New York Laws on Car Accident Fault
Understanding Crash Victims’ Rights in a No-Fault State
Although New York is a “no-fault” state, determining who caused a car accident is still important. That’s because fault can greatly reduce compensation for injured car accident victims. It also determines who pays for car repairs.
Crashes are investigated and fault is determined for liability reasons. Insurance companies know this and often try to blame seriously injured car accident victims for wrecks they didn’t cause. An experienced New York car accident lawyer can protect crash victims from taking more blame – and less money – than they deserve after an accident.
The Bronx car accident lawyers at Giampa Law stand up for injured car accident victims. We build strong cases that protect victims' rights and demand maximum compensation. If you were injured or a loved one died in a New York car accident, contact Giampa Law for a free case consultation. At no cost to you, and at no obligation to hire us, a member of our team can explain how the law applies specifically to your accident, estimate claim value, and help weigh your options.
In the meantime, here is what every New Yorker should know about car accidents and fault. This information is general and may not apply to individual car accidents.
Why does fault matter in “no-fault” New York?
While New York is a “no-fault” state for car accidents, meaning injured people file claims with their own insurance companies first, you can still file a third-party liability claim or lawsuit if your injuries meet one of two conditions:
- You have a “serious injury,” defined as any of the following:
- Significant disfigurement
- A fracture (broken bone)
- Loss of a fetus
- Permanent loss of the use of an organ, member, function, or system of the body
- Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of the use of a body function or system
- A non-permanent injury that prevented you from performing your usual daily activities for at least 90 of the 180 days following the accident.
- Your total economic losses (medical expenses and lost wages) are over $50,000.
Practically speaking, this means that if you have a significant injury, you are likely able to step outside the no-fault system and file a third-party liability claim against the at-fault driver. Fault also determines who is responsible for vehicle repairs and other property damage.
How does an insurance company determine who is at fault?
Establishing fault after a car accident means collecting evidence. The insurance company is collecting evidence they can twist around to blame the victim and justify a small settlement or rejected claim. A car accident lawyer collects evidence to help victims get the most for their injuries. Common types of car accident evidence include:
- New York Collision Report
- Medical records
- Video footage
- Physical evidence, such as vehicle damage
- Witness statements
- Phone records
- Personal experience of events
Once evidence is collected, the insurance adjuster and car accident lawyer will make their own determinations, then negotiate to reach an agreement on fault, liability, and compensation. If the insurance company won’t make a fair fault determination, a car accident lawyer can take them to court.
Our Bronx car accident lawyers are relentless about getting accident victims the compensation they deserve. We would rather invest more time and energy into a case than accept a too-small settlement.
Who is at fault in a head-on collision and other crash types?
The circumstances and people involved make each car accident unique. Therefore, it is impossible to say who is “always” at fault in a specific type of accident. However, some crash configurations necessitate that one driver is more likely at fault than another.
Typically, the driver who did not have the right of way is at fault in a crash. That sounds simple, but it isn’t. There can be significant disagreement among those involved, investigators, police, and witnesses about who had the right of way.
The following car accident fault information is general. It may not apply to specific accident(s). If you were in an accident, a lawyer can investigate and get to the bottom of who caused your injuries. To learn more, contact us for a free consultation.
- Backing up, backing out, parking lot, alley, and driveway accident – Drivers backing out or up almost never have the right of way. So, when a driver backs up in a parking lot, alleyway, driveway, or another public or private space, they must make a focused effort to look behind them for others. A negligent driver who throws it in reverse with a quick glance – or no look at all – is almost always at fault in backing-up accidents.
- Left turn accident – The turning vehicle is usually the one at fault, but it depends on the circumstances. The driver may have attempted to turn too soon or after a traffic light turned red. An on-coming vehicle may be at-fault in a head-on collision if the driver was speeding or distracted.
- Right turn accident – This could go either way. The turning driver may be at fault if they did not have the right of way or assumed someone would stop for them. Remember, while it’s legal to turn right on red at many intersections, you have to come to a complete stop and yield to cross traffic before turning. The other driver might be at fault if they attempted to turn left too soon.
- Changing lanes – Merging, passing, and changing lanes come with risks. Drivers must check blind spots and mirrors before entering another’s lane. Failing to make a clean lane change could result in a T-bone, broadside, sideswipe, rear-end collision or another type of crash. The vehicle that stayed in their lane is rarely at fault in this type of accident.
- Rear-end accident – Usually, the driver in back is the one at fault, but not always. Common causes for rear-enders include tailgating (following too closely), distracted driving, speeding, and drunk driving (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, aka DUI). Situations where the driver in front may be culpable include sudden braking for no good reason, making a risky lane change or turn, and having defective equipment like broken brake lights.
- Multiple cars, pileups, chain reaction, or three-car accident – There are usually many drivers at fault in this type of complicated crash. Fault is often determined for each impact. The driver in back is not necessarily to blame.
- Intersection crash – Typically, the driver who does not have the right of way is at fault, but in an intersection, the right of way isn’t always obvious. Common intersection accidents include T-bone, sideswipe, head-on, and broadside collisions.
- Drunk driving accident – If an intoxicated or impaired driver contributed to a crash, they are almost always at fault. The cause of impairment doesn’t matter – drugs, alcohol, over-the-counter medication, or something else – if the driver did not have the presence of mind to safely operate a vehicle, then they are at fault. Note that an impaired driver can be found at fault for an accident in civil court even if they’re acquitted in criminal court.
- Pedestrian accident, in or outside of crosswalk, jaywalking – Pedestrians are rarely at fault in car accidents. Even if they are outside of a crosswalk, pedestrians injured in car accidents can still collect damages. In rare situations, like when a pedestrian is impaired, the person on foot may be at fault.
- Bicycle accident, in or outside of bike lane – Drivers are supposed to share the road with cyclists but some refuse to watch out for bicycles. It doesn’t matter whether a cyclist was travelling in or outside of a bike lane when they were hit by a car – the driver is usually at fault. A cyclist may be at fault if they were making an improper turn into oncoming traffic.
Don’t get blamed for a crash you didn’t cause
Even in a no-fault state, establishing who caused a car accident is necessary for injured crash victims seeking maximum compensation. Insurance adjusters know that the more blame they can pin on a victim, the smaller the settlement they can get away with.
Experienced New York car accident lawyers understand how to shut down insurance companies that want to pressure victims into accepting lowball settlement offers. Giampa Law’s New York car accident attorneys have gone up against many of New York’s biggest insurance providers and come out on top.
If you were injured or a loved one died in a New York accident, contact Giampa Law to learn more about how we can prove fault, protect your right to compensation, and pursue justice for you. We are committed to helping injured New Yorkers get the results they deserve. Contact us today for a free case consultation.
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