Pianko Law Group

Motorcyclist Dies After Collision with Brooklyn Councilwoman

Pianko Law Group 
August 30, 2021

The finger-pointing continues in a classic "who had the light" collision. Yet one thing is certain: A motorcycle rider is dead.

The 32-year-old motorcycle rider suffered massive injuries in a t-bone collision with City Councilwoman Farah Louis' Nissan. He spent two weeks at a nearby hospital, and never regained consciousness, before he succumbed to his injuries. The initial police investigation concluded that the rider ran a red light and was therefore at fault for the collision. Additionally, the report said the rider only suffered minor injuries. "That’s the wrong thing. That’s the part we hate," the deceased rider's father said. When his son arrived at the hospital, he had massive injuries, including a severed liver. Furthermore, "There were two witnesses saying my son’s motorcycle was going with the green light," he stated.

"The police conducted a thorough investigation of that accident,” Councilwoman Louis' lawyer insisted. “They conducted one of their investigations with the Collision Investigation Squad which is a lot more thorough than sending a patrol cop to the scene. At the end of the day, the motorcyclist was disregarding red lights and t-boned her car," he added.

Evidence in Vehicle Collision Claims

Technology, specifically red-light, traffic, and other cameras, has reduced the number of disputed "who had the light" collisions in New York. However, there is not a camera at every intersection. Furthermore, many of these cameras gave maintenance or other reliability issues.

So, the traditional combination of witness statements and the police accident report often forms much of the evidence in these cases. But there is often a serious problem, especially if the victim was catastrophically injured or killed.

In these situations, when emergency responders arrive on the scene, they only hear the tortfeasor's (negligent driver's) side of the story. Thus, the narrative portion of the report is often biased. Furthermore, when emergency responders canvas witnesses, they often look for witnesses who support their conclusions. To many police officers, vehicle collisions are civil matters. They don't want to get involved, and they certainly don't want to lay the groundwork for a controversial lawsuit.

Therefore, a New York personal injury attorney usually must dig deeper and uncover additional evidence in these situations. Frequently, this process involves finding additional eyewitnesses. For various reasons, many people don't loiter at accident scenes so they can give statements to police officers. However, these individuals are often willing to talk to a personal injury attorney or a personal injury attorney's representative.

Electronic evidence, such as a vehicle's Event Data Recorder, could be important as well. Many people don't know that their car or truck has a device that's similar to a black box flight data recorder inside a commercial jet. Most EDRs measure and record information like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Brake application, and
  • Engine RPM.

A skilled attorney, often when working with an accident reconstruction professional, uses these bits of evidence like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Engine RPM is a good example. Frequently, if a vehicle suddenly accelerated immediately prior to a wreck, that motion significantly affects liability for damages.

On a related note, even if the victim didn't have the light, the victim might still be entitled to compensation, because of New York's liberal comparative fault law. More on that below.

Motorcycle Crash Injuries

This sudden acceleration usually increases the injuries these victims experience. According to Newton's Second Law of Motion, speed multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. Furthermore, motorcyclists don't have seat belts, steel cages, or airbags to protect them during such collisions. As a result, they often sustain injuries like:

  • Internal Injuries: The extreme force of a high-speed collision smashes internal organs against each other. This motion usually causes excessive bleeding, since internal organs have no protective skin layers. This bleeding is so hard to detect that many victims lose up to a fifth of their blood before they even reach hospitals.
  • Broken Bones: When people accidentally fall off their motorcycles, the broken bones usually aren't too bad. But collision-related broken bones are much different. Since the force usually shatters these bones, doctors must use highly invasive tactics to set them. Then, the victims must endure long-term, and expensive, physical therapy. Even then, some permanent loss of use is very common.
  • Head Injuries: Contrary to popular myth, the motion of a wreck, as opposed to a trauma impact, often causes head injuries. The skull is basically a water tank that suspends the brain in cerebrospinal fluid. When people fall fast and land hard, their brains slam against the insides of their skulls. That's why jumping or pacing helps some people feel more awake or think more clearly.

All these injuries sound expensive, and they are expensive. In fact, the average injury-related hospital bill usually exceeds $50,000. Generally, health insurance companies refuse to pay these expenses, since they are accident-related and there is some questions about financial responsibility.

The resulting financial stress is sometimes worse than the physical pain and suffering. To reduce this pressure, attorneys usually connect victims with doctors who charge nothing upfront for their services.

These bills must eventually be paid, which is why fair compensation is so important in these claims. As that day approaches, attorneys usually negotiate with providers to reduce their fees. This reduction could mean that victims get to keep more of their settlement money, due to New York's complex collateral source rule.

Assume Peter hits Paul. Paul's medical bills are $50,000. His attorney negotiates with his doctor, who agrees to reduce his fees to $40,000. Peter might be liable for the full $50,000. Peter shouldn't receive a financial windfall because Paul's attorney was a hard worker.

Liability Issues

The available theory in a "who had the light" wreck largely depends on the aforementioned proof. If there is clear evidence that the tortfeasor ran the light, the negligence per se option is usually available. In other circumstances, the ordinary negligence doctrine is normally an option.

Basically, negligence per se is a violation of a safety law. In New York, tortfeasors are responsible for damages as a matter of law if:

  • They violate a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially causes injury.

Ordinary negligence is a lack of care. This duty requires all drivers to avoid accidents if possible. So, if Peter saw Paul run a light, Peter still has a responsibility to avoid a wreck if he can.

Comparative fault is usually the most common insurance company defense in these situations. This legal doctrine shifts blame for an accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, an insurance company lawyer might argue that the victim's excessive speed, as opposed to the tortfeasor's negligence, substantially caused the wreck.

New York is a pure comparative fault state. Therefore, even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the wreck, the victim is entitled to a proportionate share of damages.

In a wrongful death claim, these damages normally include compensation for pecuniary losses, such as final medical bills, lost future financial support, funeral expenses, and lost future emotional support. Survivors might also be entitled to compensation for their own grief and suffering, under a theory like negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Motorcycle wrecks often cause catastrophic injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact the Pianko Law Group, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

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