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A tragic New York car accident took the life of a motorcyclist in Brooklyn recently.  According to news reports, an SUV driver was traveling south and stopped for a funeral procession that was traveling east.  The driver moved forward after all of the vehicles in the procession had passed, but he reportedly had a red light by that time.  The motorcyclist, who reportedly had the green light, crashed into the SUV.

funeralIt is customary in many parts of the United States for drivers to yield to funeral processions.  Indeed, in some states, there are laws granting funeral processions the right of way.  Unfortunately, despite several bills being introduced over the past few years, New York has not passed a statewide law addressing funeral processions.  Since there is a custom but no law, many drivers are left confused about what their responsibilities are.

There are no exceptions in New York traffic law allowing funeral processions to disobey traffic signals.  Municipalities may, however, enact their own ordinances addressing this issue.  Even with a municipal ordinance in place, liability in the event of an accident is not clear.  A case from 1948 held that a driver could proceed on a green light, regardless of whether a funeral procession was passing, if there was no traffic officer regulating traffic, and the driver could proceed without unreasonably endangering another person.  The court made this finding despite a municipal ordinance granting the right of way to a funeral procession.

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A 15-year-old girl has reportedly been charged in the deaths of three other teens in a tragic New York accident.  According to news articles, there were nine teens and an 18-month-old child in the vehicle.  Articles state the vehicle was reported stolen, but the owner is the parent of one of the teens.  The teens who were killed were reportedly not wearing their seat belts.

headlampThis accident shows the tragedy that can occur when young, inexperienced drivers are behind the wheel.   According to the CDC, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16-19-year-old drivers than drivers in any other age group, and they are nearly three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than older drivers.  Younger drivers are at higher risk, with 16-17-year-olds having a fatal crash rate per mile driven nearly twice that of 18-19-year-old drivers.  Additionally, teens who drive with other teens in the car face an increased risk of a crash, with the risk increasing with the number of teen passengers.

Parents should talk about driver safety with their kids before they are ready to start driving.  Kids should understand that driving is a huge responsibility before they ever get behind the wheel.  Ensuring that young drivers understand the risk factors and the importance of safety may prevent a tragedy.

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An automobile is an important tool, but it can also be a dangerous weapon.  Fortunately, most people do not intend to hurt others with their vehicles.  New York car accident attorneys know, however, that road rage can be dangerous, not just to the people involved in the altercation but to others on the roadway. When people think of road rage, they may think of yelling or a driver exiting a vehicle to assault someone.  Some drivers, however, may use the vehicle itself to attack.

Broken windshieldAn alleged road rage incident has recently resulted in a crushed motorcycle and an arrest.  According to reports, the SUV driver and the motorcyclist got into a verbal dispute over their driving.  The incident reportedly occurred over 40 city blocks.  The driver allegedly told reporters that he ran over the motorcycle because he was afraid the motorcyclist would damage his vehicle.    Photos show the motorcycle completely under the SUV.  The driver was reportedly arrested and charged with serious injury with a weapon, criminal mischief, menacing, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving.  The motorcyclist was reportedly taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  It is unclear who started the altercation, but both men are suffering serious consequences as a result of the incident.

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) provides some tips on how to avoid becoming involved in either an aggressive driving incident or a road rage incident.  The New York State Police distinguish between aggressive driving and road rage.  Aggressive driving includes things like tailgating and flashing headlights.  Road rage is more serious and includes actions like using a vehicle as a weapon or assaulting another driver.

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Medical malpractice cases help victims get compensation for their injuries and pay for the care they need.  New York medical malpractice attorneys know, however, that they can be very complex cases.  It is not sufficient to show that there was an injury; it must also be shown that the injury was caused by medical negligence or a failure to meet the standards of professional care in the medical community.  There are often multiple defendants, such as the hospital and several individual doctors or other health care providers.

hospitalUnfortunately, an injured woman’s family recently lost their appeal of a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case.  The woman’s then-boyfriend had found her unconscious on the ground after she failed to come back inside his home after going to get something from the car. They got to the hospital a little before 3:00 a.m.  A CT scan revealed severe brain injuries.  She was transported to another hospital at 5:19 a.m.  Sadly, she now has permanent brain damage and requires 24-hour care.

The woman’s parents filed a medical malpractice case, alleging the emergency room doctor failed to consult with a neurosurgeon in a timely manner and failed to promptly arrange the transfer.  At trial, the main factual issues involved the timing of what happened at the first hospital.  The plaintiffs tried to call an expert in geographical information systems (GIS) to explain the cell phone records of a respiratory therapist who was called to help transport her.  The defendants objected, arguing the plaintiffs had not disclosed this expert witness.  The court excluded the evidence.

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May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness month.  New York motorcycle accident attorneys know that the road can be a dangerous place for motorcyclists.  Motorcycles are less visible than automobiles.  Additionally, when there is an accident, motorcyclists are more likely to be seriously injured or killed than the driver of the automobile.

motorcycleThe New York Department of Motor Vehicles suggests a number of reasons that motorcycles are less visible than automobiles.  Motorcycles are smaller, which also makes it more difficult to judge their distance and speed.  Because of their smaller size, they do not take up the full lane and can be difficult to see around other vehicles.  Additionally, motorcycles do not have a separate brake light, and their taillights are not at eye level.  Furthermore, their turn signals are often close to the other lights, making them harder to notice.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 41% of crashes between motorcycles and passenger vehicles, the passenger vehicle violated the right of way of the motorcyclist.  In 2015, 41% of fatal motorcycle crashes occurred when the driver was turning left and the motorcycle was going straight.

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When people think of automobile accidents, they often think of a collision between two vehicles.  Perhaps they think of a vehicle striking a pedestrian or a bicyclist.  They probably do not think of a car slamming into the wall of a restaurant and injuring people inside. New York car accident attorneys know, however, that people may suffer serious injuries in an automobile accident even if they believe they are safely indoors.

restaurantAccording to reports, a car crashed into a New York City restaurant earlier this month and injured nine people, four of them critically.  The 79-year-old driver has reportedly been charged with driving while intoxicated but has pleaded not guilty.

Just four days later, there were news reports of a car driving into a New York City deli.  News reports indicate the car jumped the curb after being struck by a taxi.  Three pedestrians, two deli employees, and the driver were reportedly injured.

A video of a dog attacking a woman on a New York subway has recently made national attention.  According to reports, the dog owner put the dog in the seat beside him.  Witnesses said the woman asked the man to move the dog, and an altercation between the passengers occurred.  The dog then bit the woman’s shoe and would not let go.  When the owner finally pulled the dog away from the woman, her shoe came off.  Fortunately in this case, reports indicate the woman was not seriously injured. Some people, however, are not so fortunate.  New York dog bite attorneys know that the law surrounding dog bite liability can be very complex.

Beware dogThe owner of a “dangerous dog” is strictly liable for medical costs resulting from injuries the dog causes, unless the dog is determined to have been justified in its actions or the injured person was engaged in certain specified criminal acts on the dog owner’s property.  A municipal judge or justice makes the determination regarding whether a dog is dangerous.

The statute only provides for strict liability for medical expenses, but it also specifically states that it does not limit or abrogate the claims of a person who is injured by a dog with a “vicious disposition.”  To recover other damages, the victim must show that the dog had a “vicious propensity” and that the owner knew or should have known of that propensity.

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Police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, and tow truck drivers face significant risks when they stop along the roadway to provide aid.  New York, like many states, has a Move Over Law to protect emergency personnel on or near the road.  In New York, drivers must exercise due care to avoid colliding with an emergency or hazard vehicle that is parked or stopped on the shoulder or highway with its emergency lights displayed.  On a parkway or a controlled access highway, the driver must move out of the lane adjacent to the emergency or hazard vehicle, if doing so otherwise complies with the traffic laws.  NY Veh & Traf L § 1144-A. Generally, this means that a driver must move from the lane next to the emergency vehicle as long as it is safe to do so.  Hazard vehicles are broadly defined and include tow trucks, highway maintenance vehicles, ice and snow removal vehicles, rural letter carrier vehicles, sanitation vehicles, and utility vehicles.  NY Veh & Traf L § 117-A.

fire truckRecent incidents have raised the issue of New York’s Move Over Law.  In March, two troopers and two tow truck drivers were injured while responding to a crash.  According to news reports, the officers had closed the left lane with flares, but a driver still left the roadway and hit the troopers’ vehicle and then the troopers and the tow company owner.  The driver has since been charged with DWI.  In April, a Department of Transportation electrician was struck by a vehicle and killed while performing maintenance on a bridge.

Generally, a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law constitutes negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law.  When an act or omission constitutes negligence as a matter of law, the injured person does not have to prove all of the elements of negligence for the driver to be liable.  The injured person instead must show that the driver violated a statute and that the injured person was in the group intended to be protected by the statute.  A driver who fails to comply with the Move Over Law is therefore likely to be found liable for any serious injuries resulting from the failure to move over.

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Parties to lawsuits have some obligation to preserve or to not destroy evidence.  If a party improperly destroys evidence, the other party may seek sanctions for “spoliation” of that evidence.  The destruction does not have to be intentional.  A court may still issue sanctions for spoliation of evidence that was negligently lost or destroyed.  If a court determines the evidence was intentionally or willfully destroyed, it presumes the relevance of the evidence.  If it was negligently destroyed, the party seeking sanctions must show relevance.  Available sanctions vary, depending on the importance of the evidence, and can range from a jury instruction to dismissing the case.

junkyardThe issue of spoliation recently arose in a case involving an automobile accident.  The plaintiff was involved in two accidents less than three weeks apart.  She sued the driver who rear-ended her in the first accident.  The defendant accepted liability for the accident, but the parties did not agree on which accident caused the plaintiff’s alleged injuries.

The defendant moved for sanctions against the plaintiff for spoliation of evidence.  The defendant argued the plaintiff disposed of her vehicle before his insurance company had a chance to inspect it.  He argued the inspection was crucial to determining which accident caused the injuries the plaintiff claimed she had sustained.  In seeking sanctions, the defendant had to show the plaintiff had a duty to preserve the vehicle and had a culpable state of mind, and the vehicle was relevant to and supported his defense.

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Sometimes a city or another government entity is at fault for a person’s injuries, but suing the government can be complicated.  Whether a city can be held liable often depends on the nature of the act or omission that caused the injury.  The city is “immune” from liability for actions taken for the protection and safety of the public, or “governmental functions.”  If the city is engaged in activities that would traditionally be performed by private enterprises, it is engaged in “proprietary functions” and may be sued for negligence like any other party.  New York case law has held that the planning, design, and maintenance of roads are generally proprietary functions.  However, the city has qualified immunity for highway planning decisions relating to roadway safety.  This issue recently arose in a case involving a pedestrian struck by a bicycle.

bicycleThe plaintiff was injured when she was struck by a bicyclist in a designated bicycle lane.  The Department of Transportation placed safety barrels in the area, upgraded the crosswalks, and trimmed the bushes within two weeks of the incident.  It made additional changes about six months later.

The plaintiff argued the city was negligent in designing and maintaining the roadway. She also argued the city was negligent because it had not conducted proper safety studies or implemented remedial measures.  She argued that the nine previous incidents on that street had given the city actual notice of the dangerous condition.

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