The Three Categories of Negligence in New York Car Crash Claims

Here in the Empire State, human error causes about 95 percent of all car crashes. These incidents are accidents to the extent that they are unintentional. But they are not accidents in the sense that they were unavoidable, at least for the most part.

Lightning strikes, sudden wind gusts, and other acts of nature cause a handful of car crashes. But the vast majority involve one of the types of negligence listed below.

If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was negligent, car crash damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Legally, negligence usually involves a lack of ordinary care, such as a failure to drive defensively. Other times, negligence could be the violation of safety law, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


Behavioral Negligence

In addition to the compensatory damages mentioned above, additional punitive damages may be available in behavioral negligence cases. Typically, these tortfeasors know they should not drive. Yet they do so anyway, and consciously put other people in jeopardy.

Generally, a New York jury may award punitive damages if there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor acted extremely recklessly or ignored a known risk.

Some examples of behavioral negligence include:

  • Alcohol: This substance causes about a third of the fatal car crashes in New York. Just one drink slows reaction time and impairs judgment. The more a person drinks, the worse these impairments become. Drinking and driving is dangerous and is something nobody should do.
  • Fatigue: Drowsiness and alcohol have a lot in common. They both impair judgment and motor skills. Additionally, just like time is the only cure for alcohol impairment, sleep is the only cure for fatigue. Chewing gum, drinking coffee, and other quick fixes normally do not work.
  • Drugs: A few drivers are under the influence of illegal drugs, like cocaine and LSD. Narcotics and hallucinogens like these are obviously very dangerous. But even more, drivers are under the influence of something like a prescription painkiller or an over-the-counter sleep aid. These drugs, while legal, are almost as dangerous.

Behavioral negligence claims often involve statutory violations. If the tortfeasor is charged with DUI because of alcohol or drugs, it is easier to establish liability in civil court. To establish negligence in drowsy driving cases, victim/plaintiffs may use circumstantial evidence, like the time of day (or night) and the tortfeasor’s physical symptoms, such as bloodshot eyes.


Environmental Negligence

When the road is wet, the sky is dark, or there are any other adverse environmental conditions, drivers must slow down and adjust for the conditions. Yet many people fail to do so, and that’s the essence of environmental negligence. Basically, this type of negligence means the driver ignores the environment and therefore intentionally puts other people at risk.

Even if the tortfeasor did not exceed the posted speed limit, officers can and do issue speeding tickets. Speed limit signs are simply presumptively reasonable speeds. So, environmental negligence claims often involve both direct and indirect negligence theories.


Operational Negligence

Distracted driving is probably the best example of operational negligence. Hand-held cell phones get most of the attention. They involve all three types of distracted driving, which are:

  • Cognitive (taking one’s mind off driving);
  • Manual (taking a hand off the wheel); and
  • Visual (taking one’s eyes off the road).

Many people believe that hands-free cell phones are safe to use. While they may be legal, they are still unsafe. Hands-free cell phones are visually and cognitively distracting. Moreover, they often give drivers a false sense of security.

Other types of operational negligence include speeding, tailgating, making an illegal turn or lane change, and eating, drinking, talking to passengers, or doing almost anything else while driving.


Contact a Manhattan Car Accident Attorney

The other driver is usually responsible for car crashes in the Empire State. For a free consultation with an experienced New York car accident lawyer in New York, contact Michael J. Redenburg Esq. P.C. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.