New York Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules

If you've been injured in an accident in New York, make sure you understand these rules before you start your personal injury case.

After an accident or injury in New York, you might be wondering which state laws will affect your case. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of a few New York statutes and legal principles that may come into play if you’re taking legal action after an injury -- whether via an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.

Time Limits for Injury Lawsuits in New York

All states have placed limits on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in the civil court system after you have suffered some type of harm. This kind of law is called a statute of limitations, and there are different deadlines depending on what type of case you want to file.

In New York, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases gives a claimant three years from the date of the injury to go to court and file a lawsuit against those responsible for the underlying accident.

Why is this law important? Basically, if you fail to get to the courthouse before this three-year window closes, the New York court system will likely refuse to hear your case at any time in the future, and your right to compensation will be lost. The New York statute of limitations on personal injury cases can be found at N.Y. Civ. Prac. R. section 214.

It's important to mention that the statute of limitations we've discussed here applies to most, but not all, New York lawsuits seeking compensation for losses related to a physical injury. New York, like most states, has legislated a specific statute of limitations for lawsuits over injuries caused by medical malpractice, for example. Learn more about New York medical malpractice laws.

New York Laws on Shared Fault

In some personal injury cases, the person or business you are trying to hold liable for your injuries may make the argument that you're actually to blame (at least partially) for the incident that forms the basis of your claim.

If you do share some level of liability, it can end up affecting the total amount of compensation you can receive from other at-fault parties.

In shared-fault injury cases, New York follows a “pure comparative negligence" rule. To put this rule in the simplest of terms, it means that the amount of compensation you're entitled to receive will be reduced by an amount that is equal to your percentage of fault for the accident.

How does this rule work in practice? Let’s say you're in a car accident where the other driver made a left turn in front of you, but you also happened to be driving a few miles an hour above the posted speed limit. In that case, you might share 10 percent of the blame for the accident, while the other driver is 90 percent at fault. Your damages add up to $10,000. How does your share of the fault affect your compensation? Under New York's pure comparative negligence rule, your compensation will be reduced to $9,000 (or the $10,000 total minus the $1,000 that represents your share of fault for the accident.)

Keep in mind that, while courts in New York are obligated to follow this rule in an injury lawsuit that makes it to trial, it may be a different story if you're dealing with an insurance adjuster outside the court system. Don't be surprised if the adjuster raises the issue of New York’s comparative negligence rule during settlement talks, but you’re free to negotiate what the impact of that rule should be on your claim.

New York's No-Fault Insurance Rules for Car Accident Cases

If you're injured in a car accident in New York, your options to recover compensation could be limited. New York is a no-fault car insurance state, which means that when you're injured in a car accident, you turn first (and often exclusively) to your own car insurance policy to get compensation for your medical bills and certain other economic losses, regardless of who caused the crash. 

You can usually only step outside the confines of no-fault and file a liability claim (or personal injury lawsuit) against the at-fault driver if your claim meets the "serious injury" threshold in place in New York. That means you've experienced any of the following because of the car accident:

  • significant disfigurement 
  • bone fracture
  • permanent limitation of use of body organ or member
  • significant limitation of use of body function or system, or
  • substantially full disability for 90 days.

If your injuries qualify, you can hold the at-fault driver responsible for the accident, and you can pursue compensation for all categories of losses, including pain and suffering and other non-economic damages (which aren't available in a no-fault claim). For more on this issue, see this page on No-Fault Car Accident Claims.

Owner Liability For Injury by a Dog or Other Animal

There is no specific statute in New York governing personal injury liability for dog bites. Owners will be held liable for injuries caused by their dog (or other animal) if the injured party can show that the owner “should have known” the animal was dangerous. This is sometimes known as the “one bite” rule.

Injury Claims Against the Government

If your injury occurred due to the negligence of an employee or agency of the government -- whether at the local or state level -- in New York, you’ll need to play by a different set of rules if you want to get compensation for your losses. The first step is usually to file a formal claim with the proper government agency, and give them time to respond.

Here is a quick summary of the rules in New York:

  • You have 90 days to file a formal claim against a city in New York, and one year to file a lawsuit against a city. (N.Y. Gen. Mun. Laws § 50-e.)
  • You also have 90 days to file a formal claim against a county in New York, and one year to file a lawsuit. (N.Y. County Law § 52.)
  • You have 90 days to file a claim against the state of New York (or notice of intent to file claim if, within the 90 days, you are unable to arrive at a final claim figure, such as if medical treatment is incomplete). (N.Y. Court of Claims Act § 10.)

Learn more about injury claims against government entities.

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