You can't take safety for granted in this city, especially during the winter months
New York, NY (PRWEB) January 22, 2009
It's a little known fact, but January is the deadliest month of the year for pedestrians in New York City, and New Years Day is the deadliest single 24-hour period for walkers trying to cross a city street safely, said Joe Sullivan, a New York auto accident lawyer whose legal representation of vehicle knockdown victims has resulted in the recovery of millions of dollars for his clients.
"New York City is one of the most dangerous places in the country for those on foot, especially in the month of January," Sullivan said. "Rich and poor alike, New Yorkers walk everywhere. But while it is getting safer to stroll around town, some of the most dangerous streets, and careless drivers, on earth are still right here in the five boroughs, particularly in Manhattan. The Bronx is by far the most unsafe place for kids walking to and from school each day."
Sullivan points out that each year dozens of pedestrians - residents and tourists alike -- are seriously injured, or killed, crossing a city street in January.
In fact, according to an analysis released in November of last year by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a policy watchdog organization, from 2005 to 2007 Third Avenue and Broadway were each the site of 10 fatal accidents to pedestrians from New Years Day to January 31.
"You can't take safety for granted in this city, especially during the winter months," Sullivan warns.
Just last Monday, two women were killed and a man was injured during three separate pedestrian knockdown incidents. One of the victims, a woman from Hollis, Queens, was pronounced dead at Mary Immaculate Hospital only minutes after she had been hit by a drunken motorist.
Sullivan explained that in order to mount the strongest legal case possible for motor vehicle knockdown victims, he must first gather all of the relevant details of the accident. He needs to know if the person crossed at the corner, or in the middle of the block. If the person was waiting at a designated pedestrian crosswalk. If the person crossed the street with the signal in his or her favor. How far across the street the person was when they got hit. In what direction the car came from. And, if the pedestrian looked both ways before crossing.
"If you are hit by a car, or by some other moving vehicle, consult with a lawyer," he advises. "It always comes down to whether both parties were exercising reasonable care under the circumstances. If the vehicle failed to exercise reasonable care and that caused the accident, the driver will be held responsible."
To avoid being blindsided by an inattentive driver, Sullivan strongly recommends that pedestrians always look both ways before crossing the street. Then before taking your first step, look both ways again. And, then again. "Even if you have a green light," he said, "you should pay attention to the flow of traffic until you are safely on the other side of the street.
"This rule is especially true for older people," he said. "Older people are typically more vulnerable when they are crossing the street because they are not as nimble as a younger person and can't get out of the way of danger as fast, and because they are more likely to be injured if they do get hit."
Taxis as a group, he continued, tend to be involved in more accidents in New York City, partly because there are so many of them on the road and drivers are often competing for customers and are swerving across lanes to pick up fares.
"The minimum required liability insurance policy limits in New York State are $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident," he explained. "On the other hand, taxis are required to have $100,000 per person for liability insurance and $300,000 per accident."
Suliivan explained that when a person is seriously injured by a private vehicle owner, the amount of the insurance policy would often limit the victim's recovery because most people with limited insurance policies also have limited assets. "Even if they do have assets," he said, "enforcing a judgment against them can be very difficult."
According to Sullivan, many accidents happen when a driver is making a left turn onto the street the pedestrian is crossing and the driver of the vehicle doesn't see the pedestrian until it's too late.
"Sometimes the configuration of the roadway," Sullivan said, "its width, the timing of the lights and pedestrian crosswalk signals contribute to increased incidents of pedestrian accidents. But most pedestrian knockdowns occurring at intersections are caused by driver inattention."
"In New York," he said, "an individual injured in a car accident is entitled to No-fault benefits, which is insurance coverage that every vehicle is required to carry. The benefits immediately pay for all medical treatment required because of the accident, 80% of lost wages up to $2,000 per month and other necessary expenses up to $25 per day, regardless of who is at fault. An application for no-fault benefits has to be filed within 30 days of the accident so an individual should not delay in contacting an attorney.
"In return for requiring insurance companies to pay no-fault benefits," he added, "the legislature in New York State has required individuals injured in car accidents to prove that they sustained a 'serious injury' before they can recover for their pain and suffering in a lawsuit against the driver. Serious injury is defined in Insurance Law s5102 (d) and includes some very clear and objective categories, such as a fracture, and several less clear categories, such as a significant loss of use of a body system or function."
The value of a case, he explained, depends first on whether an individual can prove he sustained a serious injury, and how significantly the injury has impacted the individual's life and ability to perform his usual activities.
"At Sullivan & Brill, we represented a women who was walking along 77th Street at Central Park West after visiting the floats in preparation for the Macys Thanksgiving Day parade. She was hit by a car traveling southbound on Central Park West. The driver claimed that our client walked out into the street into the side of his car and our client claimed that the driver of the car was not paying attention and hit her from behind. Our client sustained a herniated disc in her lumbar spine and was unable to work for three months after the accident. We were able to obtain a $90,000 settlement for her just prior to jury selection."