How Long After Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?
If you’re in a car accident in New York, how long do you have after it to claim injury? That’s an excellent question to ask the law offices of Ivan M. Diamond. If you want to bring a legal claim for personal injury against an at-fault driver contact a car accident attorney and schedule a free consultation today.
The answer is three years from the date of the crash. The length of time is also known legally as the statute of limitations. Once three years have passed after the date of the collision, a court is highly unlikely to hear your claim.
But there are many other things you need to know about bringing a claim against an at-fault driver in New York, because our state follows a no-fault rule for car accidents. In effect, this means that bringing a legal claim at all is only open to you in certain circumstances. Let’s review no-fault and the circumstances in which you can bring a claim.
No Fault Insurance: What It Means
No fault insurance is required in New York. When you are in a car accident, you turn first to your own insurance to pay any damages caused by the accident, including medical bills, property damage to your car, and wages lost from work.
It’s called no fault because each driver’s damages are covered first by their own insurance, without any determination of fault. It doesn’t matter whether another driver, another entity, or you caused or contributed to the accident.
To that end, the state requires that all drivers licensed in New York carry the following minimum insurance coverages.
- $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury per person (if you cause the accident)
- $50,000 total liability bodily injury coverage per accident (if you cause the accident, regardless of how people are injured)
- $10,000 liability coverage for property damage (per accident you cause)
- $50,000 in no-fault (personal injury protection) coverage
- Uninsured motorist coverage (for bodily injury sustained by you), subject to the minimums above
Can I Ever Bring a Claim Against an at-Fault Driver?
No fault rules imply that an injured person can never bring a claim against an at-fault driver. But in fact, you can in some circumstances.
People who receive a serious injury in New York state due to the negligence of another party are allowed to bring a third-party claim against that party’s insurance or to bring a personal injury suit against them in court to recover damages they suffered in the accident.
The law defines serious injury as at least one of the following conditions.
- Broken bones
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of a body organ’s or member’s use
- Significant limitation of a body function or system’s use
- Substantially full disability for 90 days
In these cases, the categories in which you can recover damages also enlarges. Ordinarily, people injured by the negligence of another can receive compensation for medical bills caused by the accident and its injuries and for wages lost from work, if the injuries have caused the victim to lose time from work.
But if you are entitled to step outside no fault, your claim can also include damages from pain and suffering. No fault insurance never compensates for pain and suffering.
How Do I Establish Fault?
While the extent of your injuries can allow you to step outside of the no-fault system, the fault of another party will also need to be established. If you caused the accident, you can never bring a claim against another party, because they are not responsible.
Every driver owes what the law terms a duty of care to the public, including other drivers. The duty of care includes factors such as following all traffic and other laws, making sure they are driving safely and prudently, and keeping their cars well maintained, so that things like worn brakes do not cause accidents. If drivers don’t exercise the duty of care that a reasonable person would, the law indicates that the duty of care has been violated.
Such a violation constitutes negligence. Causing an accident via negligence makes the driver responsible for the accident, and liable for injuries caused as a result of the accident.
So if another driver ignores a stop sign and hits you, they have violated a duty of care and are negligent. Stopping at a stop sign is the law.
Duty of care is not restricted to other drivers, by the way. Not all accidents are caused by other drivers. If the other driver’s car is defective in some way, that might have caused the accident. Car manufacturers can be sued if that’s the case, because they owe a duty of care to the public to manufacture safe products.
To establish fault, it’s sometimes necessary to access reports of the crash or to investigate the causes.
Reporting an Accident
If you are involved in a car accident in New York where someone is injured or killed, you are legally required to report the accident. You must report it to the police immediately, and then file an accident report with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. All involved drivers are required to file the latter report. It is against the law to leave the scene of a car accident that causes injury or death, and you can be charged if you do.
The police will compile and issue a report. They will talk to all drivers involved and may talk to eyewitnesses as well. They make note of what happened, based on statements and their observations.
Be sure to get a copy of the police report (and keep a copy of your own report). These reports can be used as evidence if you want to bring a suit against an at-fault driver or other at-fault entity.
Other Types of Evidence
If you are in a car accident, you need to know that there are other types of evidence, as well. If you are carrying a smartphone with you at the time of the accident, take pictures of all vehicles involved, the accident scene itself, and your injuries. All of these can establish what occurred in the accident. The scene, especially if there are broken barriers, skid marks, or other indications of the trajectory of the car, can also be useful.
You will need to see a doctor immediately after a car accident, whether you feel injured or not. A doctor can check to see if you sustained any injuries that haven’t manifested with any symptoms yet and prescribe care if you did. The doctor’s reports of your visit can also be used as evidence about the extent of your injuries.
If you were in a rear-end collision in New York and need legal assistance, contact an experienced car accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond today.