New York Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline

Twenty points. That's how much the Bills just lost by and you have a three-hour drive ahead of you in a snowstorm. If the icy roads don't get you, a drunk tailgater might -- the roads are dangerous in New York this time of year. If you do get into an accident, some information on car accident settlements would definitely come in handy. This article will walk you through the New York car accident settlement process and timeline. 

Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in New York?

New York's accident reporting requirements are best thought of as two separate reports: the "as soon as possible (call your nearest police station)" report and the "within 10 days" written report.

If the accident resulted in an injury to a person, the driver responsible for the accident is required to file a report with the local police station as soon as possible. But, if the accident only involved property damage, an "as soon as possible" report is only required if the owner of the other car is not present -- i.e. you hit a parked car. If the other owner is present, exchange your insurance and contact information.

However, for all accidents involving personal injury or resulting in $1,001 in damage to property or more, a written report must be filed within 10 days with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

New York Car Insurance Laws

New York's mandatory minimum insurance requirements include liability coverage of:

  • $25,000 in coverage for a single person accident injury or death
  • $50,000 if more than one person is injured or killed
  • $10,000 in property damage coverage
  • $50,000 in "no fault" coverage.

No fault coverage is probably the most unique requirement there -- it covers situations where fault cannot be determined, such as a "he said/she said" scenario of two drivers colliding in an intersection, both claiming after the fact that they "had a green light."

How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in New York?

Will your case go to trial? It's impossible to say for sure, but the odds are highly likely that it will not -- in nearly all cases, the parties settle, rather than risk losing at trial. A settlement means you get a guaranteed payout. The parties also won't be paying attorneys to prepare for a courtroom battle, which is often the most expensive and stressful phase of pursuing a claim. Instead, settlement means the parties drop the pending lawsuit for a mutually agreeable remedy, after putting the terms of the settlement in writing.

New York does not require mandatory settlement conferences or other alternatives to litigation in car accident cases, unless the case involves claims for medical malpractice (typically in treating injuries from the car accident), but local court rules may vary, and a judge may require or encourage such a conference formally or informally. Even without a judge's help, it is almost always the case that your attorney will discuss settlement options with you and the other party.

What Is the Average Car Accident Settlement in New York?

Averages are misleading and hard, if not impossible, to calculate, as cases vary widely in the amount of injuries sustained -- a fender bender, for example, causes less pain, anguish, and property damage than a drunk driver who kills an entire family. There is also our previous example -- the hard-to-prove case of a dispute over which driver had the red light in a collision in an intersection.

When determining what a fair settlement amount in your case would be, the parties and their attorneys will likely consider:

  • How much each party was at fault
  • How much evidence there is of fault and damages
  • Insurance coverage (insurance companies won’t pay more than policy limits)
  • Car repairs
  • Medical bills (past and future)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages from time away from work

How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in New York?

New York has a time limit (statute of limitations) for filing a legal case: you have three years from the date of the accident. Do not ignore this time limit while your claim is pending with an insurance company, as insurance claims do not delay the court's own time limits. It is in your interest to speak to an attorney early in order to ensure that you still have time to file a lawsuit if needed.

Get a Free Claim Review from a New York Attorney

Never sign a settlement agreement without consulting an attorney first -- they are nearly always final and binding, and without the advice of an attorney, you could end up with an insufficient amount to cover your injuries or you could even waive claims altogether. A free claim review from an experienced New York car accident attorney can protect you from these mistakes and can prevent other issues, like missing a filing deadline that could end your case before it begins.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.