The term “car accidents” is rather misleading. The A-word implies that the crash was inevitable and unavoidable. Furthermore, calling these wrecks “accidents” takes the at-fault driver off the hook. But statistically, driver error causes over 90 percent of the vehicle collisions in New York. As outlined below, these wrecks often cause serious injuries. Additionally, the A-word minimizes these collisions. People accidentally leave the lights on. They don’t accidentally drive drunk and cause collisions.
At the Pianko Law Group, our compassionate New York car accident lawyers understand the intense pain and suffering these victims must endure. So, we work extra hard to obtain the compensation they need and deserve. This effort includes amassing solid evidence and using it to build a strong negligence claim. Throughout the process, we take the time to explain events in terms you understand, and we proactively communicate with you, so you are never in the dark.
As mentioned, driver error usually causes vehicle collisions. Frequently, this driver error involves impairment, such as:
Before they start drinking, most people are well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving. But alcohol impairs judgment. It gives people a sense of euphoria. As a result, these people think they can often make it home, even if they have been drinking heavily. Additionally, alcohol impairment begins at the first drink, and gets steadily worse after that.
Alcohol impairment and drowsiness have roughly the same effect on the body and brain. Both conditions adversely affect motor skills and judgment ability. As a matter of fact, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours, which is the equivalent of a long day at the office, is like driving with a .05 BAC level.
Marijuana and prescription pain pills, both of which are legal in New York, are the leading causes of “stoned driving.” These drugs have roughly the same effect as alcohol, but they work differently. Alcohol intoxication builds over time. Drug intoxication happens almost immediately.
Other kinds of driver impairment include distracted driving and operating a motor vehicle with a serious medical condition, like diabetes, epilepsy, or heart disease, which could cause a sudden loss of consciousness.
Today’s cars and trucks are much safer than the ones which were on the road in the 1990s. However, the number of car crash injuries hasn’t declined significantly. That’s largely because today’s cars and trucks are also much larger and faster than they were in the 1990s. Even the most advanced safety restraint system can only absorb so much force. Some of the serious injuries these victims sustain include:
Contrary to popular myth, the brain does not fit snugly inside the skull, like a head into a football helmet. Instead, the skull is like an enclosed water tank which suspends the brain in cerebrospinal fluid. When the aforementioned force causes the brain to slam against the skull, the resulting injuries are normally permanent.
Excessive blood loss is normally the official cause of death in fatal car wreck cases. Since internal organs have no protective skin layer, when the force of a wreck smashes them together, they usually bleed uncontrollably. In fact, by the time emergency responders treat car crash victims, these victims are often on the edge of hypovolemic shock.
These injuries are normally not life-threatening, but they are normally very serious, and often permanent. Usually, doctors must reconstruct shattered bones with metal rods and other parts. As a result, some permanent loss of function is not unusual, even after the victim completes extensive physical therapy.
The medical bills alone from these injuries normally exceed $50,000. Since the victim usually isn’t working at the time, the resulting financial stress can sometimes be worse than the physical injuries. Many people with unpaid bills deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms, such as sleeplessness and depression.
A New York car accident lawyer is not a doctor. But an attorney can connect victims with doctors who charge nothing upfront for their assistance. This connection significantly reduces the financial stress these victims feel. Attorneys can do the same thing in other areas, such as vehicle repair or replacement.
Vehicle replacement and medical bills must be paid eventually. So, an attorney also obtains financial compensation in these situations. This compensation helps victims pay crash-related expenses and generally move on with their lives. Ordinary negligence and negligence per se are the two most common legal theories in this area.
Basically, ordinary negligence is a lack of care. Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid accidents when possible and always drive defensively. Uber drivers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, and other commercial operators normally have a duty of utmost care. They must take affirmative steps to avoid wrecks. Simply driving defensively is not enough.
On a related note, commercial operators also have a legal responsibility to protect their passengers from onboard injuries. For example, bus drivers must ensure that aisles have no fall hazards and Uber drivers must break up fights between passengers. Furthermore, all commercial drivers must pick up passengers at safe locations and drop them off at safe locations. Busy street corners might be convenient locations, but they are not safe locations.
Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) could be liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate safety laws, and
- These infractions substantially cause injuries.
Damages in a car crash claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.
At-fault drivers are legally responsible for injuries. Frequently, a third party is financially responsible for these damages. Some common vicarious liability theories include:
Restaurants, bars, and other commercial alcohol providers are often financially responsible for car crash damages if they sold alcohol to intoxicated persons who cause wrecks. Noncommercial providers, like party hosts, might also be financially responsible for car crash damages, under a theory like negligent undertaking.
Employes are responsible for car crash damages if a negligent employee caused a wreck while acting during the course and scope of employment. New York law defines these basic elements in very broad ways. For example, any act which benefits the employer in any way, which could include aimless driving while waiting for a fare, is within the course and scope of employment.
Owners who knowingly allow incompetent drivers to borrow their vehicles could be vicariously liable for damages. Examples of incompetence include no drivers’ license, a suspended drivers’ license, and a bad driving record which includes recent at-fault wrecks. Enterprise Rent-a-Car and other commercial negligent entrustment cases work differently, due to the federal Graves Amendment.
Vicarious liability is especially important in wrongful death and other catastrophic injury claims. Since New York has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum coverage requirements in the country, many individual drivers don’t have enough coverage to pay fair compensation in these situations. Vicarious liability gives these victims an additional source of recovery.