New York State Accident Law

Each year in New York State over 200,000 people are injured in car accidents. Do you know what to do when you are in an accident? When I was in my 20s I had three accidents in New York, where I lived at the time. My first accident happened when was a freshman in college. The other two happened shortly after I graduated. When I had the first accident I had no idea what to do. I actually told the police I didn’t know what happened. It was my first accident and I was scared. But this was overcome as I grew older.

When you get into an accident in New York State it is VERY important to get evidence while you are at the scene. This is probably the most important thing you can do. Failure to do so may result in faulty accident reports and insurance problems later on. There are basically four major things you have to do when you are involved in an accident in New York State.

  1. Stop and exchange information with all involved drivers. Call the police.
  2. Take pictures first and then move the vehicle if it is blocking traffic.
  3. Write down exactly what happened while you are waiting for the police.
  4. Report accident to the DMV and the insurance companies involved.

At the Scene of the Accident
The first thing that you should do when involved in an auto accident is stop your car and pull over. If you were hit at such an impact your vehicle automatically disabled just get out of the car. Call the police immediately. If anyone is injured or killed request that an ambulance also be sent. Tell the police exactly where you are. This will shorten the response time. While you are waiting for the police make sure that you exchange information with all drivers involved in the accident. If there are passengers in either vehicle note their name and age.

Make sure that you write down their driver’s license number, insurance information, and vehicle registration information. If you are involved in an accident with a parked vehicle or domestic animal in New York State it is your responsibility to locate the owner. If you cannot locate the owner contact the police. There are severe fines as well as jail time in New York State for drivers that do not take responsibility for their actions. In New York State drivers that hit and injure or kill domestic animals like dogs and cats are liable for their actions.

In some places of New York it can take up to a half hour or more for police to come to your assistance. Typically you will only have to wait 15-20 minutes for help. While you are waiting for the police get a piece of paper and write down everything you can remember about the accident. Note the time and date of the accident, as well as the place of occurrence, what direction you were traveling in, and the weather. Often times in New York State motor vehicle accidents occur when it is raining, snowing, or very sunny. These are all very dangerous conditions and should be taken into account during an accident.

Taking Pictures at the Scene
It is wise to carry a digital camera or disposable camera in your car just in case of an accident. Before any driver moves their vehicle(s) from the roadway take pictures of impact zones. Look closely at the lines on the road. If someone is over the double yellow or dotted white lines that separate the lanes make sure to take pictures of it. If you are later not found at fault these pictures may help you prove your case. After you have taken pictures move the vehicles to a place where they will not obstruct traffic.

In New York State if you do not move your vehicle after an accident, and it is blocking or stopping traffic you may be ticketed by the responding officer. Of course if your vehicle is totaled, disabled, or otherwise un-drivable there is nothing that you can do. When I was in an accident in college my car was “t-boned” by a driver that ran a red light. My car spun around about 200 degrees and ended up in a snow bank. There was no way I was going to move my vehicle.

In another accident I had I was hit on the side of my car by an ambulance. The ambulance was coming out of a parallel parking space at a pizza place, and sideswiped my car. Stupidly I moved my car out of the roadway before the police showed up and I never took any pictures. When the police showed up, the accident was blamed on me, instead of the ambulance driver who said she never saw me. Pictures can help you get faulty police reports changed and prove fault. Just to make it worse, the accident happened two blocks from my own house!

Reporting the Accident
In New York State the first person that you will be reporting the accident to is the police. In New York State either a local municipality or a State Trooper will handle the accident report. If the officer asks you to make a statement calmly tell him what happened. Show him/her your notes if you can’t recall the information, but don’t hand them over. If you give them that paper there goes your evidence, and you can bet they won’t give it back. When I was younger I was so scared of the police I couldn’t tell them what happened so I used to write it and read it to myself while I waited for them to arrive.

If the police ask you to make a written statement or affidavit, do it. This statement will be included in the police report. Make sure that you ask them for a copy of the affidavit for your own file. Sometimes this is left out of the report even if the police ask for it, so get a copy at the scene. Approximately 10 days after the date of the accident you can request an accident report from the DMV. Fill out a MV-198C (Motor Vehicle Accident Request Form) either at a DMV location or on line. For $5 you can also get a copy of the police report from the Public Records Office in the jurisdiction of the accident.

If there is property damage over $1000, if anyone was injured or killed, or if you were in an accident with a parked car or domestic animal you must file an MV-104 (Motor Vehicle Accident Report Form). This form must be filled out with in 10 days of the accident date. Failure to do so may result in a fine.

Reporting to the Insurance Companies
The first thing you should do after your accident is to report it not only to your insurance company, but also the insurance company of the other driver. Doing this shows responsibility and may help you if you get money faster if you are injured or if your vehicle was damaged.

If you took the other drivers information at the scene of the accident call their insurance company right away and file a claim. Also call your own company and file a claim. Make sure that you tell them everything you noted at the accident. If you have pictures get doubles and send a copy to the insurance company. If your vehicle was damaged take pictures of the damage and also send copies to your insurance company. Most insurance companies will send a claims adjuster to survey the amount of damage to your vehicle, but the pictures are very helpful. Sometimes it can take over a week for an adjuster to come and take the pictures. Send your insurance any copies of documents you received from the police whether it is a summons, a ticket, or an affidavit copy.

You don’t have to send all this to the other drivers insurance company unless you wish. It does help speed up the process through. Sometimes in New York it can several months to get an accident resolved. This can be quite painstaking if your vehicle was damaged and you don’t have the money to pay out of pocket.

Tickets and Summons
If you received an a ticket on the day of the accident make sure that you pay the fine within the requested time. Failure to pay the specified amount within the requested time may result in a small claims court hearing. If you are found at fault you will receive a pink ticket with a summons attached. The summons tells you on what date and time you have to appear in court. If you do not appear in court on the requested date and time you will be served a warrant for your arrest. There are severe penalties for those at fault in accidents who do not appear in court including jail time and fines.

If you were found at fault but believe you were not a fault either get court selected representation or seek legal help immediately. Each year in New York State there are over 1,000 fatalities on highways and other roadways. Over 800 drivers, 300 passengers, and over 350 pedestrians are killed each year in auto accidents in New York State. In total over 250,000 people are injured in motor vehicle accidents on New York roadways. Wear a seat belt, not only does it save lives it is the law. Drive carefully and pay attention. Don’t talk on cell phones and pull over if you are distracted or can’t see.

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