LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE TAKING FIRST STEP
Martin Scorcese’s 1973 film Mean Streets is a story about a small-time hood who struggles to survive on the rough and tumble streets of New York. But unlike the Academy Award-winning director’s tale of a young thug trying to work his way up the ladder in the local Mafia, when top New York pedestrian car, truck and bus accident lawyer Jay Dankner refers to the city’s “mean streets,” he’s talking about the dangers law-abiding citizens face every day just trying to make it safely from one side of the street to the other.
Unlike cities such as Los Angeles where people and their cars are an inseparable part of the culture, New Yorkers, by contrast, walk everywhere.
“But you have to be very careful when you’re crossing the street in this city,” Jay Dankner, partner in the New York pedestrian car, truck and bus accident law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C. said. “You can’t always assume a driver is going to stop for you, which seems to be the rule of thumb in most every other major city. You start to cross at an uncontrolled intersection or even mid-block, and they will stop for you. Not necessarily in New York City.”
Even with vigorous efforts underway to control traffic flow and the soon-to-be lowered speed limit from 30 to 25mph, Danker said he believes it will take much longer than Mayor de Blasio would like it to take before we start to see any appreciable reduction in the incidence of pedestrian injuries and deaths in the five boroughs.
According to one pedestrian safety watchdog organization, from 2011 to 2013 there were 10 fatal accidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians on Third Avenue and Broadway alone!
“Despite aggressive steps already being taken by Mayor de Blasio and the goals he’s set with his Vision Zero Action Plan,” Dankner warned, “New Yorkers simply can’t expect that motorists are going to obey the new rules unless there’s a real price to pay for ignoring them.”
If you do rely on the driver, you do it at your peril, he said.
“Like my parents told me when I was a boy,” Dankner said, “And as I always told my kids, who grew up in the city, look both ways before crossing the street. But that’s not vigilant enough nowadays for anyone. After looking both ways before stepping off the curb, I urge people to periodically look again as they are crossing the intersection. And, then keep doing it until you are safely on the other side. And, don’t take that first step off the curb until you are sure it is safe to do so.”
Even if you have a green light in your favor, he cautioned, you should pay attention to the flow of traffic.
Dankner explained that when a pedestrian is hit by a car, bus, truck or taxi in the city it doesn’t automatically mean the victim has a viable lawsuit, or that he or she is entitled to monetary compensation.
Dankner advises pedestrians who have been injured by a motor vehicle to seek medical assistance first. And then they should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
The first thing a lawyer will do is investigate the incident to see if the driver can be considered legally at fault. The amount of proof necessary to do so is different and less in a civil lawsuit compared to the burden of proof in a criminal case. Then if the lawyer determines the driver, or some other party, is at fault, then he or she will consult with treating doctors to determine the severity of the injuries. This will determine if a case is warranted or permissible under New York’s no-fault law. “At its core,” Dankner said, “liability in a civil case depends on negligence or lack of reasonable care. In my experience, the most common form of driver negligence is inattentiveness and speeding. Keep in mind that even a jaywalker, or a child running out from in between two parked cars, could have a case if the driver could and reasonably should have seen them and stopped.”
“Contacting an experienced lawyer in these types of cases as soon as possible,” he stressed, “is vitally important in order to protect your rights.”