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Three Seriously Injured After Driver Hops Curb

Pianko Law Group
Maurice Pianko 
March 30, 2022

Investigators believe that a 68-year-old man suffered a medical episode behind the wheel in the moments before he plowed into two people on the sidewalk and ravaged a local flower shop.

This wreck happened near the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and West 145th, in Harlem. The driver lost control of his car and barrelled onto the sidewalk, where his Camy struck a mother who was holding her son’s hand. Emergency responders rushed these two victims to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. The runaway Camry also struck several parked cars before finally coming to rest inside a flower shop.

The Camry’s driver was also seriously injured.

The Five Kinds of Driver Impairment

Driver error causes most of the car crashes in New York. The five kinds of driver impairment, which are listed below, are responsible for over half the wrecks in the Empire State.

Medical Condition

Medical episodes, like the one in the above story, usually involve conditions that trigger unconsciousness behind the wheel, such as:

  • Heart disease,
  • Diabetes,
  • Epilepsy, and
  • Latent brain injury.

Normally, these individuals know they shouldn’t get behind the wheel. But they drive anyway, and thereby intentionally put people at risk. Therefore, compensation in medical condition impairment cases could be quite high.

To obtain this compensation, a New York personal injury attorney needs evidence. Medical records are often critical in these cases. These records include diagnosis and prognosis information. Additionally, doctors often advise these patients not to drive. If that’s the case, there’s usually a note in a patient chart.

Medical records are sometimes hard to obtain. But an attorney knows how to bypass privacy laws, cut through red tape, and obtain the evidence needed to win maximum compensation.


This kind of impairment is a bit different. Very few people decide to use their cell phones as they drive before they back out of the driveway. Scheduled videoconferences are perhaps the biggest exception. Many individuals believe they can multitask behind the wheel the way they multitask behind a desk.

Speaking of hand-held cell phones, these gadgets get most of the distracted driving attention because they combine all three forms of distraction, which are:

  • Visual (eyes off the road),
  • Manual (hand off the wheel), and
  • Cognitive (mind off driving).

However, hand-held phones aren’t the only source of distraction, or even the primary source. Non-device distraction, like eating while driving, causes many more wrecks than device distraction.

Legally, a distracted driving wreck could involve the negligence per se rule. New York has a very broad hands-free law. If a driver is holding or using a device behind the wheel, and that behavior substantially causes a wreck, the driver could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Generally, however, distracted driving is a lack of care. That means the ordinary negligence doctrine could apply.

Degree of difficulty matters. Legally, if drivers touch their phones behind the wheel, they are usually violating the law. But in an ordinary negligence claim, the distraction must be so bad that it constitutes a lack of care. A momentary lapse, like adjusting the air conditioner, probably isn’t a lack of care.


New York lawmakers recently legalized marijuana. Well, “legalized” is a bit misleading. But that’s the subject of a different blog. This legislative change also legalized the leading cause of drugged driving in the Empire State. Other impairing substances include street drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, prescription drugs, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin, and some over-the-counter drugs, like Sominex or NyQuil.

Drug impairment often works differently than alcohol impairment, which is discussed below. Alcohol’s impairing effect builds over time. Drug impairment usually hits people like a ton of bricks, and then the effect quickly fades.

Substance impairment violates the DUI law. Even if the substance is legal to ingest, it’s illegal to drive under its influence. Prosecutors aggressively enforce DUI laws. Therefore, if there’s any hint of drug impairment, authorities usually file these charges.

If the state doesn’t file charges, relief is still available in civil court. A New York personal injury attorney can use circumstantial evidence to prove impairment. This evidence includes:

  • Physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes,
  • Erratic driving before the wreck,
  • Open pill bottles in the car,
  • Drug paraphernalia in the car,
  • Odor of drugs, such as the distinctive odor of marijuana, and
  • Driver’s statements to others about drug use.

The burden of proof in an injury claim is a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, it doesn’t take much proof to establish drug impairment as a matter of law.


Before 1995, DUI was like a traffic ticket. Officers often let intoxicated drivers off with warnings, unless they were falling-down drunk. Then, mostly due to several advocacy groups, a decades-long DUI crackdown began. From the perspective of fatal DUI crashes, this crackdown has largely failed. 

In 1995, alcohol was a factor in 32 percent of the fatal car wrecks in the United States. In 2019, alcohol was a factor in 28 percent of fatal wrecks. That’s not much of a difference.

Alcohol gives people an artificial sense of euphoria and prompts them to take reckless chances. That’s why drunk people dance with lampshades on their heads. These effects make for great Kodak moments at parties. But the combination is dangerous, and often deadly, behind the wheel.

These cases often involve vicarious liability. Clubs, bars, and other commercial alcohol providers are financially responsible for car crash damages if they knowingly sell alcohol to intoxicated people who subsequently cause car wrecks.


The DUI crackdown hasn’t significantly reduced the number of fatal crashes. But it has made people more aware of the hazards of drinking and driving. 

Yet many people ignore the risks of drowsy driving, even though alcohol and fatigue have roughly the same effect on people. Driving after twenty consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .08 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit in New York.

Anyone who has ever stumbled to the bathroom late at night knows that drowsiness affects motor skills. Fatigue also slows reaction times. Drivers need both these skills to safely operate motor vehicles.

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

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