Lightning strikes, wind gusts, and other such events cause a handful of car crashes in New York. But human error causes over 95 percent of these incidents. Typically, human error involves one of the three areas outlined below.
High-speed car wrecks often cause serious injuries. In these cases, victims are entitled to economic damages, such as compensation for medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as money for pain and suffering. Under New York law, if the victim’s car is not drivable after the crash, the victim probably sustained a serious injury.
Negligence in New York
Basically, negligence is a lack of ordinary care. Slamming on the brakes to avoid hitting an animal may not be a lack of care, but slamming on the brakes because the driver is speeding is almost always a lack of care. Legally, a New York negligence claim has five elements:
- Duty: Non-commercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and carefully. Additionally, both they and their vehicles must be in good condition. Commercial drivers have a higher duty of care because they are driving professionals.
- Breach: Drivers breach their duty when their behavior falls below the legal standard. Examples of such behavior include driving while under the influence of drugs and driving while fatigued.
- Cause: There must be a connection between the breach and the damages. For example, a sleepy driver might ignore a stop sign and collide with another vehicle in the intersection.
- Proximate Cause: The damages must be a foreseeable result of the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) conduct or misconduct. In the aforementioned intersection collision scenario, it’s foreseeable, although not necessarily likely, that one of the vehicles may careen off the road and strike a pedestrian.
- Damages: Typically, tortfeasors are only liable for damages if there was a physical impact. A near miss or close call is usually not actionable.
There are some exceptions to these rules. For example, if parents see their children get hurt in car crashes, they may be entitled to damages even if they aren’t hurt. Additionally, in a near-miss case, New York’s negligent intention of emotional distress doctrine may apply, and the victim may still be entitled to damages.
Negligence Per Se in New York
Sometimes, the law sets the standard of care. That’s true in some dog bite claims. Many jurisdictions have strict leash laws or other animal restraint laws. If the owner violates them, the owner may be responsible for dog bite damages.
That’s also true in car crash claims. Generally, the negligence per se shortcut applies if:
- The tortfeasor violated a safety law, such as speeding or making an illegal lane change, and
- The violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injuries.
In most cases, if the negligence per se doctrine applies, the tortfeasor is liable for damages as a matter of law. Basically, the only defense is that there was a legal excuse or justification for the violation.
Defective Products in New York
Sometimes, the aforementioned human error has nothing to do with the driver. A tire blowout is a good example of a defective product which causes a car crash. Typically, manufacturers are strictly liable in these cases. If a defective product causes injury, the manufacturer is responsible, no matter how careful or careless the product maker was. There are two basic types of product defect claims:
- Design Defect: A few people may remember the 1970s, Ford Pinto. To save money, engineers placed the gas tank in a dangerous location. As a result, even a low-speed fender bender crash often became a deadly fireball collision.
- Manufacturing Defect: More people may be familiar with the Takata defective airbag saga. Takata replaced the chemical propellant with a cheap substitute. So, the airbag often exploded and showered the driver with shrapnel.
In addition to the compensatory damages mentioned above, defective product claims often involve substantial punitive damages. These additional damages are available if there is clear and convincing evidence that the manufacturer intentionally disregarded a known risk.
In both the Ford and Takata cases, there is evidence that the manufacturer ignored problems for years so it would not have to pay for repairs. Putting profits before people like this is a classic example of conscious indifference.
Connect with a Manhattan Attorney
Car crash victims usually have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Manhattan personal injury lawyer, contact Michael J. Redenburg Esq. P.C. After-hours visits are available.