Articles Posted in Car Truck Accidents

Rear-end car accidents are among the most common types of car accidents that occur in New York City.  This should come as no surprise, given that traffic conditions are often quite congested, and stop-and-go traffic as well as myriad distractions are ever-present throughout NYC.  Taking one’s eyes off the roadway even for a moment in such congested driving conditions can – and often does – result in a rear end collision which can result in serious injuries.  For this reason, rear-end car accidents are among the most commonly litigated types of car accidents in the courts within the five boroughs of New York City.

If you are involved in a rear-end car crash anywhere in New York City, you should be aware of the legal framework that the courts of the State of New York have built to determine liability in a rear-end car accident.  In this article, we will explore this framework so that readers will understand the claims that accident victims who are injured in rear-end crashes should make in their cases, as well as the defenses that those responsible for causing a rear-end car accident may try to use to escape liability.  We hope that this article is helpful to victims of rear-end car accidents in teaching them what their rights are if they are injured in a rear-end car accident anywhere in New York City, or elsewhere throughout the State of New York.

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Police officers, just like the rest of us, make mistakes, and sometimes these mistakes result in very serious car accidents. If you are the victim of a car crash involving a police officer who is speeding, runs a red light, drives on the wrong side of the road, or commits some other act of egregious negligence, you may think that obtaining compensation from the police officer, as well as the police department and municipality for whom the police officer works, will be easy. After all, the police officer was so audaciously negligent, how can you lose?

If the defendant were anybody apart from a cop, you would almost certainly be entitled to collect compensation from that person if they committed any of the aforementioned negligent acts in connection with operating a motor vehicle on the public roadways within the State of New York. However, the New York State Legislature, in recognition of the fact that police officers often must respond quickly to emergency situations, has bestowed certain privileges upon police officers (in addition to operators of ambulances and fire trucks) when they are conducting “emergency operations” that permit them to violate the rules of the road in certain specific manners. If a police officer was engaged in any of the four privileged categories of privileged conduct contained in New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1104(b), you will have to prove that the officer’s conduct was “reckless”, instead of simply “negligent”, to collect any compensation from them in a car accident lawsuit.

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On Sunday, March 18, 2018, a first-of-its-kind tragedy occurred in Arizona: a self-driving car from Uber’s fleet of autonomous vehicles (which are currently undergoing real-world testing, some of it occurring on Arizona’s public streets and highways) killed a pedestrian.  The victim – a woman from Tempe, Arizona – was killed while crossing the street in her home town.  The tragic occurrence of a pedestrian fatality due to the negligent operation of a motor vehicle is, unfortunately, not exactly an uncommon occurrence, whether in New York City, Arizona, or anywhere else in the United States.  What makes this tragedy especially notable is that it constitutes the first reported case of a pedestrian fatality caused by an autonomous, AI-powered, self-driving vehicle anywhere in the United States. The New York Times covered this story this week, and you can read more about it by visiting the New York Times’ website and searching for the article.

While much of the public discussion regarding this tragedy centers around the phenomenon of artificial intelligence and its exponential growth and potential to upend society as we know it, this article attempts to analyze this horrific milestone from the perspective of a New York car accident attorney.  Thus, we ask the following pertinent question, the answer to which will likely become of extraordinary importance to the everyday lives of New Yorkers as the ubiquity of artificial intelligence grows, and which will surely feature in any debate regarding the opening of New York’s roadways to driverless vehicles:  Who would be responsible for this horrific tragedy, and thus liable to be sued for compensation in connection with the wrongful death of this poor woman, had this accident occurred in New York?   Continue reading

Part 2 – Watching Your Step: New York City’s Expanding Initiative to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents and Pedestrian Injuries by Giving Pedestrians a “Head Start” at Crossing NYC Streets.

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This article is a continuation of our exploration of New York City’s new “Head Start” pedestrian accident reduction program instituted under the City’s “Vision Zero” traffic accident plan.

How Ubiquitous are “Head Start” Intersections in New York City? 

Part 1 – Watching Your Step: New York City’s Expanding Initiative to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents and Pedestrian Injuries by Giving Pedestrians a “Head Start” at Crossing NYC Streets.

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Upon taking office in 2014, Mayor Bill DeBlasio rolled out his “Vision Zero” plan, a comprehensive set of initiatives designed to improve pedestrian and driver safety on New York City Streets; and setting the noble, but extremely lofty, goal of eliminating all traffic deaths by 2024. The New York City Department of Transportation, by its commissioner Polly Trottenberg, is the New York City agency spearheading the “Vision Zero” initiative. The “Vision Zero” initiative is designed to address all aspects of traffic safety within New York City, and has been largely successful in making New York City’s streets safer since it began approximately three years ago. Though there are some problems with the “Vision Zero” plan (for example, the creation of criminal liability for every traffic accident involving a death, regardless of whether or not the incident was purely accidental, which raises complex constitutional problems which are not addressed in this article), but overall it appears to be an effective scheme to improve safety and reduce injuries from automobile accidents in New York City. You can learn more about the “Vision Zero” plan directly from the City of New York here.

The most-recent element of this broad safety plan to be rolled out involves changing the timing of pedestrian signals at intersections to give pedestrians a “Head Start” so that they can get out of the way of turning vehicles at intersections in New York City. All too often, pedestrians who are doing everything the right way when crossing the street (looking in all directions before entering a crosswalk, and only crossing when the signal is in their favor) are struck by negligent motorists, especially motorists turning across a pedestrian crosswalk. Although nothing, realistically, can prevent all pedestrian injuries, this new initiative is a step in the right direction toward improving pedestrian safety from accidents and avoiding serious injuries to pedestrians as they walk the streets of New York City.   The New York Times recently explored this particular new initiative in detail, and you can read the article here.

The general rule when you – an adult – set out to sue a governmental entity (i.e., the City of New York and/or any of its agencies), you must file a document, called a notice of claim, within ninety days of the date of your accident explaining the basis for your claims that the governmental entity and/or its agents injured you.  You also, generally, must then file a formal lawsuit in court within one year and ninety days of the date of your injuries.  This means that, when you set out to seek compensation from the government for your injuries, you must comply with two statutes of limitations – rather than one, which is the case in context of suing a private citizen or entity – or you will forever lose your rights to pursue your claims.

However, New York law has set out special rules – known as “statutory tolls” – that extend the period within which lawsuits may be filed (statutes of limitation) when the prospective plaintiff (the person who was harmed and in whose name the lawuit is to be brought) is a minor (an “infant” per the statutory vocabulary).  Under Section 208 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (the “CPLR”), infants are given an extension of statutes of limitation because the law views them as unable to tend to their own legal affairs (which is true, as infants do not have the same legal rights as adults, and further are, generally, obligated to obey their parents).  In personal injury lawsuits, including with respect to those brought against the government, statutes of limitations are “tolled” – a legal term for “paused” – until they reach the age of majority (18 years old) and then the statute begins to run.  For example, if a child of 7 years old is injured in a car crash with another private citizen, he or she will have until their 21st birthday to sue for their injuries.  In a medical malpractice action, the same child will have ten years within which to sue for their injuries.

If, however, that same child is involved in a car crash with a government-driven or government-owned vehicle, he or she will need to have filed a notice of claim – or moved a court for leave to file a late notice of claim – within one year and ninety days of the date of the accident, or their claims will be saved.  This is because Section 50 of the New York General Municipal Law does not allow a judge to extend the time within which to file a notice of claim beyond one year and ninety days, even though CPLR Section 208 extends other applicable statutes of limitation and further despite the fact that the typical infant plaintiff is in no better a position to file a notice of claim than they are to commence a lawsuit while they are a minor.  In effect, this means that, even though the law recognizes that infants are not in a position to defend themselves in court and thus must be granted extra time within which to file a lawsuit (i.e., they must be given at least until they reach majority age, and thus presumably are able to defend themselves in court and assert their rights, to pursue their claims), the law grants special protection to the government and does not allow, for any reason, a lawsuit by an infant to be commenced if that infant does not file a notice of claim within one year and ninety days of the date of their accident.  If the notice of claim is filed on time – or a motion to file a late notice of claim is made on a timely basis – the infant will then get the beneift of CPLR Section 208’s statutory toll.