New York Car Accident Laws

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Amber Reed
Updated on Sep 16, 2022 · 8 min read
If you’re in a car accident in New York, you might be required to file a report with both law enforcement and the DMV, depending on the nature of the accident. You’ll be able to claim damages through your insurance in proportion to your level of fault. 
Car accidents can happen to the best of us, no matter how safely we drive. It’s an incredibly jolting experience—even if it's just a small fender bender. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the accident laws in your state before you need to know them is a wise choice and can ensure that you make good decisions after an accident happens. 
Here to fill you in on car accident laws in New York is Jerry, your friendly car insurance broker app. We’ll go over accident reporting, insurance minimums, personal injury lawsuits, and New York’s pure comparative fault law to make sure you have all the information you need. We can even help you find the best New York car insurance costs—so read on!
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What to do after a crash: New York car accident reporting laws

The first and most important thing you should do after a car accident is to make sure that you and anyone else in your car are uninjured. If medical or other emergency attention is needed, call 911 immediately. If possible and safe to do so, move your car to a location out of the way of other traffic. 
Take a few deep breaths and make sure you thoroughly document the accident and the circumstances that led up to it. Jot down notes if need be (sometimes memories get fuzzy) and take plenty of pictures. Exchange insurance information with the other driver or drivers involved. 
After that, what’s next? If you’re in New York, you may need to report the accident to three separate agencies: 
  • The police or another appropriate law enforcement agency
  • The DMV
  • Your insurance company 
Let’s dig into the sections of New York car accident laws that deal with when you have to make an accident report and where you need to report it.  

When to report an accident to the police

If you’re involved in an accident that results in injury or death, New York law requires you to report it to the police immediately. You are also required to contact the police if a domestic animal was injured or killed, or if a parked vehicle or other property is damaged and the owner can’t be located. 
  • If the accident occurred on a public highway outside of a city, you must file a report with the New York Highway Patrol or the appropriate sheriff’s office
  • If the accident took place in a city, you need to report it to the police department of that city
It’s important to note that if no one is injured or killed and the accident only resulted in property damage, you are not required to report it to the police. 

When to report an accident to the DMV

Even if you aren’t required to report all accidents to the police, you will most likely need to submit a report to the New York DMV. You are required to submit a written report for any accident that resulted in:
  • Bodily injury
  • Death
  • Property damage of more than $1,000
To report the accident, complete Form MV-104 and mail it to the Crash Records Center in Albany (the address is on the form). You only have 10 days to complete the report, so don’t put it off! 
Even if the police do file an official accident report, you are still required to submit an accident report to the DMV. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor and can lead to suspension of your driver’s license. 
Be prepared to provide:
  • Your name, address, and insurance information 
  • Your driver’s license number 
  • Your vehicle’s make, model, and VIN
  • Details of the accident, injuries sustained, and other relevant information
There are a fair amount of details needed on the form, so this is why it’s a good idea to take lots of notes and pictures right after the accident happens.

Financial responsibility and coverage minimums: New York’s insurance laws

Now let’s talk about car insurance—just what coverage does New York law require, and what happens if you’re in an accident without it? 
Like most states, New York requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance in order to hit the road. Here are the specifics of those minimums:
If you don’t have those minimum coverages—or can't provide proof of insurance during a traffic stop—it could mean fines ranging from $150 for a first offense to $1,500 for subsequent infractions. Additionally, you also run the risk of imprisonment or loss of driving privileges. 
Fortunately, most drivers in New York carry car insurance. In fact, a 2019 study by the Insurance Information Institute found that only about 4.1% of New York drivers don’t have car insurance
That said, stats mean nothing if you have the misfortune of getting into an accident with someone without insurance. That’s why it’s a wise choice to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which will cover you in the event of unfortunate circumstances. 
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Claiming damages after an accident: New York’s personal injury laws

If someone wants to go above and beyond an insurance claim to recoup damages in a car accident, then a personal injury lawsuit is typically the way it’s done. 
Generally, you have the right to claim both economic and non-economic damages associated with a car accident. Those include: 
  • Economic damages: medical bills, lost wages, lost employment or business opportunities, loss of use of property, burial expenses
  • Non-economic damages: pain and suffering, mental suffering, inconvenience, humiliation
In New York, there is a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits.

Exceptions to New York’s personal injury laws

So, here’s where it gets rather convoluted. Not every injury stemming from a car accident is eligible for a personal injury lawsuit in New York due to its “serious injury” threshold rules. In a nutshell, this means that your injuries have to meet some very specific guidelines to be able to sue for damages. 
The rules and regulations around this are exceedingly dense, so if you think you might want to pursue a personal injury lawsuit in New York, you should seek legal counsel ASAP

Who’s to blame: New York’s pure comparative negligence law

One of the major points of contention that follows any car accident is the question of fault. Who’s to blame, and whose insurance has to pay? 
New York is one of almost a third of U.S. states that have pure comparative negligence regulations. This means that anyone who is involved in a car accident can seek compensation proportional to their degree of fault (unless they’re 100% at fault for the accident).
Say Larry and Curly have a car accident and Curly is found to be 99% at fault, while Larry only shares 1% of the blame. Under pure comparative negligence laws, Curly could still seek to recover 1% of his damages from Larry, even though he was the party who was mostly at fault. 
Most states follow some kind of comparative negligence laws but keep in mind that the rules may be different if you are in an accident in another state

How to save money on car insurance in New York

If you’re involved in a car accident, one of the first things you might be worried about is a resulting spike in your insurance premium. And rightly so—even one accident can cause anywhere from a 35% to 80% increase in your insurance costs. 
But don’t despair! Even if you’ve had an accident, you can still find a great rate on your car insurance—with help from the trusted brokerage app and comparison shopping genius Jerry! Within minutes of downloading the app and entering a small amount of information, Jerry will send you a selection of competitive quotes sourced from the nation’s top insurers
All you’ll need to do is decide which policy works best for you, and Jerry will facilitate the signup process. No phone calls or annoying forms are needed! And the kicker? The average Jerry user saves over $800 a year.
Jerry was absolutely worth it. I saved $150, which might not sound like a lot but really helps me as a New York City resident.” —Jameson T. 
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