New York Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules

New York's statute of limitations deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit in court, the state's "pure comparative negligence" rule, and more.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

After any kind of injury in New York—including from car accidents, dog bites, and slip and fall incidents—you might be wondering about laws that could affect any personal injury claim you decide to bring.

In this article, we'll discuss the time limits that apply to filing a personal injury lawsuit in New York, how your injury claim might be affected if you're partly at fault for the underlying accident, and more.

New York's Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

All states have placed limits on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in civil court 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 kinds of personal injury cases gives you three years from the date of the injury to go to court and file a lawsuit against whoever you think caused your accident.

What Happens If I Miss the Deadline for Filing My New York Personal Injury Lawsuit?

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. Civil Practice Law & Rules section 214.

Are There Extensions for the New York Personal Injury Statute of Limitations?

Certain situations could alter or extend the applicable filing deadline in New York, including:

  • when the injured person is under the age of 18 or considered to be of "unsound mind" at the time of the accident—then the three-year "clock" for filing the personal injury lawsuit probably won't begin to run until the legal disability is "lifted", meaning the person turns 18, or is declared legally competent. (New York Civil Practice Law & Rules section 208.)
  • when the person who allegedly caused the injury (the defendant) leaves the state of New York at some point after the underlying accident, and before the lawsuit can be filed, and is gone for four months or more, the time of absence likely won't be counted as part of the three-year statutory period. (New York Civil Practice Law & Rules section 207.)

How Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit In New York?

In New York, most personal injury lawsuits are filed in the state's Supreme Court system, which, despite its name, isn't the top court in the state, but the one that has statewide jurisdiction over most civil cases. There is one Supreme Court courthouse in each of the 62 counties in the state of New York. Chances are, you'll file your lawsuit in the courthouse that's in the county where the person you're suing lives, or where your injury occurred.

Your New York personal injury lawsuit will usually start when you file:

  • a "complaint" identifying your claims against the person or business you're suing (the defendant), and
  • a "summons" that lets the defendant know they're being sued.

These documents also need to be "served" on the defendant. See examples of a civil complaint and summons (from

A few more points on where to file your personal injury lawsuit in New York:

  • If you live in New York City and you're asking for less than $25,000 in total personal injury damages, the right court for your lawsuit might be the Civil Court of the City of New York.
  • If your injuries were minor and you're not planning on asking for more than a few thousand dollars from the at-fault party, you might consider filing your personal injury case in small claims court. The dollar limit is $10,000 in New York City, and usually lower elsewhere. Learn more about small claims in New York (from

What If I'm Partly At Fault for My Injury In New York?

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 led to 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. (Get the basics on determining fault for an accident.)

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 New York's Pure Comparative Negligence Rule Work?

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 medical bills and other losses add up to $10,000. 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). Get more details on no-fault car accident claims.

Owner Liability For Injury Caused By a Dog or Other Animal

New York dog owners will often be held liable for injuries caused by their dog (or other animal) if the injured person can show that:

  • the owner was somehow negligent in connection with the injury, or
  • the owner should have known that the animal was dangerous.

Learn more about New York dog bite laws.

Injury Claims Against the Government in New York

If your injury involved 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 filing a formal claim with the proper government agency within 90 days, and giving them time to respond.

Get the basics on injury claims against government entities. For information on claims involving New York City, check out these Personal Injury Claim FAQ from the NYC Comptroller's office.

There is No New York Cap on Damages In Personal Injury Cases

A lot of states place a limit or "cap" on how much compensation ("damages" in the language of the law) an injured person can receive in court if their lawsuit is successful. Most of these caps only apply to certain kinds of lawsuits (like medical malpractice cases), and to certain types of damages (most often to "non-economic" damages like compensation for "pain and suffering").

New York has no caps on damages in injury lawsuits.

More Information on Personal Injury Cases

For more information on how the claims process works after an injury, see:

If you've been injured in an accident, you might need more than just information. For a full understanding of your best course of action, learn how to find the right personal injury lawyer for you and your case.

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