Who Is Liable in a New York Car Accident?

author by Vincent Andrew Apicella on Jun. 05, 2024

Accident & Injury Accident & Injury  Car Accident Accident & Injury  Personal Injury 

Summary: In New York car accidents, liability is based on negligence and a "pure comparative negligence" system, allowing recovery of damages reduced by fault percentage. No-fault insurance covers economic losses, but serious injuries can bypass these limits.

Car accidents can be traumatic and confusing events, often leaving those involved with numerous questions about what to do next. One of the most pressing concerns is determining liability – who is responsible for the accident and the resulting damages? In New York, establishing liability can be complex due to the state's specific laws and regulations. Here's a breakdown to help you understand who might be liable in a New York car accident.


Understanding New York's No-Fault Insurance Law

New York operates under a no-fault insurance system. This means that your insurance company will generally cover your medical expenses and lost wages after a car accident, regardless of who caused the accident. This system is designed to ensure that victims receive prompt payment for their out-of-pocket losses.


However, no-fault insurance does not cover all types of damages. For instance, it doesn't compensate for pain and suffering or other non-economic damages. To pursue compensation for these losses, you must meet the "serious injury" threshold defined by New York law.


What Constitutes a Serious Injury?

In New York, a serious injury is generally defined as:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Fractures
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system
  • Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
  • A medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature that prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts that 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

If your injuries meet this threshold, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for additional damages.


Determining Fault in a Car Accident

Determining fault in a New York car accident typically involves proving negligence. Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care which harms another person. To establish negligence, you must prove the following:

  1. Duty of Care: The at-fault driver owed you a duty of care. All drivers have a legal obligation to drive safely and follow traffic laws.
  2. Breach of Duty: The at-fault driver breached this duty by acting carelessly or recklessly. Examples include speeding, running a red light, or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  3. Causation: The breach of duty directly caused the accident and your injuries. You must show that the accident would not have occurred if not for the at-fault driver's actions.
  4. Damages: You suffered actual damages as a result of the accident. This can include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.


Shared Fault and Comparative Negligence

New York follows a "pure comparative negligence" rule. This means that even if you are partially at fault for the accident, you can still recover damages. However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you are found to be 20% at fault for the accident and your damages total $100,000, you would receive $80,000.


Common Scenarios of Liability

Liability in car accidents can vary based on the circumstances. Here are some common scenarios:

  • Rear-End Collisions: Generally, the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is considered at fault. They are expected to maintain a safe distance and be able to stop safely.
  • Intersection Accidents: Determining fault in intersection accidents can be complex. It often depends on which driver violated traffic laws, such as running a red light or failing to yield the right of way.
  • Left-Turn Accidents: Drivers making left turns are usually found liable if they collide with an oncoming vehicle, as oncoming traffic typically has the right of way.


Steps to Take After a Car Accident

If you are involved in a car accident, taking the following steps can help protect your rights and establish liability:

  1. Call the Police: Always report the accident to the police and obtain a copy of the police report.
  2. Gather Evidence: Take photos of the accident, vehicle damage, and any visible injuries. Collect contact information from witnesses.
  3. Seek Medical Attention: Even if you feel fine, get a medical evaluation to document any injuries.
  4. Notify Your Insurance Company: Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible.
  5. Consult an Attorney: Consider consulting a New York personal injury attorney to help navigate the complexities of New York's car accident laws and to ensure you receive fair compensation.


Determining liability in a New York car accident involves understanding the state's no-fault insurance laws, establishing negligence, and considering shared fault principles. If you are involved in a car accident, it's crucial to take immediate steps to protect your rights and consult a legal professional to guide you through the process. With the right approach, you can secure the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.

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