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Bicyclist Killed in Brooklyn Crosswalk

Front of Administration of Justice Building
Maurice Pianko 
September 1, 2022

A 44-year-old man is dead after a semi-truck hit him in a crosswalk and, according to a witness, dragged him under its wheels.

The wreck happened in East New York near the intersection of Pennsylvania Ave. and Linden Blvd. “I saw the truck making the turn,” one witness remarked. “Those wheels ran over him. I started screaming. He was moving, then suddenly he just fell back — that was it,” the woman continued. “He got hit in the crosswalk. It’s so sad.”

No charges are pending against the truck driver, who remained at the scene.

Crosswalk Injuries

Most of us know that red means stop and green means go. If you need more information, we suggest this interactive video, even though it includes a shameless promotion. Regardless of the light’s color, and what our friends from Down Under strongly imply, all such victims are usually eligible for compensation.

If the light is solid red for vehicle traffic, people in the crosswalk clearly have the right-of-way. However, the duty of care still applies. This legal responsibility requires everyone on the road, motorists and pedestrians alike, to avoid accidents if possible. So, even if the light is green, pedestrians still have a duty to, wait for it, stop and look both ways.

That’s especially true if the bicyclist or other non-motorist is using a virtual crosswalk with side lights. People who want to cross the street press buttons that activate flashing yellow lights. If the yellow lights are on the curb, inattentive drivers won’t see them. Uninformed or uncaring drivers will ignore them. Almost every motorist falls into at least one of these three categories.

If the traffic light is solid green, and a car strikes a pedestrian in the crosswalk, the victim may still be entitled to damages, partially because of the aforementioned duty of care, but mostly because of New York’s comparative fault law.

In most jurisdictions, unless the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is at least 50 or 51 percent responsible for a wreck, the victim doesn’t get anything. But New York is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the tortfeasor was only 1 percent responsible for the wreck, the victim gets a proportionate share of damages.

These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. 

The same comparative fault law applies if the vehicle traffic light was yellow. Available compensation often depends on the victim’s location in the crosswalk as well as the light’s operation. If the victim started across the street on yellow, jurors are likely to blame the victim for the wreck, or at least for most of it. As for the light’s operation, some traffic lights have countdown timers and some don’t.

Wrongful Death Claims

A New York personal injury attorney usually has little trouble determining a fair amount of compensation in an injury claim. Things get a bit tricky regarding possible future medical expenses, but an independent medical review usually clears that up.

Compensation in a wrongful death claim is different. Wrongful death survivors in New York are entitled to pecuniary damages, such as:

  • Lost future financial support,
  • Funeral, burial, and other final expenses,
  • Decedent’s pain and suffering,
  • Lost future emotional support, and
  • Decedent’s final medical expenses.

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Quite understandably, many survivors hesitate to file such claims, especially if a life insurance policy covers final expenses and leaves something for beneficiaries. The monetary award doesn’t change anything, and they don’t want to “blame” anyone for the “accident.”

Fundamentally, a negligence case isn’t about cashing in on a tragedy. Instead, New York personal injury attorneys file legal actions to hold tortfeasors responsible for their mistakes. We all make mistakes, and we should all accept the consequences of those mistakes. In a perfect world, people would face the music on their own. But we don’t live in a perfect world. So, attorneys sometimes have to spur people into action.

Incidentally, the negligent driver isn’t financially responsible for damages or any other litigation costs. An insurance company, or perhaps a third party, covers these bills. More on that below.

First Party Liability in Truck Crash Claims

Aggressive driving, like speeding, causes many truck crashes. Some form of driver impairment causes most of them. Fatigue and substance use are the two biggest culprits.

In the above story, the time of day (4:45 p.m.) and the location (a surface street) suggests the trucker was dropping off a load after a long day of driving. Operating a motor vehicle after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial operators in New York and most other states.

Additionally, since they sit most of the day, many truckers have issues with sleep apnea. Mild sleep apnea causes snoring. More severe sleep apnea could be life-threatening. In both cases, the primary airway closes. As a result, people with sleep apnea don’t get any deep sleep. Instead, they basically nap all night. So, the next day, they are fatigued, even if they got a full night’s rest.

The sleep environment often contributes to fatigue. No matter what manufacturers claim, a sleep loft in a big rig cabin can’t compare to a bed at home.

Medical records confirm or deny sleep apnea. Medical tests, if done soon enough after the crash, could also confirm or deny the presence of amphetamines. Since truckers understandably don’t want to come clean in this area, statistics on amphetamine use vary. However, somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of truckers probably use speed to stay awake behind the wheel.

These drugs might make users feel more alert. But they don’t counteract the impaired judgment and other fatigue effects. If anything, the pills make users edgy and suspicious, further impairing judgment. Moreover, when these drugs wear off, users typically crash fast and hard.

Other kinds of driving impairment include alcohol use, driving with a moderate or serious medical condition, and distracted driving.

Third Party Liability

A vicarious liability claim, like a wrongful death claim, might seem unfair or unnecessary. The transportation or shipping company that owned the truck played no part in the wreck. But let’s think about that for a minute.

Imparied drivers can prevent crashes by waiting until they rest up or sober up before they get behind the wheel. Likewise, employers can prevent crashes by placing people before profits.

Respondeat superior employer liability usually applies if the tortfeasor was an employee who was working in the scope of employment at the time of the wreck. Any driver behind the wheel of any commercial vehicle, such as a semi-truck or Uber, is usually an employee. Employers control these drivers, at least to some extent. Similarly, any act that benefits an employer in any way is within the scope of employment.

Vicarious liability is especially important in catastrophic injury claims. Most tortfeasors don’t have enough insurance coverage to make good on all the victim’s losses.

Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact the Pianko Law Group, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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