going out.

Special Damages

These include a range of monetary and economic losses, and it requires you to provide detailed evidence of such losses.

Loss of Consortium

This may apply if your injuries affect your marriage’s sexual or emotional relations. The compensation will be for what is described as “loss of affection.”

Why You Should Hire a Car Accident Attorney

Car Accident Lawyer in New York NY

After a car accident in New Rochelle, NY, it may be tempting just to let the insurance company handle everything, but you should avoid that urge. While it may seem more manageable, you are unlikely to receive fair compensation. Remember that insurance companies want to minimize their costs, but an attorney can help you fight to receive the compensation you deserve. If your insurance doesn’t provide enough coverage to compensate you, they will also assist you with your lawsuit against the person at fault. Their expertise will make a significant difference during the process in several ways.

They Know All Potential Damages

The average person simply isn’t familiar enough with a New York motor vehicle accident lawyer to know what compensation they are entitled to. You likely know that you are entitled to compensation for medical bills and auto repairs but may not know about pain and suffering or earned income capacity. By contrast, a car accident attorney will know the various types of compensation and how to best craft an argument to show you are entitled to them.

They Know Other Relevant Laws

In addition to knowing the aspects of the New York laws relevant to your compensation, attorneys will know all of the applicable laws. These include deadlines and statutes of limitations and comparative negligence. Their knowledge also extends to the best ways to file claims, including presenting evidence in the best light.

You Don’t Know What the Future Holds

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that not all injuries appear right after a car accident. It may take days or sometimes weeks for certain symptoms to appear. Experienced car accident attorneys know this. By starting to work with them right away, you will already have the process started if more injuries appear.

You Will Likely Get a Larger Settlement

It is a common tactic for insurance companies or defendants in a lawsuit to offer a settlement. Without experience, you may simply accept it to avoid the hassle of a claim or because you think it is likely enough. By contrast, auto accident attorneys can tell whether it is a fair settlement offer. This means they know when to keep pushing and can help you get a larger settlement.

You Don’t Have to Handle It

Perhaps the biggest reason to hire a car accident attorney is the simple fact that you won’t have to worry about the claim. You don’t have to keep track of evidence or deadlines. You can focus on healing and getting your life back to as close to normal as it can be.

At Sattler Law Group we are committed to recovering the maximum compensation possible for our clients.  Call us at 914-239-4900 to speak with one of our auto accident attorneys.

About The Author

Adam Sattler, ESQ.

Adam Sattler, ESQ.

Adam Sattler, ESQ., is a highly experienced personal injury lawyer in New York and the founder of Sattler Law Group PC. Under his leadership, Sattler Law Group PC is exclusively dedicated to fighting for the rights of injured victims in all types of accident cases, including auto accidents and slip and fall accidents.