Each day in Brooklyn, dozens of motor vehicle accidents are reported. According to the New York Police Department, there were 5,120 traffic accidents in Brooklyn in August 2019 alone. These accidents resulted in injuries to 749 motorists, 543 passengers, 198 cyclists, and 227 pedestrians. One motorist, one cyclist, and three pedestrians died as a result of injuries sustained in these accidents.
If you were injured in a Brooklyn car accident, call the experienced Brooklyn personal injury attorneys at Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, to help you to understand the legal options available to you.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Car accidents can happen in a variety of ways and for a lot of different reasons. Here is a look at some of the most common causes:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 3,166 people were killed in 2017 because of distracted driving. There are three categories of driving distractions:
- Manual distractions, which cause the driver to take their hands from the steering wheel.
- Visual distractions, which make the driver take their eyes off the road.
- Cognitive distractions, which draw the driver’s attention from the task of driving.
It is not unusual for a distraction to fall into two or even three of these categories. For example, reading a text or replying to one impacts the driver manually, visually, and cognitively. The NHTSA notes that it takes approximately five seconds for a driver to read or reply to a text. During that time, if the driver is traveling at a speed of 55 miles per hour, they will have traveled the length of a football field without watching the road, keeping their hands on the wheel, and focusing on the task of driving.
Other common distractions include:
- Other cell phone use including talking on the phone, using the phone’s map feature, or browsing the internet;
- Eating or drinking;
- Visiting with passengers in the car;
- Adjusting vehicle controls such as the stereo or AC; and
- External distractions such as previous accidents, billboards, or other drivers.
As reported by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, New York has an all-driver ban on the use of hand-held devices and texting while driving.
In 2017, speeding accounted for more than a quarter of all traffic-related fatalities in the U.S., resulting in the deaths of 9,717 people. Speeding not only involves driving over the posted limit, but also driving too fast for the conditions of the road. A person can face consequences if they choose to speed, including:
- Increased risk of losing control of the vehicle;
- Decreased effectiveness of the vehicle’s protective features, including airbags and seat belts;
- Increased distance required to come to a safe stop;
- Increased fuel consumption;
- Increased expenses due to tickets or fines resulting from a speeding-related accident; and
- Increased injury severity in the event of a crash.
Following Too Closely
Following too closely, also known as tailgating, is the leading cause of rear-end crashes in the U.S. Rear-end crashes are one of the most common types of traffic accidents, causing around 950,000 injuries and 2,000 fatalities each year. Tailgating often goes hand-in-hand with distracted driving, increasing the risk of rear-end crashes. Here is a look at some of the risks facing tailgaters:
- Not having enough time to react if the car ahead suddenly stops or slows down;
- Causing the driver in the lead vehicle to drive aggressively to evade the tailgater, or even prompting the lead driver to express road rage; and
- Added dangers during inclement weather such as low visibility or slick road surfaces.
It takes at least two seconds for a driver to react to a hazard on the roadway, such as a vehicle that suddenly slows or stops ahead. It is recommended that, whenever possible, drivers allow at least three seconds between their vehicle and the one in front of them, to ensure the ability to safely stop. Do note, however, that the larger and heavier the vehicle, the more distance is needed for a safe stop.
Alcohol or Drug Impairment
Driving while impaired by any substance—including alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medications—is illegal, and for good reason. Intoxicating substances diminish the skills a person needs for driving. The NHTSA offers a glimpse at some of the skills that specific substances impact:
- Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs slow a driver’s coordination and reaction times and impair their judgment;
- Cocaine and methamphetamines tend to cause drivers to be more aggressive and careless on the road; and
- Many over-the-counter medications cause extreme drowsiness and dizziness, which impact a driver’s ability to focus on the tasks of driving and create the serious danger of the driver falling asleep behind the wheel.
The term “aggressive driving” emerged in the 1990s and refers to dangerous on-the-road behaviors that damage other people or property. Aggressive driving is a major contributor to traffic accidents in the U.S., according to the Insurance Information Institute. Speeding is one form of aggressive driving.
Other forms include:
- Following improperly;
- Improper or erratic lane changing or “weaving” through traffic;
- Illegally driving on the shoulder of the road or the median;
- Passing where prohibited;
- Suddenly changing speeds or otherwise operating the vehicle in a reckless or careless manner;
- Failing to yield the right-of-way;
- Failing to obey traffic signs, signals, or officers;
- Failing to observe the instructions or warnings posted on vehicles, such as the “wide turn” warning on tractor-trailers;
- Changing lanes or turning without using a turn signal;
- Making improper turns; and
Wrong-way driving refers to driving in the oncoming traffic lane, such as going the wrong direction on a one-way road or entering the interstate from a ramp designated for exits. Wrong-way driving is one of the main causes of head-on collisions. One study estimated that 80 percent of wrong-way driving accidents occur in urban areas and that 70 percent of wrong-way vehicles involved in accidents are passenger cars. While this type of accident can happen any time of the day, most wrong-way driving accidents occur during early morning hours, between midnight and 5 am. Some of the reasons why a driver would find themselves going the wrong way include:
- Alcohol impairment;
- Poor visibility due to darkness or inclement weather, limiting the driver’s ability to see posted warning signs; and
- Unfamiliarity with the roadway.
Between a lack of experience and a propensity for experiencing distraction, young drivers are among those most likely to have an accident. Some statistics about teen driving accidents include:
- Motor vehicle accidents are responsible for about one-third of the deaths to people 13-19 years old;
- The demographic with the highest crash rates are 16-year-old, newly licensed drivers;
- The death rates for teen drivers increase with every additional teenage passenger in the car;
- More than 40 percent of the traffic-related fatalities involving teen drivers take place at night;
- 20 percent of new drivers will experience their first accident within their first year of driving; and
- The crash risk for teens increases with every mile per hour they drive over the speed limit.
In 2016, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) reported that there were 662 accidents in capital construction work zones on state roads and bridges, resulting in 6 motorist fatalities and injuries to 187 motorists, construction employees, and NYSDOT staff. There were also 10 injuries and one fatality in maintenance work zones across the state, and 132 injuries in the Thruway during the first half of that year.
Types of Car Accidents
While any type of car accident can cause an injury or even a fatality, some types of accidents are inherently more common or dangerous than others. Here is a look at some common types of car accidents:
- Rear-end: Rear-end accidents, in which the front of one vehicle impacts the rear of another, are the most common type of two-vehicle crashes and are often the result of tailgating.
- Head-on: Head-on collisions are one of the most deadly types of accidents, as they involve two vehicles traveling in opposite directions that collide nose to nose. Part of what makes this type of accident so dangerous is that the force of the collision increases relative to the speed that each vehicle is traveling at the time of the collision. So, for example, if two cars collide head-on while each is traveling at 50 miles per hour, the combined force of the crash for both cars is 100 miles per hour.
- T-bone: T-bone accidents, also known as broadside or side-impact collisions, involve the front of one vehicle impacting the side of another. Due to the lack of protective features on the sides of cars, this type of accident is particularly dangerous to the occupants who are sitting on the side of the vehicle that is struck. This type of accident most commonly occurs in intersections, where one driver fails to yield the right-of-way to another.
- Single-car: As the term suggests, single-car accidents only involve one vehicle. However, they can involve other factors, including animals or debris on the road, a vehicle striking an object such as a building or a guard rail, driving actions taken to avoid a crash with another vehicle, or running off the road. One of the most deadly situations in a single-car accident is a vehicle rollover.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim in New York
New York is a no-fault insurance state. What this means is that drivers who register their vehicles in-state are required to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. If the event that the driver, a driver’s family member who is listed on the policy, or passengers in the driver’s car who do not have their own PIP policy are involved in an accident, generally the first source of compensation to cover injury-related expenses is PIP, regardless of whose fault the accident was. To go outside of the PIP coverage, the accident must have been caused by someone else’s negligence and you must either reach the limit of the policy or have a serious injury. A serious injury according to New York law includes:
- Significant disfigurement;
- Bone fracture;
- Permanent limitation of the use of a body part or organ;
- Significant limitation of the use of a bodily function or system; or
- Full disability for more than 90 days.
If your injuries qualify as serious and another individual or entity was at least partially at fault for your accident, you may file a personal injury claim with the court within three years of the date of the crash. If you were partially at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you may still file a claim against other at-fault parties under New York’s pure comparative negligence standard.
To obtain an award through a personal injury claim, you must be able to prove negligence on the part of the at-fault party. To prove negligence, you must be able to show:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. In a car accident case, for example, the other driver owed you a duty of care to operate their motor vehicle safely and obey traffic laws.
- There was a breach of the duty of care. An example of this would be if the at-fault driver breached their duty to drive safely by texting while driving.
- This breach resulted in the accident that caused your injuries and correlating expenses.
The types of damages you can seek in a New York personal injury case include:
- Medical expenses;
- Pain and suffering;
- The loss of companionship or affection experienced by your spouse due to your injuries;
- Vehicle repair or replacement;
- The cost of a rental car;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future earning capacity due to disability; and
- Wrongful death of a loved one due to injuries sustained in the accident.
Contact Our Brooklyn Car Accident Attorneys Today
If you were injured in an accident, you deserve answers to your legal questions. Contact Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, online or dial 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) to schedule your free consultation and case review.