What To Do Immediately After a Car Crash in New York

Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike put themselves at risk of accidents when they navigate the often-congested streets of New York City. Unfortunately, these accidents occur in relatively large numbers. According to the NYPD's TrafficStat data, there were 173,423 motor vehicle collisions across New York City in 2019 alone. As a result of these collisions, nearly 50,000 people were reported to be injured. Anyone who has been in a car accident knows how scary and confusing the aftermath can be.

Below are important steps to take after a car crash in New York. Not only will these keep you as safe as possible at the scene of the crash, they will also ensure you are prepared to file an insurance claim for your damages and potentially bring a lawsuit against any negligent parties.

If you have been in a motor vehicle crash in New York and are feeling lost, the car accident lawyers at Block O'Toole & Murphy are here to help you. We have obtained multiple record-breaking results for our clients, including a $32.7 million verdict for a veteran who was violently struck by a drug-impaired driver and a $22.5 million settlement for a man injured in a collision resulting from icy roads. When you are ready to speak to an attorney about your case, call us at 212-736-5300 or fill out our online contact form.

Steps To Take After a Car Crash

Stay at the scene, but move to safety if possible.

In New York, it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident before exchanging information. Stay at the scene. Then, depending on the circumstances of the accident, determine what would be the safest. Either drive your car to a place out of the way of traffic, or if it is no longer safe to drive the vehicle, get yourself and any other passengers to a secure place near the accident scene on foot. Keep in mind that you should only do this if you feel well enough to do so; your injuries may be severe and trying to push or drive a damaged vehicle could expose you and your passengers to additional injuries, especially on a busy roadway.

Seek medical care, if necessary.

If you feel unwell or like you might be hurt in the aftermath of an accident, it is in your best interest to call 911 and seek medical care. If the accident was so minor that you know it is not necessary to call an ambulance, you may still want to see your primary care physician, especially if you notice any new pain or injury symptoms in the days following the accident. Making note of your injuries is beneficial, no matter how small they may seem at first; if they develop into a more serious problem, and you decide to take legal action, it is helpful to have a medical record of them.

Take photos and videos of the vehicle(s) and accident scene.

As long as you are able to move around safely, use your phone to take pictures of the accident scene. Or, if you are incapacitated, have a witness or someone else who is able take the photos. Focus on visible damage to your car, the position of your car in relation to other vehicles, buildings, the sidewalk, and obstacles such as trash cans and lamp posts. If you see skid marks or debris from the crash, take photos of those as well. Pictures of the accident scene and the damage done to your vehicle can act as evidence in a potential case.

Call the police to file a report.

In situations where a person or domestic animal is injured or killed as a result of an accident, or a parked car is damaged and the owner cannot be located, you are required by New York law to stay at the scene and call the police immediately.

If the accident only resulted in vehicle damage, you are not required to file a police report. However, even if the accident is minor and you believe there are no injuries to report, it is still beneficial to have police come to the scene. They will file a police report that will act as a record of any vehicle damage. Ensure you get a copy of this report. Even if it is not legally necessary, it can be very helpful to you. It is a vital piece of documentation to have if you plan on submitting a claim for damages to your insurance; some insurance companies will not accept a claim if a police report is not available.

Obtain insurance and contact information from other motorists involved, as well as bystanders.

If you and the other driver are able to do so, it is extremely helpful to exchange the following information:

  • Name
  • Driver's license number
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • License plate number of vehicle
  • Make and model of vehicle
  • Owner of vehicle, if not the driver
  • Name of driver's insurance company and policy number

In the aftermath of an accident, this might be difficult information to obtain, or the other driver may not want to provide you with it. This is another reason to have the police come to the scene; the other driver may not provide this information to you, but they are obligated to give it to the police for the report.

Finally, if you can, talk with witnesses who saw the accident and ask for their names and contact information. They may be able to provide testimony if a case regarding the accident goes to court later.

Call your insurance company to report the accident.

In the days following the accident, you should make sure to report it to your insurance company as soon as possible; the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to make a claim and be reimbursed for your damages through insurance. It is a good rule of thumb to submit your insurance claim as soon as possible, but within 30 days at the most. This is a strict rule in New York because of the state's no-fault insurance laws; more on that below.

In addition, in New York, you are required to file a motor vehicle accident report with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within 10 days of the accident if the collision caused over $1,000 of damages. If you do not, your license could be suspended.

Call an experienced personal injury attorney.

There are a variety of reasons you may want to call a personal injury attorney after a car accident. Perhaps you feel the insurance reimbursement you are receiving is not enough to cover all your medical bills, car repair expenses, and cover for your loss of income. Or maybe you thought you were not seriously injured but discovered that your pain has worsened in the days since the accident, and you may need to pay more for medical bills than you expected. At this point, if you are considering bringing a personal injury case, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer who can advise you about your legal options. Taking legal action is not something you can do alone.

New York Vehicle and Traffic Laws

There are a few laws specific to New York that can affect how things play out in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, especially if you are looking to bring a personal injury or negligence claim against the other driver. The information below is helpful to keep in mind as you heal and consider your options in the aftermath of a crash. If you have questions or would like to discuss how these laws may apply to your case further, do not hesitate to contact our auto accident lawyers at 212-736-5300.

Drivers Must Exercise Due Care

New York Vehicle and Traffic Laws contain multiple sections that provide protections for pedestrians and attempt to prevent accidents by prohibiting risky driving behaviors. For example, Vehicle and Traffic Law 1212 strictly prohibits reckless driving, and states that anyone convicted of reckless driving will be found guilty of a misdemeanor. Additionally, the state has tried to minimize distracted driving, which is a leading cause of accidents, by prohibiting the use of any portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. New York Vehicle and Traffic Laws also provide protections for pedestrians. Section 1146 states that "every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist, pedestrian, or domestic animal upon any roadway." If any motorist does not exercise due care and strikes a pedestrian, they can be found liable as they violated this law.

It is important to know that New York State has these regulations in place, because if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision and believe that the other driver was negligent in following any of these laws, there is a good chance you will be able to take legal action. You should speak with an attorney well-versed in New York traffic laws to discuss how these may apply to your particular case.

No-Fault Insurance

New York requires any driver with a vehicle registered in the state to have no-fault insurance (also known as Personal Injury Protection, or PIP). No-fault insurance covers any driver (and his passengers) up to $50,000 each for economic losses sustained in a car accident, regardless of who may have caused it. According to the New York State Department of Financial Services, the purpose of no-fault insurance is to restore those hurt in car accidents to "health and productivity" as quickly as possible. However, because of the no-fault insurance requirement, a personal injury lawsuit can only be brought against the negligent party if the economic losses suffered exceed the $50,000 benefits limit, or if the lawsuit is for non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) due to a serious injury. According to the no-fault insurance law, a serious injury includes death, dismemberment, fractures, permanent loss of use of a body organ or system, and significant limitation of use of a body function or system, among other injuries.

All this to say, if you are wondering if you may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit in the aftermath of a New York car crash, it is possible, but it depends on the circumstances of your accident. Even if you are unable to bring a case, the purpose of no-fault benefits is to reimburse you for any economic losses the accident may have brought on, from medical bills to loss of income. Make sure to submit a no-fault insurance application as soon as possible after the accident; you only have 30 days to submit the claim before it is no longer considered valid.

If you believe you have a case that goes beyond the benefits provided by no-fault insurance, contact our New York car accident attorneys to see if you can file a claim.

Comparative Negligence

New York is a comparative negligence state regarding liability. This means that, if multiple people are involved in an accident, fault can be split between them, depending on the accident circumstances. For example, if one driver rear-ends another car at an intersection, it may at first seem like the rear-ending driver is completely at fault. However, there are other factors that could be considered, such as why the rear-ending car didn't stop in time. Perhaps the first car's brake lights were out, or they did not signal properly to show that they were slowing down to turn. These factors could cause the fault to be shared by both drivers because of New York's comparative negligence law. It is noteworthy that liability is not typically split evenly in cases like these, but assigned as percentages based on the negligence of each party. For example, the rear-ending driver in the above example may be found 80% liable for the accident, while the first driver may be found only 20% liable.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for auto injury cases in New York is three years. This means you have to file your lawsuit within three years of the accident in order for it to be considered valid. With that said, although you legally have three years, it is best to file a lawsuit as soon as possible after the accident occurs. This way, the memories of those involved and evidence obtained are relatively recent and more likely to be considered credible.

Call a New York Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you have been injured in a car crash in New York and don't know what to do, give Block O'Toole & Murphy a call. Our lawyers are ready to discuss your case and help you through the process of filing a claim against the negligent party. We have years of experience litigating car accident cases and want to help you get back on your feet.

Select motor vehicle collision results include:

  • $32,756,156 record-breaking verdict for a 60-year-old veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury and became permanently paralyzed after he was struck by a reckless driver
  • $22,500,000 settlement for a man driving in Westchester County who tried to avoid a head-on collision but could not due to black ice on the roads, resulting in severe injuries to his dominant left arm
  • $20,181,484 verdict against the State of New York for a man driving in freezing weather who would not avoid a collision due to black ice on the roads
  • $14,000,000 settlement for a 23-year-old mechanic in Nassau County who was struck while riding his motorcycle by a truck making a left turn, resulting in a below-the-knee amputation and 10 surgeries
  • $13,500,000 record-breaking settlement for a 24-year-old woman who was forcefully struck by a commercial van while walking home in Suffolk County, leading to multiple fractures and brain injuries so serious she could not testify on her own behalf in court
  • $12,000,000 settlement (with $71,643,000 anticipated payout) for a 5-year-old child who was struck while standing on the sidewalk by a vehicle involved in another two-car collision
  • $9,950,000 settlement for a 28-year-old social worker who was loading groceries in a Buffalo, NY parking lot when she was suddenly struck by a van that careened into the lot, causing her to require an above-the-knee amputation of her leg
  • $9,263,326 jury verdict for a taxi passenger who was involved in a three-car collision, resulting in serious nerve damage in his lumbar spine as well as knee injuries
  • $8,800,000 settlement for a grandmother who was struck by a commercial van that jumped the sidewalk while walking to pick up her grandchildren from school; she suffered a traumatic brain injury and still has some neurologic and cognitive issues
  • $7,525,000 settlement in a tragic wrongful death case for the surviving family of a mother and son who were killed in a T-bone crash with a commercial van in Suffolk County
  • $6,000,000 settlement for a city bus passenger who suffered multiple disc herniations as well as shoulder injuries when the bus he was riding collided with a flatbed truck
  • $5,500,000 settlement for a man who was forcefully sideswiped by a semi-truck, causing him to bounce into the concrete median and then back into the semi-truck for a second impact; he suffered disc herniations that required surgery

Dial 212-736-5300 to speak to an expert attorney today. We serve clients in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, Long Island, and all of New York State.