INSIGHT FROM THE TOP NEW YORK CAR, TRUCK AND BUS ACCIDENT LAWYERS
MOTORISTS MUST PAY HIGHER PRICE FOR RECKLESS DRIVING
It could happen in an instant.
Like last Friday, for example, when a reckless driver took the life of a 37-year-old woman who had just gotten off work at 5:00 p.m. and was heading home for the weekend.
As is the case in so many other similar situations involving innocent pedestrians in New York City, this woman was running through the rain on route to the subway at 96th St. and Broadway. She stepped into the intersection when the light turned green.
But she didn’t see the speeding New York City cab driver, who was heading uptown on Broadway and turned eastbound on to 96th St. towards Central Park. In an instant all anyone could hear were the screams of passersby who saw the taxi run the woman down, and then watch, horrified, as blood flowed like red ink from the injuries to her head. The only child of Russian immigrants who had come to America to work in the fashion business, she was dead by the time emergency medical vehicles arrived.
The driver, on the other hand, who police say was issued his hack license just two weeks prior to the accident, didn’t even get a ticket, or a summons, according to several subsequent news reports about the accident.
“Reckless drivers who injure and sometimes kill people in the city seldom pay a price that’s commensurate with the harm they’ve done,“ Jay W. Dankner , partner in the top New York car, bus and truck accident law firm of Dankner Milstein, LLC, said.
“It’s tantamount to pedestrians who are victims of runovers and knockdowns being thought of as collateral damage,” Dankner said.
According to the New York City Department of Transportation, the police are technically required to investigate an accident like the one involving this woman. If someone is injured, or killed, in the borough of Manhattan, the Manhattan district attorney also typically examines a possible case against the driver.
“But absent proof of intent to injure,” Dankner explained, “or evidence of intoxication from drugs or alcohol, there is rarely a criminal prosecution.”
According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles recorded about 3000 serious accidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians in New York City last year. But, surprisingly, New York State records show the city Police Department’s Collision Investigation Squad investigated only 63, or 2 percent of these serious car, truck and bus accidents – all of which were nonfatal – in the same twelve month period.
According to Dankner, Squad members chalk crosswalks, measure tire tracks and analyze video. Their expertise isn’t the problem, he said. The unit only numbers 20 or so investigators for a city with thousands of pedestrian accidents caused by cars, buses, trucks and other motor vehicles every year.
“Throughout the course of my career,” Dankner added, “I have handled many cases which are colloquially referred to as pedestrian knockdowns. What law enforcement doesn’t often tell victims of these accidents is that the driver has an obligation under the law to see what is there to be seen. Their responsibility is not limited to crosswalks and traffic light controlled intersections. In a crowded urban environment like New York City, a driver is supposed to anticipate the possibility of a person, particularly a child, darting out from between parked cars, or crossing mid-street, or even against the light.
“While there are different burdens of proof in criminal versus civil cases, with criminal cases the more difficult to prove,” Dankner continued, “our top New York car, bus and truck accident law firm has been successful in every case we’ve handled. Time and again we’ve been able to convince the courts, or the defense, that liability be placed upon the driver resulting in a settlement, or a verdict, in favor of our client.”
Negligence, Dankner explained, is a failure to use reasonable care. And in a driver-pedestrian setting, someone struck by a vehicle is most usually the victim of a failure by the driver to exercise such care, in whole or in part. Driver liability can still apply even if the pedestrian was partially negligent. But proving negligence is complicated and anything but clear-cut.
“So obtaining a lawyer’s advice is essential for victims in these types of cases,” Dankner advises.
Dankner praised Mayor de Blasio for his genuine efforts to make New York City a safer place for pedestrians. But he also argues that unless there is an increase in penalties for reckless driving, traffic infractions and speeding the best New Yorkers can hope for from the Mayor’s Vision Zero Action Plan is moderate success, despite U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s recent announcement that $25M in federal funding will be providing to the city to support the Mayor’s safety project.
“We tell our clients,” Dankner said, “that when the City of New York won’t help them, we will try to obtain fair and just compensation for their injuries or loss. We don’t want them to think that, ‘Hey, that’s life in the big city.’ On a recent case, we even suggested that a client not accept the settlement amount offered by the driver’s insurance company. We went to trial and obtained a more significant recovery.”