The time you have to file a car accident injury claim in New York varies depending on the situation. You have the right to seek compensation for your injuries after a New York car accident as long as you file your claim before the statute of limitations expires on your case. If you have suffered injuries in a New York car accident, consult with an attorney as soon as possible to learn about your legal options and how long you have to file.
Until you have a chance to meet with an experienced car accident lawyer, here is some introductory information about statutes of limitation. This post will also take a closer look at specific New York statutes of limitations for car accidents and situations that warrant an extension to the statute of limitations.
What Are Statutes of Limitations?
On a broad level, statutes of limitations are laws that govern the time to take legal action after a crime or injury. Civil actions and crimes have statutes of limitations, but they vary based on the specifics of a case and from state to state. In personal injury cases, like car accident claims, the statute of limitations refers to the length of time a victim of negligence has to sue the party or parties allegedly responsible for the actions in civil court.
Once the statute of limitations runs out, New York law prohibits people from seeking compensation for injuries and losses related to a car accident through the court system. New York law has various statutes of limitations for each type of civil case, including car accident claims.
New York Statutes of Limitations for Car Accidents
The New York statute of limitations that applies to a car accident case varies based on who a car accident victim named as a defendant and whether the accident led to fatal injuries. Here is an overview of different types of car accident claims and the associated statute of limitations.
Car Accident Injury Claims
Under New York law, those injured in car accidents who want to take legal action have three years from the date of their car accident to bring a lawsuit. Once the three-year time limit expires, it’s doubtful a New York court will hear a case. The law does allow for some rare exceptions when extraordinary circumstances are present, but it is still highly unlikely in car accident claims.
Wrongful Death Car Accident Claims
If someone suffers fatal injuries in a New York car accident, eligible surviving family members have a legal right to seek compensation for damages in a wrongful death claim. Families who want to sue the responsible party for damages related to the loss of their loved one must take legal action within two years from the date of death.
Product Liability Injury Claims
Sometimes car accidents occur because of defective automobiles or automotive parts, such as tires, throttles, brakes, fuel tanks, and more. Victims of these car accidents who suffer injuries must also comply with a three-year statute of limitations. If a vehicle defect leads to death, the two-year wrongful death statute of limitations applies.
Car Accident Injury Claims Against the State of New York
Poorly maintained roads sometimes lead to severe or fatal New York car accidents, or a government employee causes an accident while driving a government vehicle. In these cases, victims can sue the state of New York, the county, or the city that owns the vehicle or is responsible for road maintenance. Victims must act quickly in these situations because they must notify the government entity of their intention to sue within 90 days. In most situations, victims have one year from notification to bring a lawsuit.
Extensions to Statutes of Limitations in New York Car Accident Claims
New York courts must comply with the statute of limitations laws after a New York car accident. In most cases, victims cannot recover damages if they do not meet the deadline that applies to their case. However, some rare circumstances can be grounds for an extension. Ultimately, a lawyer will need to help you petition the court to get them to pause the limitation clock or allow an exception.
Here are some scenarios that might persuade a New York court to extend the statute of limitations for your car accident claim:
If the defendant leaves New York after the car accident, serving them court documents to initiate a lawsuit is impossible. A New York court might stop the statute of limitations clock until the defendant returns to New York. The same might happen if the defendant tries to avoid service or hides within the state.
If another driver was responsible for the accident and they provided a false identity to the police at the accident scene, the court might pause the statute of limitations. This delay gives law enforcement, insurance providers, and other investigators time to find the defendant’s true identity and location.
Sometimes those involved in car accidents do not immediately know the full scope of their damages and discover injuries some time after the accident. New York law allows for delayed discovery, which means the statute of limitations time clock does not begin until the victim discovered an injury or should have discovered an injury.
While less common in traffic accident cases, this exception applies more in medical malpractice cases. However, the delayed discovery might apply in a New York car accident case, and your attorney can advise if they believe you can petition for this exception.
An example of when delayed discovery might apply to a car accident claim is if a victim sustains a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Those who suffer brain injuries might not see symptoms for weeks or longer. They might assume they have a mild concussion that will heal on its own but find out later that they have long-term brain function issues. Delayed discovery allows victims enough time to take action after realizing they suffered a severe injury.
Child Car Accident Victims
In many personal injury cases that involve children, courts start the statute of limitations time clock when the minor turns 18 if no one took legal action on their behalf. These situations vary greatly among claims, so you need to discuss this with a lawyer if you suffered car accident injuries as a minor or your child suffered car accident injuries.
What if the Statute of Limitations Runs Out on My Car Accident Claim?
If you try to bring a lawsuit for your car accident injuries after the statute of limitations ends, the other side will move to dismiss your case because you filed the lawsuit late. The above exceptions provide grounds for the court to hear your case, but they will likely still dismiss.
Once a New York court dismisses your car accident case, you cannot seek damages for losses related to your injuries through civil court, regardless of the strength of your case. Consulting and hiring an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your car accident will help you meet all applicable deadlines and ensure you do not miss out on the chance to receive compensation for your injuries.
New York Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance Coverage
Those registering a vehicle in New York must comply with the state’s no-fault insurance laws. New York law requires that motor vehicle operators carry a minimum of $50,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PIP insurance aims to help car accident victims recover from their injuries and return to work as soon as possible. After a car accident, injured victims file a claim under a PIP policy to receive a portion of medical benefits and a portion of lost wages regardless of who caused the car accident.
You cannot bring a lawsuit for a car accident unless you have suffered a serious injury, as defined by New York law, or exhausted your $50,000 PIP insurance policy limit.
New York law defines serious injury as:
- Broken bones
- Permanent or significant loss or limitation of use of a body organ, body function, or system
- An injury that temporarily prevents someone from performing their normal daily routine for 90 days or more
Your New York car accident attorney can review your claim and medical situation and advise on your legal options.
Recovering Damages in Your New York Car Accident Injury Lawsuit
If you bring a lawsuit against the party responsible for the accident, you could recover damages for losses related to the accident and your injuries. Damages vary among cases.
If you reach a settlement agreement or a jury awards you damages, you might receive compensation for:
- Medical treatment costs, including ambulance transport, emergency room services, hospitalization, surgery, follow-up doctor visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and assistive devices not covered by your PIP policy
- Estimated future medical expenses when a New York car accident causes a permanent condition or injury that requires ongoing treatment
- Lost wages not covered by your PIP policy
- Lost earning capacity if a New York car accident caused a permanent injury preventing a victim from returning to their job or seeking future employment
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Reduced quality of life
- Scarring and disfigurement
If you have lost a loved one in a New York car accident, you might also recover some damages above and compensation for burial and funeral expenses. Your car accident lawyer can answer questions about a wrongful death claim and advise you on what damages apply to your case.
Getting Started With a New York Car Accident Claim
Consult with a lawyer if you are wondering whether to file a New York car accident claim. During a free consultation, an experienced New York car accident attorney can review your claim’s facts, determine your compensation eligibility, and advise you on the best course of action for your circumstances. If you have a viable claim, they can begin working on your case immediately.
Until you get the chance to meet with a lawyer, following these tips will maximize your chances of receiving compensation for losses related to the accident and your injuries.
- Follow your doctor’s orders. If you have a serious injury, you’ve likely already received emergency room treatment and are probably getting treated by your regular doctor or another non-ER doctor. They have given you a treatment plan based on their diagnosis of your injuries. You must strictly follow that treatment plan and keep all medical appointments, including those for specialized treatment like physical therapy. If you don’t follow your doctor’s orders, you risk the other side arguing that you have not recovered from injuries because you failed to follow instructions.
- Keep proof of economic loss. A large portion of your car accident injury claim includes your economic loss. You need to prove that loss to recover damages. Keep copies of payroll information that shows you missed work, medical bills not covered by your PIP insurance, and receipts for vehicle repairs. You should document travel mileage related to the accident and your injuries, such as travel between home and the hospital or clinic.
- Don’t speak with the other side’s insurance company. The provider might make an early settlement offer where fault is obvious. Insurance adjusters are not your friends, but they will act friendly to get you to say something that might hurt your case. It’s best to wait until you contact a lawyer and let them handle communications with the insurance company on your behalf while you focus on healing from your injuries. Your New York car accident lawyer can use an initial offer as a starting point for negotiations and protect you from the questionable tactics that some insurance providers employ to avoid financial liability for their policyholders.
After your recovery, meeting the statute of limitation is the most important concern following an accident induced injury. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your case and determine how much time you have left to file and what you can do to protect your claim.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.