Articles Posted in Car Accidents in New York

The pandemic brought many changes to the daily lives of Americans throughout the country. One of the significant changes was the decrease in the number of daily commuters. Despite lighter traffic, New York car accident fatalities soared. In 2020, over 240 individuals died in a New York City traffic accident. Historically, economic downfalls usually coincide with reduced traffic congestion and fewer fatal accidents. However, the pandemic seemed to have the opposite effect, and many individuals recklessly sped down empty highways in their cars and motorcycles. These actions resulted in a sharp increase in deadly New York city accidents. Data showed a 76% increase in fatality rates from the previous year. However, the pandemic did bring a decrease in fatalities involving pedestrians.

Many reasons may explain the increase in fatal accidents but tend to go back to the changes that coronavirus brought to city residents. With older adults locking down in place, younger drivers, who are more prone to speeding, took advantage of the emptier streets. Further, the increase in unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol and drug-use combined with speeding, resulted in disastrous consequences. Traffic experts noted that some areas issued more speeding tickets during Covid than they ever have before.

Additionally, officials noted that fatalities involving motorcyclists hit the highest level in nearly 30 years. Further, over half of the incidents involved operators who did not have a motorcycle license. Data suggest that the rise may be attributed to the growing number of young men seeking an outlet from lockdown.

Hit-and-runs are one of the most devastating types of New York car accidents. These incidents are particularly egregious and often result in serious injuries and even death. After a hit-and-run accident, injury victims and their families often face an uphill battle trying to recover damages that cover the extent of their losses. A New York accident attorney can help families navigate these complex lawsuits.

Hit-and-run accidents occur when a driver leaves the scene of an accident without providing identifying information and rendering reasonable assistance to victims of the accident. Even if the accident does not appear to cause injuries, drivers must still stop and, at minimum, exchange insurance information. The failure to stop and provide information and assistance can leave vulnerable individuals in a harrowing position. Even short delays in medical treatment can have lifelong impacts on accident victims.

For instance, a New York news source recently reported on a tragic Westchester hit-and-run accident. Witnesses called police to report a man lying on the side of a roadway near Route 6. When police arrived, they discovered that the man died after being hit by a vehicle. A preliminary investigation revealed that a person traveling east on the road hit the victim and left the accident scene.

Quantifying the impact of a car accident and potential lifelong pain can be an overwhelming task. Generally, New York law allows injury victims to claim economic, non-economic and, in some limited cases, punitive damages. No two New York car accidents are the same. Two individuals can be involved in the same incident and experience the same injuries but suffer different emotional trauma levels and pain. To this point, the law classifies pain and suffering under none-conomic damages. As there is no solid mathematical way to quantify pain and suffering, the amount of damages a victim recovers hinges on a solid and compelling case.

There are several approaches that attorneys and insurance companies utilize to determine pain and suffering damages. However, the most common methods include the multiplier method and the per diem approach. The multiplier method involves adding the total amount of economic damages and then multiplying that method by a number between 1.5 and 5. The multiplier number depends on the severity of the injury. The per diem approach involves assigning a dollar amount to every day the victim suffers from the injury until they recover. Most people present their daily earnings and argue that the injury pain is comparable to the effort of working every day.

These calculations include if the victim suffers from psychological issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, insomnia, appetite loss, and sexual dysfunction. Further, courts will look to alterations of the victim’s daily life, relational impacts, length of injuries, and life expectancy.

New York law requires all drivers to maintain policies of auto insurance with specific amounts of coverage. Since many drivers do not have the required insurance, state law also requires auto insurance policies to include uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is optional under state law. In order for this system to work, the various parties must communicate with one another. An injured party must provide a notice of claim to the insurance carrier of the allegedly responsible party. If an insurance carrier disclaims or limits coverage, they must give notice to their policy holder and the injured person. These notices must be given within a “reasonable” amount of time. The precise meaning of “reasonable” is a matter of ongoing dispute.

Section 3420(f)(1) of the New York Insurance Law (NYIL) requires drivers to have maximum liability insurance coverage for a single auto accident in specific amounts. This provides compensation to others when the insured is at fault in an auto accident. State law also requires auto insurance policies to provide UM coverage in the same amounts. This applies when the insured suffers injuries caused by a driver who is not insured. UIM coverage applies when the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the amount of damage they caused.

In order to make a UM or UIM claim, an injured person must notify their own insurance company of the accident, and of the other driver’s lack of coverage. The injured person must also provide evidence of the other driver’s fault. Before the injured party can notify their own insurer, however, they have to know that the at-fault party’s insurer is disclaiming or denying coverage. This assumes, of course, that the at-fault party has insurance coverage in the first place, and that they have notified their insurer of the claim. NYIL § 3420(d)(2) requires an insurer that is disclaiming or denying coverage to “give written notice as soon as is reasonably possible” to its insured and the injured party.
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New York’s “no-fault law,” found in § 5104 of the New York Insurance Law, limits a plaintiff’s ability to recover non-economic damages in an auto accident claim. “Non-economic damages” are often the greatest losses in car accidents and other injury cases. They go beyond direct expenses like medical costs and lost wages. They include an accident victim’s pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and other harms that often occur because of a serious accident. The no-fault law only allows recovery of non-economic damages in cases involving “serious injury.” New York courts regularly hear disputes over whether an auto accident injury meets the statute’s definition of “serious injury.” Two recent cases from the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, Buchanan v. Keller and Broadwood v. Bedoya, demonstrate the sort of evidence needed for certain “serious injury” claims.

Section 5102(d) of the Insurance Law provides a list of injuries that constitute “serious injury” under the no-fault law. The items on the list range from the specific, such as “death” or “dismemberment,” to the more ambiguous. Two of these items are subject to ongoing dispute in the courts:
– “Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member” (PCL); and
– “Significant limitation of use of a body function or system” (SL).

A defendant moving for summary judgment on a “serious injury” claim has a prima facie burden of demonstrating that a plaintiff’s alleged injury does not meet the statutory definition. A plaintiff can counter this by establishing a “triable issue of fact.” In a 2009 decision, Staff v. Yshua, the Appellate Division, Second Department found that the defendant met this burden through expert testimony. The defendant presented an affirmation from an orthopedist who examined the plaintiff and concluded that their “injuries were now resolved and without permanency.” The court held that the plaintiff “failed to raise a triable issue of fact” in opposition to the defendant’s evidence. In a case from 2011, Jilani v. Palmer, the court found that the plaintiff had met their burden by producing an affidavit from a chiropractor that challenged the findings of the defense expert.
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Distracted driving is the cause of countless accidents in New York and across the United States. If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident caused by distracted driving, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. At the Law Offices of Mark A. Siesel, our New York distracted driving accident attorneys understand how to handle these claims. With years of experience, we take an aggressive approach in fighting for your legal rights at every step of the way.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as driver inattention that can lead to an accident. In other words, a distraction takes place when drivers divert their attention from the primary task of driving to focus on some other activity. The NHTSA reports that distracted driving was the cause of 3,477 deaths and 391,000 injuries across the country in 2015. Driver inattention or distraction was listed as a factor in 19.1 percent of all crashes and 10.4 percent of all fatal crashes in New York in 2014, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Examples of distracted driving include but are not limited to:

  • Talking or texting on your phone without a hands-free device;
  • Adjusting the stereo or GPS;
  • Turning back to comfort a child in a car seat;
  • Checking social media;
  • Fatigue or drowsiness;
  • Emotional distraction;
  • Watching a video; or
  • Putting on makeup or grooming.

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As anyone who drives on the major highways and parkways in the Westchester County area and other counties in the lower Hudson Valley such as I-684, I-287 and I-87, for example) is aware, the average driver on these highways will: follow too closely; change lanes without signaling; approach the rear of another vehicle quickly and change lanes at the last second; drive at an excessive speed; drive while distracted by texting, emailing or speaking on a cell phone, and in general drive aggressively. In an analysis conducted by the Journal News this past week, there was an examination of more than 107,000 vehicle crashes in the Lower Hudson Valley between August 1, 2011 and July 31, 2014. The majority of accidents occur on a straight section of roadway without traffic controls.

25% of crashes are due to rear end collisions. Of those types of accidents, at least half involve a sports utility vehicle. This is not surprising, in that due to the added weight of these vehicles, the stopping distance from application of the brakes to a complete stop is greater than with a lighter passenger vehicle. In these rear end collisions, 15% occurred when the driver was completely stopped, and 14% happened when the motorist was stopping or slowing down in traffic. 16% of traffic accidents in the Hudson Valley occurred at a traffic signal, 7% were at a stop sign and 5% occurred in a no-passing zone. Surprisingly, accidents involving commercial vehicles were involved in only 1 % of the collisions.

The most common accident occurred in clear and dry weather; with a youthful driver returning home from work, driving an SUV; who was driving while distracted or following too closely, and on a Friday.

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On February 11, 2015, famed CBS News and “Sixty Minutes” correspondent Bob Simon, 73, (who won 27 Emmy Awards and reported on the Vietnam War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the Gulf War) was killed in a car crash on the West Side Highway near 30th Street.  Simon was riding in a Lincoln Town Car for hire at approximately 7:00 PM, when the 44 year old driver lost control of the vehicle, striking a Mercedes stopped at a red light, and then the median separating southbound traffic from northbound traffic.  Mr. Simon was seated in the rear seat, and was not wearing a seatbelt.  The vehicle was so mangled that emergency personnel were forced to use the “Jaws of Life” to extract Simon from the vehicle.

Mr. Simon never regained consciousness.  He was taken to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma injuries to his head, torso and extremities.  Under the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law Section 1229 (c), rear seat adult passengers are not required to wear seat belts.  Additionally, there is an exemption for livery vehicles by which the drivers of these vehicles, and any occupants, are not required to wear seat belts.

New York is one of twenty states which do not have a law mandating rear seat belt usage for adults.  The other twenty eight states and the District of Columbia do require seat belts for rear seat passengers.  For the most part, all states do require either seat belts or car seats for children and infants.

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The family of the late James McNair, 63, good friend and mentor of “30 Rock” and Saturday Night Live” comedian Tracy Morgan, announced last month that it settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart.  Mr. McNair, along with Mr. Morgan and three other friends, were travelling home from a comedy club performance in Dover, Delaware, and were on the New Jersey Turnpike on June 7, 2014, when Morgan’s Mercedes limousine bus was struck in the rear by a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer operated by Kevin Roper.

Roper, 35, had apparently been operating the tractor-trailer for more than 24 hours straight in violation of federal D.O.T regulations.  The National Transportation Safety Board performed an investigation of the accident.  In its investigation, the NTSB determined that Roper was operating the vehicle at 65 miles per hour in the seconds before the truck struck the rear of the Morgan vehicle, suggesting that he either fell asleep or was distracted prior to the crash.  The initial impact led to a chain reaction crash with another tractor-trailer, an SUV and two other cars.

In the accident, Mc. McNair apparently died at the scene as a result of his injuries. McNair was from Peekskill, New York and was a close friend of Mr. Morgan.  Morgan sustained traumatic brain injuries, a fractured femur, several broken ribs and a broken nose. He was hospitalized in critical condition for several weeks.  Another occupant of the Mercedes, 37 year old Harris Stanton, suffered a fractured wrist in the accident.

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Last week, the U.S. Justice Department announced that Toyota will pay 1.2 billion dollars in fines to settle a four year long criminal probe commenced by the Justice Department arising out of sudden acceleration problems that caused the wrongful death of occupants of Toyota vehicles highlighted by a tragic crash in August of 2009. The acceleration issues were caused by improper floor mats which would get jammed with the accelerator, as well as defective gas pedals. Initially, Toyota made the extremely poor decision to blame many of the accidents on “driver error”, but it became apparent from a safety point of view and the public relations debacle that ensued that this was a very bad strategy, indeed.

The 1.2 billion dollar penalty is by far the largest ever paid by an automobile manufacturer to settle a criminal investigation. In addition to the huge monetary penalty, Toyota has agreed to have a monitor to oversee its safety communications, its response to accident reports and to review its processes for issuing safety bulletins. Previously, Toyota had paid much smaller fines of 16.375 million in 2010 for delay in reporting pedal and floor mat defects, and $17.35 million in 2012 in a separate safety recall.

The sudden acceleration issues came to Toyota’s attention in 2009 with numerous reports of “runaway cars.” This was highlighted by a particularly tragic accident in San Diego in August of 2009 when five people were killed as the result of an improper floor mat which trapped the accelerator in a 2009 Lexus ES. In that accident, 911 recordings caught in horrific detail the occupants’ ordeal as the vehicle accelerated to 113 mph before flying into an embankment.

Part of the federal investigation examined whether Toyota had provided false and/ or misleading statements to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when it was investigating the sudden acceleration issues several years ago. At that time, Toyota recalled approximately 8.1 million vehicles. Toyota still faces enormous costs in defending against hundreds of personal injury lawsuits that have been consolidated in California state and federal courts, in which settlement talks are proceeding. Bloomberg reported that 131 of approximately 300 cases have been settled in principle for undisclosed sums, as is always the case in settlement with corporations, which require confidentiality agreements. Further, last year Toyota agreed to pay about 1 billion dollars to owners of Toyota vehicles who alleged that their vehicles lost value as a result of the safety recalls. Between personal injury, wrongful death, and warranty claims, and the deal with the federal government, Toyota has paid approximately $3 billion. However, analysts estimate that the company may earn as much as $19 billion in the 2014 fiscal year.

There is no doubt that the Toyota criminal penalties and poor response to the safety issues in 2009 led to GM’s decision last month to commence massive recalls of 2005-2009 Cobalts, Ions, and Pontiacs with defective ignition switches resulting in many deaths and serious injuries from the loss of power to safety systems, in particular, power steering and airbags. Certainly, the fact that Congress intends to conduct hearings into GM’s ignition switch safety recalls also contributed to GM’s strategy. Further, GM’s sudden change in strategy to attempt resolution of many of the personal injury and wronged death claims is undoubtedly influenced by Toyota’s maladroit response to its safety recalls and the aftermath, which resulted in a huge payout to the feds that GM is seeking to avert.

Perhaps the Toyota and GM safety issues, which have cost countless lives and resulted in grievous injuries, will now be the impetus for the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which failed to pass the Congress in 2010. Under this long overdue and sensible legislation, fought and defeated by auto industry lobbyists and their cronies in Congress, more funds would be provided to the NHTSA to investigate automobile defects; publicize a database of early warnings that auto manufacturers issue to the government; and authorize the agency to assess larger fines against corporations that fail to timely recall defective automobiles.

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