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Local Driver Pleads Not Guilty in Dual Fatal Pedestrian Accident Case

Pedestrian Crossing NYC street crosswalk
Maurice Pianko 
October 5, 2022

A 28-year-old man pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and other criminal charges stemming from a Manhattan car crash.

According to investigators, the man blew through a red light and smacked into a Subaru. The force of that collision caused the Subaru to crash into two parked cars, jump the cub, and slam into two pedestrians. First responders rushed both men to a nearby hospital, where they later died.

“As alleged, this reckless speeding and driving ended in tragedy,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Monday. “Manhattanites should not be killed by drivers when they are simply walking in their neighborhood. We will continue to protect the safety of pedestrians and drivers on our streets.”

Earlier, the defendant told investigators the Subaru cut him off. He also stated he had smoked marijuana eight hours before the wreck. His attorney had no comment.

Civil vs. Criminal Court

The purpose of the proceedings and the proof required are the two biggest differences between civil and criminal court in New York.

Civil courts focus mostly on accident victims. Under New York law, tortfeasors (negligent actors) must fully restore personal injury victims. Strictly speaking, that’s an impossible goal. If New York personal injury lawyers could turn back time, they’d probably use that superpower for something else.

Money is the next best thing. Furthermore, despite the fact that they wear costumes (black robes), judges don’t have superpowers either. So, financial compensation is the only available remedy. 

Victims need this compensation to pay medical bills, legal fees, and other accident-related expenses. Usually, a New York personal injury attorney defers all these bills until the case is over. Additionally, a lawyer often negotiates with providers and reduces their fees. However, these bills, like most others, must be paid eventually.

Furthermore, victims deserve this compensation. No amount of money on earth could make up for things like time spent lying in a hospital bed, not being able to remember important information, or the inability to walk around the block without pain. However, money is better than nothing.

Occasionally, criminal courts also compensate victims. But the focus is different. Criminal courts punish offenders for their misconduct. Civil claims don’t blame drivers for crashes. Criminal courts do that.

Admittedly, this discussion is pretty theoretical. These two courts are also different on a practical level, mostly regarding the burden of proof.

Usually, victims must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. That’s one of the lowest standards of proof in New York law. On the other hand, prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s one of the highest standards of proof in New York law. A little proof goes a long way in civil court, and many criminal prosecutions fail due to a lack of evidence.

Note that the driver in the above story is charged with manslaughter and CNH (criminally negligent homicide). It’s a little easier to prove intent in these crimes. That makes a difference, especially if the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time. Legally, intoxicated individuals can’t commit murder and other specific intent crimes. They cannot intend the conduct (hitting someone) and the result (killing someone). They can only intend the conduct.

Injuries to Pedestrians

Pedestrians only make up a small percentage of road users. But they make up a significant percentage of accident victims. Advanced safety design and engineering features protect vehicle occupants during collisions. The clothes on their backs protect pedestrians, and that’s about all the protection they get.

Speed significantly affects pedestrian injuries. A little makes a big difference. In terms of impact speed, the pedestrian fatality rate at 30mph is twice as high as the fatality rate at 20mph.

Exsanguination, or excessive blood loss, is usually the official cause of death in these cases. Other serious pedestrian injuries, which are usually permanent, include head injuries, broken bones, and serious lacerations.

Driver Impairment

Marijuana use is a factor in up to a third of the fatal car crashes in New York. Researchers aren’t exactly sure about the magnitude of this problem. They also aren’t sure how marijuana affects drivers. Cannabis intoxication, or a complete loss of function, is very brief. Shortly after the first drag, the effects fade. Not that we know anything about that personally. Cannabis impairment, on the other hand, could last for a while. The lingering effects of marijuana, like impaired judgment and motor skills, often linger for hours.

Drug use, mosty marijuana use, is the fastest-growing kind of driver impairment. That’s especially true in New York and other states that have legalized some recreational marijuana use. Other kinds of impairment include:

  • Alcohol: A decades-long “drunk driver” crackdown has put more people in jail, but it hasn’t changed driver habits. Alcohol causes about the same proportion of fatal crashes today as it did in the 1980s, when DUI was little more than a traffic ticket.
  • Fatigue: Drowsiness, like alcohol, impairs judgment and adversely affects motor skills. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level. Yet for some reason, drowsy driving is not a big deal to many people.
  • Medical Condition: Viruses, like colds, flus, and coronavirus, diminish driving skills by as much as 50 percent. These individuals are more worried about managing their symptoms than about watching the road. Epilepsy and other serious medical conditions could trigger a sudden and unex[pected loss of consciousness.

A New York personal injury attorney can often obtain additional compensation in driver impairment cases. Arguably, these tortfeasors (negligent drivers) get behind the wheel even though they know they’re not at their best.


In civil court, and probably in criminal court as well, the BMW driver is most likely responsible for the pedestrian deaths, even though his vehicle didn’t touch them.

Tortfeasors are liable for all foreseeable injuries. This rule comes from a classic law school case, 1928’s Palsgraf vs. Long Island Railroad Company.

Ms. Palsgraf, who was apparently going through a nasty divorce, and her teenage daughters were going to Rockaway Beach. As they waited for their train, another train at the other end of the platform pulled out. A portly man tried to board the train as it pulled away. In a scene right out of the Three Stooges, one railroad worker tried to pull the man inside, while another tried to push him in from the outside.

In all the commotion, the man dropped a package of fireworks. When the fireworks exploded, the shock wave caused a large, coin-operated scale to fall onto poor Ms. Palsgraf. She sustained a head injury and sued the railroad for negligence.

Judge Benjamin Cardozo, who later served with distinction on the Supreme Court, ruled that the railroad wasn’t responsible for the head injury, as the incident was not foreseeable. No one could have predicted Ms. Palsgraf’s injury.

This rule is still in place today. Collateral damage, like a struck car hitting a pedestrian, is foreseeable. There’s a very fine line between foreseeable and unforeseeable. That’s another reason for victims to work with attorneys. Only an attorney stands up for your right to compensation in cases like this.

Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact the Pianko Law Group, PLLC. Our main office is conveniently located near Battery Park.

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