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Determining Fault for Car Accidents in the New York City Area

Accident in the new york city area

Car Accidents in the New York City Area 

New York City is a dangerous place for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in the New York City area, you’re not alone. Traffic is heavy, drivers are distracted, truck drivers are in a hurry, and poor road conditions can lead to a loss of control. As car accident lawyers, The Dearie Law Firm helps car accident victims and their families protect their rights and seek fair compensation for their injuries. 

In just July of 2018 there were 19,384 motor vehicle collisions with 3,823 of them causing injuries or deaths, according to the Police Department City of New York. They caused 5,330 injuries and 16 deaths. That comes to about 172 injuries each day and a about fatality every other day. 

There can be many reasons for a car accident in the New York City area, including, 

  • Driver distraction or inattentiveness: This can be caused by smart phone use, fatigue, conversations with others in the vehicle, or drivers simply not paying attention to what’s ahead of them. About 10% of fatal crashes and 15% of crashes causing injuries in 2015 were caused by distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 
  • Fatigue: About 60% of adult drivers, which comes to about 168 million people, say they have driven a vehicle while feeling drowsy, and more than a third (37% or 103 million people) admit to sleeping behind the wheel, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey in 2005. 
  • Driving under the influence of drugs: In 2016 11.8 million people aged 16 or older drove under the influence of illegal drugs, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Effects on drivers vary depending on the individual and the drug used and can include drowsiness, dizziness, slowed reaction times or aggressiveness. 
  • Speeding: According to the City of New York, of the vehicle accidents in July 2018, 333 of them involved speeding as a factor. Speeding can greatly decrease reaction time, especially on crowded city streets.  
  • Tailgating: Following too closely was a factor in 2,353 accidents in the city in July 2018, impacting more than 12% of all accidents. These accidents can cause soft tissue injuries of the neck and shoulder. More serious accidents could cause concussions and traumatic brain injuries. 
  • Wrong way driving: A driver going the wrong way could be intoxicated, drowsy, not paying attention, or simply confused in dark conditions and by poor signage. A high percentage of these accidents result in severe injuries and deaths.  

If a driver engages in these acts he or she is breaking the law and should be given a ticket, if not arrested. Violating the law is normally strong evidence of fault by the driver. In the case where two vehicles are involved and both drivers broke the law, the fact finder would need to decide who’s more to blame. 

Accident investigations help sort out the facts 

Who gets the blame may ultimately be decided in court. After an officer comes to the scene and investigates the crash, a report will be issued. That report is often used by the insurance company and the injured party’s attorney. 

All the parties involved normally file an insurance claim for the damages to their vehicles and/or for their injuries. Car accident attorneys and insurance companies conduct further investigations to determine who caused the accident, how, the conditions that might have led to the accident, and who should be held liable. Evidence could include, 

  • The police report,  
  • Interviews with witnesses and the drivers involved,  
  • Physical damage to the vehicles, guardrails, power poles or buildings, 
  • Photos taken of the accident scene, 
  • Video shot inside the vehicle or outside by bystanders or nearby security cameras, and, 
  • The extent of injuries and the location of the injured parties, both inside and outside the vehicle. 

Engineers who can reconstruct an accident given the evidence could be used to provide a professional opinion on the cause of the accident and who made what mistake to decide who was at fault and by what degree. 

Blame May Be Placed By a Jury After a Trial 

Accident in the new york city area

If you’re considered seriously injured under New York law, want to claim damages for pain and suffering, and have economic losses greater than $50,000, you may be able to file a negligence lawsuit in state court. It would be up to the fact finder (a judge or jury) to decide who’s at fault if the parties can’t reach a settlement agreement.  

Under negligence law, the plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) needs to show that it’s the defendant (the party being sued) who, more likely than not, acted negligently and is responsible for paying damages as a result. The plaintiff would need to establish, 

  • The defendant owed him a legal duty (to operate the vehicle reasonably and safely), 
  • The defendant breached that duty (he drove too fast, ran a stop sign or drove while intoxicated), 
  • That breach was the factual and legal (or proximate) cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and, 
  • The plaintiff suffered damages (a way to measure harm by using money) which, under New York law, the defendant is obligated to compensate the plaintiff. 

The fact finder would need to consider the evidence submitted at trial (including photos, videos, eyewitness testimony, and experts’ opinions) and decide, 

  • Is the defendant at fault? 
  • If so, is the plaintiff also at fault? 
  • If fault is shared, how much is each side to blame?  

Then the plaintiff’s damages award would be reduced by his or her portion of the blame. 

Get in Touch, Don’t Waste More Time – why The Dearie Law Firm? 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in the New York City area and you would like to discuss your situation, the law, and how to protect your legal rights to compensation for your injuries, you can speak to an attorney at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C., by calling our office at (212) 970-6500. Our firm has more than 30 years of experience with car accident claims and litigation.