From FY 2012 to FY 2021, deaths and serious injuries from traffic crashes involving motor vehicles owned by the City of New York cost taxpayers $653.9 million, according to a report from the Comptroller’s Office. In FY 2021 alone, NYC paid out $138.5 million to settle cases in which a City worker hit someone—or something—with a government-provided vehicle.

Suing a NYC government agency presents more challenges than suing a fellow citizen, but as the Comptroller report shows, filing and winning a lawsuit against the government is not impossible. However, anyone injured by a City employee needs to comply with strict requirements and may need help from a personal injury lawyer.

Injury Claims From City-Owned Vehicles Doubled In Past Decade

The City of New York has the largest municipal fleet in the country, with roughly 30,000 motor vehicles and 85,000 operators. In the last decade, the City has paid tens of millions of dollars per year to settle more than 4,100 crash claims, the Comptroller revealed in a February 2023 report (Wreckless Spending: The Accelerating Cost of City Car Crash Settlements).

These car crash settlements represent the largest source of City personal injury and property damage payouts, surpassing incidents like sidewalk slip and falls, police brutality, and medical malpractice. And the average settlement cost has increased substantially, from $15,187 in FY 2012 to $242,365 in FY 2021.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • 169 claims were settled for $1 million+ and cost a total of $323 million to settle. These claims made up just 4% of all New York City car crash claims but resulted in nearly 50% of total settlements.
  • Six agencies comprised 91% of total City motor vehicle claims: NYPD, DSNY, DOT, Parks, FDNY, and DEP.
  • NYPD led the way in the total number of claims and payout amounts. NYPD crashes since FY 2012 resulted in 1,645 claims and $246.8 million in settlements—nearly 40% of the total.
  • DEP’s average settlement amount—more than $180,000—is currently the highest of any City agency.
  • New York City car crashes leading to government claims are concentrated in East Harlem, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Prospect Lefferts Gardens in Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and Southeast Queens.
  • Communities experiencing the highest number of crashes caused by City vehicles tend to be communities of color with higher-than-average poverty and unemployment rates.
  • The most expensive car crash settlements involve City-owned trucks ($2.1 million average settlement) and vans ($4.3 million average settlement).

The report notes that rising NYC motor vehicle claim costs come at a time when the City, and the nation, are seeing an overall rise in fatalities and serious injuries from traffic crashes. In 2022, New York City car crashes killed 253 residents—down from 273 in 2021 but a 20% increase compared to 2019.

“The epidemic of vehicle crashes is a serious public safety concern to New Yorkers, and unfortunately the City fleet is not an exception,” Comptroller Brand Lander said in a statement. “But in these cases, when a New Yorker is hit and harmed by a squad car or a garbage truck, it’s New York City taxpayers who have to settle the bill.”

Government Lawsuits for New York City Car Crashes

Workers get into around 6,000 car crashes per year in City-owned vehicles, a 2019 Mayor’s Management Report shows. When a NYC employee drives recklessly in the line of duty and causes injuries, they can’t be sued directly, but the City can be held responsible in a lawsuit.

  • Filing a personal injury claim against the City of New York requires first filing a notice of claim within 90 days of the date the incident occurred.
  • The notice of claim is filed in writing with the Office of the Comptroller, unless the claim must be served on one of the government agencies listed here.
  • The City investigates the claim. If it determines that one of its agencies may be legally liable for the injury, it may try to settle the claim.
  • Claimants have 30 days to accept or reject a settlement offer.
  • Claimants may also bring claims for New York City car crashes in court.
  • Before filing a lawsuit in court, the claimant must wait 30 days after filing a notice of claim and attend a hearing.
  • Following the hearing, the claimant has 1 year and 90 days from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit.

It is highly recommended to hire a lawyer when filing a City of New York personal injury claim. In fact, the personal injury claim form has a section dedicated to attorneys filing claims on behalf of clients. The City employs lawyers to defend its interests. Claimants who do not have their own attorney will be at a disadvantage.

We Have a Successful Track Record of Suing New York City

The Sanders Law Firm has a proven track record of winning injury cases against the City of New York, including a multi-million dollar verdict for a man hit by a police car and a million dollar award for a woman struck by a bus.

If you were injured in an accident with a City-owned vehicle, strict filing deadlines demand swift action. To talk to a lawyer about your case, free of charge, call 855-SANDERS or Contact Us.