New York State Car Accident Laws

New York is a no-fault state with comparative negligence regulations for all car accidents. You must file a report with your own insurance company, and contact the police if there is injury or death.
Written by Jaya Anandjit
Edited by Jessica Barrett
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 accident’s damages. Under
New York’s no-fault comparative negligence laws
, you’ll be able to claim damages through your insurance in proportion to your level of fault. 
  • On average, there are 1,098 unintentional motor vehicle traffic-related injuries per year in New York.
  • In New York, car accidents that result in injury or death must be reported to the police immediately.
  • New York is a no-fault state that follows pure comparative negligence, which means both parties can share blame for an accident.
  • Drivers have three years to file a car accident case with the New York court system to claim damages resulting from a car accident.

New York is a no-fault state

There are 12 no-fault states in the U.S., and New York is one of them. Here are a few things to note about New York’s no-fault regulations: 
  • Car insurance coverage
    : As a no-fault state, New York drivers are required to carry high minimum car insurance limits with both personal injury protection and uninsured motorist coverage. 
  • Filing car insurance claims: If you are involved in an accident in New York, you’ll need to file an insurance claim through your own insurance provider, regardless of who the “at-fault driver” is. 

New York follows pure comparative negligence

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).
For example: 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. 

What to do after a crash: New York car accident reporting laws

The first and most important thing to do
after a car accident
is to make sure that you and anyone else in your car are uninjured. Here’s a step-by-step rundown of the actions you should take following a car accident in New York:
  • Contact emergency services: If medical or other emergency attention is needed, call 911 immediately. 
  • Move your vehicle: If possible and safe to do so, move your car to a location out of the way of other traffic. 
  • Document the accident: 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. 
  • Collect information: Exchange insurance information with the other driver or drivers involved. If there are witnesses around, ask for their names and contact information in case a statement is required.
Now you know what to do after the accident, but what about things you should avoid? Here are a few things you should never do after an accident in New York:
  • Don’t leave the scene of the accident: New York state law requires all drivers involved in the accident to remain on the scene. If you leave the accident scene, you may be charged with a
    hit-and-run
    .
  • Don’t dodge the police: If police are present at the scene of the accident, be sure to check in with them and offer your side of the story. If legal action is taken against you, a police report can serve as tangible evidence in your favor. 
  • Avoid admitting fault: Even if you believe you are at fault for an accident, let your insurance adjuster or car accident attorney deal with assigning fault.
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 outline 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
  • 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
Keep in mind: 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 the following information at your local New York DMV office:
  • 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 number of details needed on the form, so this is why it’s a good idea to take plenty of notes and pictures right after the accident happens.

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

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
to hit the road, along with other types of mandatory coverage. 
Here are the specifics of those insurance requirement minimums:
Keep in mind: 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.1 

Claiming damages after an accident: New York’s personal injury laws

If a New York resident wants to go 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 noneconomic damages associated with a car crash. 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.

There is a three-year statute of limitations in New York for personal injury lawsuits

The state of New York has a statute of limitations that regulates the time limit in which an accident victim can file a personal injury lawsuit for a car accident claim. 
New York drivers have three years from the date of their accident to file a claim. If the accident resulted in wrongful death, New York’s statute of limitations is two years from the date of the person’s death. 

Exceptions to New York’s personal injury laws

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
. 
New York’s “serious injury” threshold means that your injuries have to meet some
very specific guidelines
to be able to sue for damages. These guidelines are outlined in section 5102(d) of New York’s insurance laws and highlight the following as “serious injury”:
  • Death 
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Fracture
  • Loss of fetus
  • Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system
  • Permanent limitation of a body organ or member
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
  • Medically determined non-permanent injury or impairment that prevents the individual from engaging in regular day-to-day activities
Pro Tip 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 advice from a car accident lawyer ASAP. 

FAQs

Personal injury claims in New York can cover the following: 
  • Medical bills for accident-related medical care (medical treatment must be reasonable and necessary)
  • Loss of income (80%, up to $2,000 per month for no more than three years)
  • Necessary expenses (household assistance, transportation to medical appointments, worth up to $25 per day for one year after the accident) 
  • Death benefits to the estate if an insured driver dies as a result of the collision (up to $2,000)
If you are involved in an auto accident in New York that results in injury, you should call emergency services for medical assistance, and you must report it to the police. 
Be sure to exchange information with the other drivers or witnesses involved, and take photographs of the accident scene and your vehicle.
You must call the police after a car accident in New York under the following circumstances:
  • The accident results in injury or death
  • A domestic animal was injured or killed
  • 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
If the other driver involved in a New York car accident does not have valid car insurance, you should report the accident to the police immediately. You may also file a claim with your own insurance carrier, to which your uninsured motorist coverage should kick in.
Depending on how fault is assigned in the case of the car accident, you may be able to claim damages from the other driver, which they would be personally responsible for.
New York is a no-fault insurance state, which means that each driver’s insurance provider covers their personal injury expenses after an accident—no matter who was at fault. Severe injuries are sometimes covered by the other driver if a personal injury lawsuit is filed. Otherwise, property damage and auto repair claims are not covered under no-fault insurance laws. 
You can sue another driver after a car accident in New York if your injuries are deemed severe. Your injuries must meet very specific guidelines within the “serious injury threshold” to legally sue for damages.
Report the accident to the police immediately if you are involved in a hit-and-run accident. The driver who left the scene can face criminal charges, and you may be able to file an uninsured motorist claim.
If you are in a motor vehicle accident in New York but you don’t live here, or if you are a New York resident who got into an accident with another driver who is from a different state, you must follow standard procedure. This includes: 
  • Contact the police if injuries or death occur 
  • Seek medical attention for any evident medical issues
  • Exchange insurance information 
  • Contact your insurance company to file a claim

Sources

1. https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-uninsured-motorists
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