How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Claim in New York State?
Every state, including New York, has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Accident victims and other injured people need to understand and watch this deadline carefully because it can result in a total loss of the right to pursue injury compensation.
Car Accident Claims in New York
New York has a no-fault auto insurance system under which car owners must buy personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in their auto insurance policy. After a minor crash, each injured road user files a claim with the PIP insurer for the car they rode in.
PIP coverage pays medical expenses and lost wages after a car accident. These benefits get paid regardless of who caused the crash. Even the driver who caused the crash can receive PIP benefits.
The first deadline in your car accident case comes from New York’s no-fault insurance law. You only have 30 days after your crash to file your no-fault claim. Fortunately, most people notify their insurer immediately after their crash. As long as they follow this up with some additional details, they will meet this deadline.
If your PIP insurance carrier accepts your claim, you will receive up to $50,000 in medical and disability benefits from your no-fault insurance policy. But in some cases, you will suffer more serious injuries that require expensive medical treatment and prevent you from working or caring for your family.
People who suffer “serious injuries” can file a claim against the at-fault driver. Similarly, people who have exhausted their $50,000 in PIP benefits can also pursue a claim against them.
The difference between no-fault claims and fault-based claims typically involves the amount and types of damages you can seek. Specifically, people with serious injuries can pursue pain and suffering damages in their claims.
Fault-Based Car Accident Claims
If you have a fault-based car accident claim, you have a three-year deadline to file a lawsuit. If you miss it, a judge can dismiss your case, and you will lose your right to pursue injury compensation from the at-fault driver.
The purpose of the deadline is to force accident victims to file while memories and evidence of the crash are still fresh. The deadline also gives drivers certainty. You cannot get sued for a crash that happened more than three years ago.
Since this claim is based on fault, you must prove negligence to win your case. A driver acts negligently when they fail to exercise reasonable care while driving. Thus, a driver who runs a stop sign and hits another vehicle has acted negligently.
The three-year statute of limitations ensures that accident victims file while witnesses still remember what happened. The victims should still have financial and medical records to prove their losses. And everyone should still be able to obtain copies of accident reports from the officers who investigated the crash.
In certain circumstances, events outside your control may prevent you from meeting the deadline. New York law recognizes that some of these situations may justify pausing the deadline, a process called “tolling the statute of limitations.” For example, if your car accident rendered you comatose for a time, the statute of limitations might get extended.
Bear in mind, though, that the grounds for tolling the statute of limitations are very narrow. You should speak to a lawyer as quickly as possible to determine whether any of these situations apply to your case.
Act Quickly After a Crash to Preserve Your Rights
While three years might seem like a long time, you should still act quickly to file any claims after an accident. Time can pass quickly when you are recovering from a serious injury. More importantly, the longer you wait, the longer it will take to recover the compensation necessary to pay your medical bills and replace your lost income.
The deadline also does not account for the time a lawyer needs to:
- Investigate your accident
- Gather evidence to support your claim
- File insurance claims
- Negotiate a settlement
Many car accident claims get settled long before a lawsuit becomes necessary. By putting a lawyer on your case before you reach the deadline, you give the process time to play out.
Stay on Top of Your Deadlines
Missing the statute of limitations is often an avoidable mistake. An experienced injury attorney will review any deadlines in your case during your initial consultation to make sure you understand how much time you have to file. Contact Silberstein, Awad & Miklos for a free consultation to discuss the deadlines you face in your car accident claim.