There are a few important things to know about New York’s laws in case you’re involved in a car accident.
New York Car Accident Liability
One of the most unique aspects of New York’s car accident laws is how liability works. New York uses joint and several liability, which can be beneficial or detrimental depending on your specific situation.
How joint and several liability works is that when there are two parties that are liable for an accident, but only one is able to pay the entire judgement amount, then that party must pay it regardless of who was more liable. Considering the standard insurance policy maxes out at $25,000 but damages in a car accident can be much more than that, this type of liability makes a significant difference.
As an example, consider a situation where two vehicles are in an accident. One driver has a $25,000 insurance policy, and the other has a $150,000 policy. The two drivers go to court and the jury gave the latter driver a $100,000 verdict, but found that driver at least partially liable. Whether it found the driver 1-percent, 10-percent, or 50-percent liable, that driver would be responsible for covering $75,000 (the amount of the verdict, minus the $25,000 that the first driver’s policy pays out).
The No-Fault Law
New York is one of several states that has a no-fault law. This law requires insurance companies to pay for expenses related to car accidents, which can include medical bills, lost wages, and other incidental expenses. It covers drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists who are injured due to a car accident, and the insurance company has to pay up to $50,000 regardless of who was at fault for the accident. A no-fault claim is different than a bodily injury claim, which you must make if you want to receive payment for your pain and suffering.
New York created its no-fault law in the 1970s to help injured parties get the compensation they needed more quickly, as lawsuits to determine fault could take quite a bit of time. Even with this law, no-fault claims are often still difficult and time-consuming. For the best results, you should file your no-fault claim promptly after the accident and make sure you follow all the proper procedures.
Accident Reporting in New York
Whether you need to report an accident to the police depends on the circumstances.
You always have to report an accident that resulted in a personal injury to either party. The law requires the driver who caused the accident to report it.
You don’t need to report accidents that caused property damage right away, with one exception – if you caused damage to someone’s property, and the property owner isn’t there at the scene, then you need to report it.
When an accident needs to be reported, New York law requires that you do so as soon as you are physically able to either a police station or a judicial officer. While what constitutes physically able isn’t clarified, it stands to reason that unless you require medical attention, you should report the accident immediately by calling a police station on your cell phone or using the nearest pay phone. You can also go to a police station in person to report an accident.
As far as filing a written accident report to the DMV, that is necessary if the accident resulted in a death or injury, or if there was property damage over $1,000. In these situations, you have 10 days from the date of the accident to file your report.