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How Long Do You Have to Sue for a Car Accident in New York?

A car accident

If you were hurt in a car accident due to the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of another, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries. However, it’s essential to be aware that you only have a limited time to sue. New York imposes strict statutes of limitation for car accidents, and they must be taken very seriously. If you don’t file a lawsuit within the specified timeline for your case, you may be forever barred from bringing a claim to recover your economic and non-economic damages. 

What are Statutes of Limitations?

Statutes of limitations are the timelines that specify how long a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit in a civil case. Generally, after the statute of limitations expires, a case can no longer be brought to court. The laws governing statutes of limitations are meant to ensure that legal action is commenced within a reasonable time before witness memories fade and evidence is lost — as well as to protect defendants from being subject to unfair legal claims. Every type of action has a different statute of limitations. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations for a New York Car Accident?

The statute of limitations in New York for a personal injury action, including those involving car accidents, is three years. The timeline begins running on the date the accident occurred. However, there are certain circumstances under which the statute of limitations may be much shorter. Typically, the following deadlines to file a lawsuit apply, depending upon the facts of the accident and who is named a defendant in the case:

  • Actions against negligent individuals — You have three years to bring a lawsuit against an at-fault driver or another negligent party on the road.
  • Lawsuits against municipalities — If your lawsuit involves a municipality, the statutes of limitations are shorter and special rules apply. For example, in the event your lawsuit involves the City of New York, you have 90 days to file a Notice of Claim. This document must be served to the City before legal action can be filed in court. You have one year and 90 days from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against a municipality in New York. 
  • Claims involving wrongful death — If your loved one passed away in a car crash caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

It’s crucial to understand that there may be other deadlines in your case, apart from the statute of limitations, which governs the time to file a lawsuit. For example, you only have 30 days to file an application for no-fault benefits with the insurance company. These benefits can provide coverage for your medical bills and a portion of your lost wages. They can be essential to help you make ends meet while your car accident lawsuit is pending.  

What Happens If the Statute of Limitations Expires?

If the statute of limitations expires, a lawsuit cannot be commenced in court — it will be time-barred. The defendant in the case can ask the judge to dismiss it on these grounds, no matter how meritorious your claim might be. However, there are a few rare situations in which the statute of limitations might be tolled. 

The deadline to file a legal action for a car accident may be extended in cases where the victim was a minor at the time of the crash. In such cases, the statute of limitations would not begin running until the victim’s 18th birthday. Similarly, if a victim was declared mentally incompetent, the statute of limitations would not begin running until the legal disability no longer exists. 

The statute of limitations may also be tolled if the at-fault party left the state of New York for a period of four months or more after the crash. The defendant’s period of absence would not be counted toward the three-year time frame in which the lawsuit must be filed. 

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney

Understanding which statute of limitations applies in your car accident case can be confusing and it’s important not to delay seeking legal counsel. An experienced personal injury attorney can protect your rights and fight to recover the economic and non-economic damages to which you may be entitled. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has represented car accident victims for three decades and works to obtain the best possible outcomes in each of their unique cases.

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. Contact us today for a consultation.