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How New York’s Fault Laws Impact Car Accident Claims

— March 29, 2022

Once both drivers are deemed to share culpability for an accident, New York adopts a “pure comparative fault” system.

Suppose you’ve been wounded in a car accident in New York and sustained major damage to your car. In that case, you’re undoubtedly interested in learning about your legal options for recovering compensation for your losses. We’ll explore a few state laws that might have a significant influence on your case, including:

  • The three-year statute of limitations on most vehicle accident cases filed in New York’s civil court system
  • New York’s claimant-friendly “pure comparative fault” law that permits financial compensation where the claimant was somewhat (or even entirely) to blame for the accident

New York, a No-Fault State

New York is a no-fault state for car insurance. That implies that after an automobile accident, irrespective of who instigated the disaster, you will likely need to claim your personal injury protection policy to recover reimbursement for medical costs and other financial damages.

If your injury claim meets specific criteria, you may opt out of no-fault and pursue a suit directly against the at-fault motorist. The discussion in the following two parts is based on the assumption that you can do that.

New York Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases

A “statute of limitations” is a legal term that refers to a deadline on the right to sue. In most cases, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a vehicle accident lawsuit in the New York court system.

Suppose you fail to comply with this law’s time limits and attempt to file a vehicle accident lawsuit after the timeframe has gone. In that case, the New York court system nearly always dismisses your case unless a rare exemption allows for an extension of the deadline.

The Role of Comparative Negligence in New York Accident Cases

Suppose the other driver was totally to blame for your automobile accident. In that case, the outcome is typically predictable: the other driver (by their insurance company) will pay for your medical costs, missed earnings, and other damages. However, what if you were partially to blame for the crash?

Once both drivers are deemed to share culpability for an accident, New York adopts a “pure comparative fault” system. In most vehicle accident lawsuits, the jury is asked to determine two things based on the evidence presented:

  • The total cash value of the plaintiff’s losses
  • The proportion of blame assigned to each defendant

The plaintiff’s damages judgment is lowered by a percentage proportional to their share of blame under the pure comparative fault rule. In New York, the comparative fault rule applies even if you are determined to be more at fault for the accident than the other motorist.

The comparative negligence rule not only binds New York courts and juries, but it will also lead an automobile insurance claims adjuster when reviewing your case. After all, a claims adjuster makes choices based on what is likely to occur in court.

Man walking with brown leather briefcase; image by Marten Bjork, via
Man walking with brown leather briefcase; image by Marten Bjork, via

The circumstances should not deter you from seeking a car accident compensation or lawsuit. Instead, consult with a New York car accident lawyer about your circumstances and the best line of action for you.

Reporting a Car Accident in New York

Suppose you are involved in an automobile accident in New York, and any individual sustains more than $1,000 in property damage due to the incident. In that case, all drivers must submit a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident form with the DMV within ten days of the accident. Failure to do so can lead to your driver’s license being suspended.

No-Fault Car Insurance in New York

As previously stated, New York is one of a dozen or so states that use a no-fault vehicle insurance system.

Therefore, regardless of who was at fault, injured drivers and passengers must often turn first to their personal-injury-protection automobile insurance policy to seek reimbursement for medical costs, lost income, and other out-of-pocket damages after an accident.

You may file a claim against the at-fault motorist under specific circumstances.

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