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What To Do After a Car Accident in New York

Driving in New York City is not for the faint of heart. Narrow streets, bizarre traffic patterns, audacious pedestrians, gawking tourists, and so! many! trucks! make for a challenge like no other. It's not certain that you'll have an auto accident in NYC, but the probability suggests you should be prepared just in case.

Knowing what to do after a car crash, including your legal obligations, can save you from additional headaches. In this article, we'll get you up to speed on when to call the police, how to handle minor accidents, and what reports you must file.

As a motorist in the Big Apple, you're used to handling whatever life throws at you. Read on to learn about what to do after a motor vehicle accident in New York City.

What should I do at the scene of the accident?

Well, the first thing you should do is stay there. Whether the accident involves a pedestrian, a moving car, a parked car, or someone's property, you are required to stop at the accident scene. If you leave, you face hit-and-run charges that could include fines, driver's license revocation, and incarceration. At the very least, you'll need to exchange information with the other driver(s).

Check on the health of everyone involved. This includes yourself. If someone is injured, offer the level of first aid you're competent at. When you call 911, alert the operator to any serious injuries.

Whether the police come to the scene or not, New York law states that you have the responsibility of exchanging contact information and insurance information with all other drivers. The collision information exchange form isn't considered a legal NYC form, but it can be helpful for recording information.

Consider keeping a copy of FindLaw's helpful Motor Vehicle Accidents: First Steps checklist in your glove compartment. It offers step-by-step instructions on what to do after an accident and what information to gather.

Do I have to call the police?

In certain instances, you're required to summon the NYPD to the scene of the accident. You must call the police when:

Call 911 if any of these apply. Don't hesitate to call the police if anyone has a serious injury or requires medical attention.

You do not have to call the police if only property damage is involved and the owners are present, but having a police report often makes your insurance claim process much easier.

If you need clarification on whether to call the police, consult this FAQ from the NYPD.

What information should I gather at the scene?

Unless your accident only involves property damage under $1,000, you're required to file an accident report with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. You must do so within 10 days of the accident. Keeping a copy of the MV-104 form in your vehicle can ensure you get all the required information at the scene of the accident.

A glance at the MV-104 shows that some of the data you need to record includes:

  • Personal information for each driver such as name, address, date of birth, driver's license number, and gender
  • Vehicle registration information such as license plate number, make, model, and production year
  • A diagram showing the type of collision, the angles involved, and any skid marks
  • Exact location of the accident
  • Insurance information including insurance company name, policy numbers, and coverage dates
  • Name and location of all other people involved (passengers, witnesses, victims, etc.)

Take pictures of the scene as well.

If law enforcement shows up, they will fill out an auto accident police report that is similar to yours in some ways. The police officer will also take statements from all drivers, passengers, and witnesses.

When giving your statement, try to be calm and truthful. Do not, under any circumstance, admit fault for the accident. Determining fault is for the insurance companies to figure out. Let the objective facts of the accident tell the story.

You'll need copies of any reports for your insurance claim. You can order it online or pick up an order form at any police department. Copies can also be obtained through the New York DMV site. Searching to see if the report is available is free. The search confirming the report you want is $7. A copy of the report will cost $15.

Reports filed online will take a minimum of 14 days to enter the DVM system. Written reports will take at least 30 days.

To truly understand how important police accident reports are for insurance claims, look at FindLaw's New York Car Accident Reports Basics article.

Is auto liability insurance required in New York City?

All drivers in New York are required to have liability auto insurance on their vehicles. The minimum coverage permitted is:

  • $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury/$50,000 for any injury resulting in death for one person in one accident
  • $50,000 liability coverage for bodily injury/$100,000 for any injuries resulting in death sustained for two or more persons in one accident
  • $10,000 liability coverage for property damage in one accident
  • Up to $50,000 personal injury protection (PIP) coverage per person in your vehicle and for any pedestrian struck

PIP is no-fault insurance coverage used to pay your medical bills. Your own insurance company also pays for anyone else injured in your vehicle, regardless of who was to blame for the accident. Property damage will be paid by the driver(s) considered responsible for causing the accident. Their liability auto insurance will provide coverage.

Making an auto insurance claim in New York City can be a bewildering and frustrating experience. FindLaw's New York Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline article provides a step-by-step explanation of what you can expect during your recovery.

Do I have to pay my medical bills even if someone else hits my car?

New York is a no-fault state, meaning each driver's PIP insurance covers their medical expenses. If your medical bills exceed your PIP coverage or you suffer a permanent/disfiguring injury that affects your livelihood, you can sue the other driver.

Property damage, such as the harm to your vehicle, does not fall under the no-fault system. The auto insurance of the driver that hit your car is responsible for covering your repair costs. However, New York uses the pure comparative negligence system, under which any damages you're awarded will be reduced by your percentage of fault for the accident.

What does that mean? Let's say your damages are $8,000, and you were determined to be 25% at fault for the accident. Your award would be reduced by 25%, which in this case would be $2,000. You would end up with $6,000.

Who gets what can get complicated in New York City accident cases. FindLaw's New York Car Accident Compensation Laws article offers a detailed look at the systems in place and what they mean to you.

What happens if I decide to sue the at-fault driver?

As long as you have legal representation, it's likely your personal injury case won't make it to a courtroom. Trials are expensive, time-consuming, and unpredictable. Through either mediation, arbitration, or negotiation, a pre-trial settlement that offers something for both sides is the most common outcome for accident victims.

If no resolution is reached, you'll end up in either:

Make sure any legal action you bring is within New York's statute of limitations. Having a New York car accident lawyer skilled in personal injury law is a necessity if you find yourself going to court.

Additional Research Resources

Find a Local Attorney To Evaluate Your Car Accident Claim

Being involved in a car accident is a stressful event that can involve complex legal issues concerning liability and injuries. If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do is get legal advice from a skilled car accident attorney.

A personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights after a vehicle collision. Consider speaking to counsel for aid with your car crash insurance claim.

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