A car accident can be one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through. It’s costly not just because of damage that may be done to your vehicle, but also the harm that can be done to you or any passengers.
Medical bills that result from injuries due to car accidents can feel overwhelming, and if you’re unable to work because of your injuries, it can be even worse. If you’re facing mounting bills or lost wages due to a New York car accident, then it’s vital to know that there are actions you can take.
Here’s what you need to know about what to do in the wake of a car accident, what your rights are in New York, and how to get the compensation you deserve for damages associated with your injuries.
Car Accidents in New York: An Overview
Crashes and Injuries – The Numbers
Sadly, car accidents across the State of New York are very common. The New York State Department of Health keeps data on auto accidents and injuries, and for the most recent years listed (2012-2014) found that there were an average of:
- 1,098 deaths per year
- 12,093 hospitalizations per year
- 136,913 emergency room visits per year
If you dive into the numbers, they further break down the injuries parties into vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.
Additionally, New York City has its own breakdown detailing who was involved, and who was injured or killed. The below chart is from September 2021:
Motor Vehicle Collision Report Statistics Citywide Source: New York City Police Department 9/2021
These numbers show how common not only car accidents are in the state, but how common injuries are as well. Why is this the case?
Reasons for New York Car Crashes
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), most car accidents are due to human error. Some of these human errors include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while distracted due to the use of a phone, eating, or texting, etc.
- Falling asleep while driving
- Breaking traffic laws, such as speeding
Once again, New York City has its own breakdown as well. As above, these numbers are from September 2021.
Motor Vehicle Collision Report Statistics Citywide Source: New York City Police Department 9/2021
These high numbers and wide variety of reasons for accidents may be part of the reason why New York has instituted a no-fault car insurance system – to ensure that everyone is covered in some fashion when a car accident and injury does occur.
Common Injuries in New York Car Accidents
The type of accident you’re involved in usually is linked to the severity of any injuries you may experience. However, it’s vital to keep in mind that even a minor accident can cause severe injuries that impact your ability to work as well as the quality of your life.
Some injuries are more obvious than others, while some can take days – or even a few weeks – to show symptoms.
The most common injuries sustained in car accidents include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones
- Back injuries such as herniated discs
- Brain damage
Many of the injuries a person sustains in a car accident require serious medical treatment, and that treatment can be ongoing. Not only do you have to find a car accident doctor, but you may also have to undergo surgery or get rehabilitation for your injuries.
These things can prevent you from working or even being able to perform daily activities, such as caring for children or cleaning your home. Expenses from injuries can add up fast, too, which is why it’s so important to do what you can in the wake of an accident to ensure you can seek compensation later if needed.
Car Insurance in New York
As mentioned above, New York has a no-fault insurance system. This essentially means that it doesn’t matter who is at fault for the accident, because each person involved must first file a claim with their own insurance company for compensation.
In order to register a car in New York, you must have specific insurance called personal injury protection (PIP). You may have heard this referred to as no-fault insurance.
Your personal PIP policy will pay for any medical costs related to the accident within the limits of the policy. This is the case no matter who is at fault ultimately for the accident. This type of insurance often also covers some other economic losses, such as lost wages or transportation to medical appointments.
The problem is that if someone sustains serious injuries because of a car accident, the resulting losses may be higher than your own insurance will pay. If that happens, then you may be able to recover compensation from the insurance company of the driver who was at fault. A New York personal injury lawyer can help you with that recovery.
However, if you are going to utilize that option, it is important that you do a number of things — particularly right after the accident occurs if possible.
After A Car Accident: What To Do
The time right after a car accident can leave you confused, shocked, and maybe even scared. This is especially true if you’ve been injured in the accident.
Yet this is the period where it is vital for you to take certain steps in the wake of an accident. These steps will help ensure you have options down the road to recover compensation for any damages you experience.
You should take these steps after a car crash:
Get Medical Help
If you are injured, prioritize getting medical treatment as soon as you can. This is important not simply because of your health but also because medical documentation will be important to your claim down the road.
This is true even if you at first feel fine in the wake of an accident. Some medical issues, such as whiplash, can take hours — or even days — for you to feel symptoms. The adrenaline from the accident can also mask any pain you may experience.
Bottom line? See a doctor as soon as possible to get checked over and to prevent further medical issues.
Medical treatment is your number one priority, but a close number two should be for you or someone you’re with to collect evidence at the scene. This should include the insurance and registration information of those involved in the accident. Police can do this as well, but it may be a good thing to gather on your own while you wait for them to arrive at the scene.
If it’s safe, you may also want to use your phone to take pictures of the accident — including any damage to the vehicles involved, any injuries you’re experiencing, and any sort of debris or skid marks on the road.
Don’t worry if you cannot document these things at the scene yourself. If someone is with you or if you can call someone to do it, you should. And make sure to keep all the information you collect safe so you can reference it when needed.
Report the Accident
Under New York law, you must file a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident no more than 10 days after a car crash with the Department of Motor Vehicles if anyone was injured in the accident or there was more than $1,000 in property damage.
Failing to report the accident can result in the suspension of your vehicle registration or driver’s license, so it’s an important step to take.
Also, this should be obvious, but if there was an injury or death caused by the accident, contact the police right away. Leaving the scene of a car accident that causes death or injury is a crime.
Once the police have written a report, make sure to ask for a copy and read it over. Correct any errors that may be present and verify all the details in it.
Insurance claims will likely require a final police report, but make sure to look over your own PIP policy to find out if your insurance company requires anything else.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
In order for your PIP policy to compensate you, you have to file an application within 30 days of the date of the accident. If you fail to do so, then your insurance claim can be denied and you would be wholly responsible for the losses and expenses that result from the accident.
As soon as you can after the accident, notify your insurance company, no matter how minor you suspect the accident to be. Remember, if any injuries show up later, you could be out of luck if you have not made the report.
It’s also probably required by your insurance policy to report a claim right away. Not doing so may be a breach of your policy that can result in a rise in your rates, refusal to renew your policy, or even a cancellation of your policy.
When you report the accident to the insurance company, only give the most basic facts of the accident that you’re required to. It’s best to consult with a personal injury attorney before you go into more detail with your insurance provider.
What Damages Are Normally Covered by NY PIP Insurance?
PIP insurance generally covers the basic costs associated with a car accident, including:
- Medical expenses
- 80 percent of lost wages (up to $2,000 per month)
- As much as $25 per day for reasonable expenses associated with your injuries, such as household assistance and transportation
- A death benefit of $2,000 if the person eligible died in the accident
Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, are not covered by PIP insurance. Also, you won’t be eligible for any benefits under most PIP policies if you were driving under the influence, you caused your own injuries, or you were injured while committing a felony.
How to Get Compensated for Damages That Go Beyond What Your Insurance Will Pay
If your expenses from a car accident exceed your own insurance policy coverage, you can pursue compensation from the insurance company of the driver or the at-fault driver themselves.
You can also sue for non-economic damages, but only in a case where you suffer what is defined as a serious injury under New York state law. Examples of serious injuries under the law include:
- Loss of a fetus
- Permanent loss of a body organ, function, system, or member
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of a body system or function
You will need to present medical evidence of serious injury.
How to “Value” Your Injury Case
Every car accident in New York is unique, and so are the values of any cases that come from them. However, before you can understand the value of your case, you must first be completely recovered from the accident — or at least as recovered as your physicians think you can be.
Because it is only after your recovery is as complete as possible that you will be able to establish (within reasonable means) the cost of the treatment and any ongoing treatment you may require, as well as economic and non-economic damages.
Where Does Comparative Fault Come Into Play?
New York is what is referred to as a “pure comparative fault” state. This means that if more than one party is responsible for an accident, any damages will be calculated based on the total fault of the plaintiff and the amount of fault each party in the accident is responsible for.
For example, if it is determined by the court that you are 20 percent at fault for your accident and you are awarded $100,000, then you can only recover 80 percent of the damages. In other words, $80,000.
Essentially, the percentage of your comparative fault in the accident is subtracted from the amount of any monetary damages you receive in the end.
New York is unique in that you can recover damages even if it’s established that you are more at fault in the accident than the other driver. Put more plainly, a negligent party can still be made to pay damages to you even if you are deemed more than 50 percent responsible for the accident. As above, the percent of responsibility you are assigned is simply subtracted from the awarded damages.
Don’t Forget to Account for the Statute of Limitations in New York
As soon as you are able, you should contact an experienced attorney about your case. Part of the reason behind this is that you have a limited amount of time to bring a lawsuit in the wake of an accident. This time limit is referred to as a statute of limitations.
This is particularly true if the defendant in the case is a municipality or a certain other class of defendant. In those situations, you will only have 90 days from the accident to file what is called a Notice of Claim. Other classes of defendants will require you to bring a lawsuit within three years of the date of the accident. Additionally, you generally have only 30 days to file a claim with your own insurance company.
Remember, once the statute of limitations has expired you can no longer file a lawsuit. If you attempt to do so, it will simply be thrown out by the court in most circumstances.
A car accident is almost always stressful, but this is especially the case if you’re dealing with injuries. However, as long as you know what to do and what you can recover, it can help to ease your mind during the process.