For many New Yorkers, especially those residing in parts of the City with poor public transportation options, private motor vehicles provide the only reasonable way to get around. And while American roads – and the vehicles traveling on them – are getting safer, an alarming number of New Yorkers are injured in motor vehicle accidents each year.
According to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, 139,752 auto crashes happened in New York City in 2018 – that equates to 16 crashes per hour. While a small number (194) of these crashes resulted in fatalities, and 51,612 caused some kind of personal injury to drivers, passengers, or others.
If you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident in New York City, there are a number of things to be aware of – and they must be done in a timely manner.
New York is a No-Fault State (but you may still be able to sue if you’re injured)
New York State’s No-Fault Law requires that drivers carry insurance policies that provide for up to $50,000 in medical benefits for those injured in a motor vehicle accident, plus compensation for lost wages up to three years regardless of whether the insured driver is responsible for the accident. No-Fault coverage also extends to any non-drivers injured in the accident, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and any passengers traveling in the vehicles. No-Fault coverage will not, however, compensate you for any pain and suffering you experienced as a result of your motor vehicle accident.
There are some important exceptions to New York’s No-Fault Law that allow you to sue another driver if:
- Your medical expenses and other losses exceed $50,000.
- Your injury is the result of someone operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or while engaged in criminal behavior.
- You suffer a “serious injury” in the accident. “Serious Injury” is defined in New York’s insurance law as:
- Significant disfigurement
- Loss of a fetus
- Permanent loss or significant limitation of a body organ, member, function or system
- Non-permanent injuries that prevent the injured person from “performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.”
So, while it’s possible that your injuries and lost work will be completely covered by No-Fault, it’s also possible that the circumstances surrounding your motor vehicle accident, and the nature of your injuries, indicate that your best chance of obtaining adequate compensation lies in filing a lawsuit. It’s important to settle this important question as early as possible, so it’s wise to contact a reputable, New York-based personal injury attorney with a background in motor vehicle accident cases; he/she will be in the best position to advise you of your options.
Important Things You Must Do After a Motor Vehicle Accident
If you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident in New York City, there are certain things that you must do (and refrain from doing) in a timely manner:
- Stop and exchange information. New York State law requires you to stop and exchange information with other drivers, injured persons, owners of any damaged property, owners of any injured domestic animals, and police (if on the scene) when you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident. Information that must be furnished includes your name and address, driver’s license, insurance card, and vehicle registration.
- Call the police. New York State law requires you to contact police if anyone, including yourself, is injured in a motor vehicle accident. Police accident reports – although not always 100 percent accurate – are considered to be official documents by any court that might hear your case in the future, so it’s a good idea to get one. If you can’t obtain one at the time of your accident, you may arrange for one to be mailed to you at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles’ website at: https://dmv.ny.gov/get-accident-report
- Obtain required medical treatment. Given the potentially serious nature of any motor vehicle-related accident, it’s crucial to obtain medical care as soon as possible; call an ambulance if you have any doubt that you cannot make it to a medical facility on your own.
- Collect information at the scene of the accident. If you’re physically able, collect as much information as possible about the accident before much time has elapsed. Make sure either you – or the police – have collected information concerning the identities of other drivers/passengers involved in the accident. Identify any witnesses who might have seen the accident, record the badge numbers of any police on the scene, and take photographs of all vehicles involved in the accident and the immediate areas around where the accident occurred.
- File an accident report with the DMV. If anyone was killed or injured in the accident, or if property damage exceeds $1,000, New York State requires you to file an accident report with the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of the accident’s occurrence. Failure to do so can result in the loss of your driver’s license; a blank ‘Report of Motor Vehicle Accident’ form is available here: https://dmv.ny.gov/forms/mv104.pdf
- Contact your automobile insurance carrier. New York’s No-Fault Law requires you to file a claim with your auto insurance carrier within 30 days; if you don’t, you may lose your eligibility for this coverage. You may examine and print out a claim form at the following website address: https://www.dfs.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2019/01/complete_nf_forms_2018.pdf (Form NF-2 is the one you’ll need to file with your auto insurance carrier).
- Do not make statements, admissions of guilt, or speculation about the accident either at the scene, or subsequently. Aside from truthfully informing police officers about the circumstances of your motor vehicle accident, and communicating with your doctor, lawyer, or insurance agent, refrain from any discussion or speculation about the cause of the accident. Avoid statements on social media as well.
Obtain the Services of a Personal Injury Attorney
Being injured in a motor vehicle accident in New York City can be a traumatic experience, and having to wrestle in its aftermath with New York State’s complicated, deadline-driven process for obtaining compensation can add unneeded levels of confusion and anxiety to your plight.