Articles Tagged with negligence

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After suffering a personal injury, many people are not familiar with the related legal terms. The law has its own language, and if you’ve been injured in an auto accident or on someone else’s property, then it is important to know at least the basics of the relevant legal jargon.

Here we’ll discuss a few terms that anyone who has suffered a personal injury in New York should understand.

Liability is a basic concept in personal injury law. When someone else is liable for an injury you’ve suffered, that person (the defendant) is legally responsible for the harm caused to you (the plaintiff). When the defendant is found to be liable for your injury, he or she could be ordered by the court to pay damages.

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Statistics show that many crashes with large commercial trucks are caused by drivers in smaller vehicles. For example, accidents happen when drivers of passenger vehicles drive in large trucks’ blind spots — sometimes called “No-Zones” — or abruptly change lanes in front of a truck, or improperly merge into a lane occupied by a truck, or pull out in front of a truck that, because of its weight and speed, is unable to stop in time.

However, not all drivers of large commercial vehicles are skilled and patient while behind the wheel, and far too many serious accidents are caused by truck drivers. Speeding, distracted driving, fatigue, impaired driving — these are all behaviors that truck drivers should avoid but too often do not. 

In addition to the truck driver’s individual negligence, sometimes a trucking company’s system of compensating drivers factors into why a crash happened. If a compensation system encourages drivers to break the speed limit and operate their vehicles for long periods of time without taking a break, then the risk of a crash may be increased significantly.

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New York State law bans the use of handheld electronic devices while driving. The law also bans texting while driving. Why? Because studies have shown that distracted driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving.

However, a report recently published in the Journal of Community Health takes a different angle when looking at the risk of auto accidents. The authors of the report analyzed pedestrian-crossing behavior at five dangerous intersections in Manhattan. According to the findings, about 28 percent of pedestrians who crossed on a “Walk” signal and 42 percent who crossed on a “Don’t Walk” signal were using electronic devices or wearing headphones.

It should be noted, though, that the report does not present any new evidence that pedestrians who use their cell phones or listen to music while walking cause motor vehicle accidents, nor is it illegal to walk while listening to music or using your cell phone.

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New York has one of the more comprehensive bans on use of cell phones while driving. Some states only ban texting by young drivers, and other states ban texting by bus drivers or in school zones. New York bans texting and the use of handheld devices for all drivers, no matter their age.

The statistics support the law in New York. According to government data, it is estimated that 421,000 people suffered injuries in 2012 in crashes that involved distracted drivers, and that same year, 3,328 people died in distracted-driving accidents. Such crashes are preventable, and drivers of all ages should be aware of the potentially deadly consequences of not paying attention while behind the wheel.

To illustrate the risk, all you have to do is close your eyes for five seconds and imagine that you’re driving. You’re travelling at 55 miles per hour, and that means you can travel the distance of a football field in five seconds. A report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that the average time a texting driver’s eyes are not on the road is five seconds. Texting requires a driver’s cognitive, manual and visual attention, and any time a driver is that distracted, it’s like being blindfolded.

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People who suffer injuries to their heads can be at risk for damage to the delicate brain tissue. From a small sensation of dizziness to a coma, the severity of a brain injury can range from the mild to the serious, and in some cases can sadly lead to death. Many types of accidents, including car crashes and falls on dangerous property, can cause traumatic brain injury.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke notes that many brain injuries cannot be reversed, and the best approach is one that attempts to minimize the injury and prevent it from worsening over time. Stabilization of patients is part of this process. People living with traumatic brain injury (TBI) can display a range of difficulties that include the following:

  • Mental health disturbances
  • Behavioral outbursts
  • Communication issues, including difficulty speaking
  • Delayed or limited cognitive functioning
  • Sensory problems, sometimes including multiple senses

Other symptoms may include slight numbness or feelings of paralysis in the limbs; headaches; and restlessness. A combination of medical and psychological treatment may be needed to help patients and their family members. Occupational or physical therapies may also be required, depending on the nature of the TBI symptoms.

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We’ve often written about the legal concept of negligence and how it factors into personal injury claims. Here let’s briefly review New York negligence law and how pedestrian accidents may be affected.

First, to successfully prove that another party’s negligence resulted in your injury, you’ll have to show that the other party owed you a duty of care. For example, if you have the right of way in a crosswalk, then drivers have a duty of care not to turn into the crosswalk and hit you. Unfortunately, too often reckless drivers breach this duty of care.

Another thing that has to be proven in a negligence lawsuit is that the plaintiff’s injuries would not have happened if it weren’t for the defendant’s breach of duty. It must also be shown that a reasonable person would have known that the defendant’s actions could possibly cause injury to someone else.

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Car accident victims and their families are often shocked when prosecutors decline to bring criminal charges against drivers whose traffic offenses caused personal injury or death. In the face of serious injury or the loss of a loved one, it seems only fair that the reckless driver is held accountable in criminal court.

However, reckless drivers in New York City are rarely prosecuted after injurious or fatal crashes, especially if the accident doesn’t involve impaired driving, hit and run, evading police or another crime such as intentional hitting. In other words, there is not a strong likelihood that a driver who neglects to yield to a pedestrian or cyclist will be criminally prosecuted in NYC after an injurious collision. Not yet, anyway.

Families of accident victims and crash survivors recently gathered in front of City Hall to demand that city prosecutors begin doing more to hold reckless drivers accountable. The family members and safety advocates who spoke at the event announced their intention to make pedestrian and cyclist safety an important issue in the upcoming elections of district attorneys in Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.

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Not every state requires drivers to have uninsured motorist insurance policies, but New York does. That doesn’t mean, however, that all drivers in New York have this kind of coverage, nor can you assume that every driver has basic liability coverage; hence the need for uninsured motorist insurance.

If you are injured in a crash with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run driver, then you are likely wondering about your options for receiving compensation. This should be a time when you focus on getting better physically and mentally, but unfortunately you’re faced with some legal issues. A personal injury attorney with experience in handling hit-and-run accident cases can explain your options and help you build a claim.

Every legal avenue for securing compensation for medical bills and other costs should be pursued in a hit-and-run case. Compensation may be sought by investigating the accident and identifying the hit-and-run driver. Coverage of your medical expenses and other needs may also be provided by your insurance policy, whether it offers personal injury protection (PIP), uninsured motorist protection or both.

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Many factors contribute to injurious truck accidents, but truck driver error is the leading cause. An error could take the form of speeding, impairment, inexperience, failure to keep an eye on blind spots, improper loading of cargo and going around a curve too quickly. When these errors cause injury or death to other motorists, the driver and other parties in the trucking industry may be held liable.

As we discussed a while back, brake and tire failure are also common contributors to truck accidents in New York and throughout the country. In fact, to reduce the amount of wear on their front brakes, some truck operators disconnect them and instead use downshifting and the trailer brakes to control speed. This is a dangerous practice that puts lives at risk.

An in-depth investigation is often necessary to uncover truck driver error. If you aren’t familiar with the relevant laws and industry regulations, then you likely won’t know what to look for and how to hold the responsible parties accountable. Truck drivers and trucking companies can be quite savvy in covering up mistakes and denying liability.

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A number of our recent posts have dealt with injury-related issues that arise during the winter months. For example, the number of shopping injuries tends to increase around the holidays, and slip-and-fall injuries are more likely if property owners fail to clear snow and ice from walkways.

Slippery roads are another concern on the streets and highways of New York City in the winter months. Drivers have an obligation to slow down and make proper adjustments to changing weather conditions, including accumulation of ice and snow. Too often, motorists get in too much of a hurry and cause accidents that leave people with serious injuries.

If you are involved in a multi-vehicle collision in the midst of winter weather conditions, then it is important to gather the proper evidence to file a claim with your insurance company. New York is a no-fault car insurance state, meaning that the compensation you receive for medical bills and other costs will come first from your insurer.

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