How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, it’s important to know how fault is determined in New York state. Fault, or degree of negligence, is often important in bringing claims against a person who has harmed you, a friend, or family member, or damaged your property.

New York Is a No-Fault State

New York is what is known as a no-fault state. That means, for most injuries and damage, the costs will be paid by your own insurance company. Say, for example, that you are in a car accident in which your ankle is sprained and your car severely damaged. The car that hit you went through a red light and hit your vehicle in the intersection.

Even though the other driver might be clearly at fault for going through a red light, any medical treatment for your ankle and repair of your vehicle will be paid by your insurance company, not by the other driver’s insurance company or a suit brought against the other driver. That is what “no-fault” means. Insurance companies generally handle injuries and damages in car accidents without regard to who was at fault.

Drivers in our state are required to buy insurance in order to register their cars and get state license plates.

Can a Claim Be Brought Against a Negligent Party?

However, there are certain injuries in which New York state law allows injured parties to bring either personal injury claims or insurance liability suits in court against a party or parties accused of being negligent.

The injuries include:

  • Fracture of a bone
  • Disfigurement that is significant
  • Limitation of use of a body organ or limb that is permanent
  • Limitation of a body function or system that is significant
  • Substantial full disability for 90 days

These claims have a statute of limitations. They must be brought within 3 years of the date the accident occurred.

Comparative Negligence and How It Works

New York is a comparative negligence state. This means that any claims granted by a jury may be reduced if the court determines that the injured party was also partly at fault.

If, for example, a car couldn’t stop fast enough to avoid hitting the plaintiff’s car in the rear bumper after a sudden stop, a jury may find that driver negligent, as drivers should leave sufficient space to stop at all times. But if testimony indicates that the injured party was also driving over the speed limit and that contributed to the necessity of a sudden stop, the jury may find that the injured party contributed to the crash.

Any award in comparative negligence cases is reduced by the percentage the plaintiff is found at fault. If a jury awarded the injured party $20,000 in the above case, for example, and he or she was found to be 20% at fault, the total award will be reduced 20%, so that amount received will be ultimately $16,000.

New York City and Long Island Car Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash, Edelman, Krasin & Jaye’s experienced lawyers can help. Our initial consultation is free, and we work on a contingent fee basis — which means you pay us nothing unless we win your case.

Call 1-800-469-7429 for a free consultation with a seasoned New York City and Long Island car accident lawyer today.

More information on establishing fault in a car accident claim:

  1. New York State Department of Financial Services. Automobile Owners Resource Center.
  2. New York State Department of Financial Services. Consumer Frequently Asked Questions. No-Fault Insurance.