Due to New York City's massive size and heavy traffic, accidents causing severe injury to pedestrians occur frequently. Injuries to pedestrians who have been hit by a vehicle are often debilitating. Common injuries include broken bones, internal bleeding, and brain damage. Furthermore, pedestrians represent half of the fatalities caused by traffic accidents in New York City. A study by the New York City Department of Transportation from 1996 through 2005 found that 1,944 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents. The injuries suffered by a pedestrian who has been hit by a vehicle may permanently alter the course of their life. As a result, injured pedestrians may have grounds to collect compensation for their injuries if the traffic accident was caused by the vehicle operator's negligence. At Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, our New York City pedestrian accident lawyers have been defending the rights of traffic accident victims for over 50 years. Our attorneys understand the physical hardships that can follow a pedestrian accident. We are committed to doing whatever we can to aid in our clients' path to recovery.
The attorneys at Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool take pedestrian accident cases for injuries sustained in car, truck, bus, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, and train accidents. If you were injured while walking in New York City, our firm will give you a free consultation to learn about your legal options. To see if you have a valid claim, call 212.406.1700 or contact us online.
Why a Skilled Pedestrian Accident Lawyer is Essential to Proving Your Claim
The issue of whether the driver of a car in a pedestrian accident was negligent rests on many different factors. An individual may have been standing, walking, jogging, or running when injured, but neither of these factors alone will ever be enough to prove a driver acted negligently and is liable for resulting injuries. A person may have been within a crosswalk or outside of it at the time of the accident, but these facts standing alone will not determine whether and to what extent the driver was negligent. Rather, the issue of negligence requires a careful investigation, analysis, and presentation of all of the relevant contributing factors to an accident. When all of the factors that relate to an accident are considered together, one realizes that almost no two accidents are identical. The skilled attorney must discover, expose, and be ready to present the combined facts to a jury in a manner that is likely to convince a jury, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that it is more likely than not that the operator of the vehicle failed to use reasonable care under the particular circumstances of the accident. Absent the experience and expertise to do this, one cannot expect to garner a favorable settlement or verdict on behalf of a victimized pedestrian.
It is easier to understand how the concept of negligence is evaluated by discussing some of the variables that commonly exist in vehicular accidents involving pedestrians. The most obvious issues pertain to facts such as the following:
- The color of the traffic light for the driver at the time of the accident
- The color of the traffic light or walk/don't walk sign for the pedestrian at the time of the accident
- Whether the pedestrian was in a crosswalk at the time of the accident
- The color of the light when the pedestrian entered the crosswalk, and the color of the light at the time of the accident
- Regardless of the color of traffic control devices, whether the pedestrian looked for oncoming vehicles prior to entering the intersection
- In instances where both the vehicle and pedestrian were governed by a green traffic light, it is important to determine the exact direction of travel of each (for example, a car turning left at an intersection will often have a green light at the same time as the pedestrian who also has a green light/walk signal. However, the pedestrian nevertheless has the right of way in such a situation).
Consideration of the above variables only scratches the surface of issues that must be considered by the experienced and skilled attorney representing a victimized pedestrian. The more sophisticated accident attorney pays great attention and focus to nuances relating to time, speed, and distance. It is these factors that may ultimately tip the table in one direction or another in terms of being able to prove negligence in a pedestrian accident case.Time, Speed, and Distance Considerations for Pedestrian Accidents
The variables of time, speed, and distance are critical to proving negligence in a pedestrian accident case. This is because the answer to questions relating to time and distance will shed light upon the actions of the driver at each crucial point in time, but also answer the question of how much time the driver had to react to the situation, and to avoid the accident. Remember, the claim often involves inattention of the driver either to traffic conditions, traffic signals, and/or to the pedestrian himself. Establishing how much time the driver had to take notice of the prevailing conditions and situation can be critical to the opinion or determination of lawyers and insurance companies of whether the vehicle operator was negligent. In other words whether the driver acted as a reasonably prudent or careful driver would have acted under the same or similar circumstances. One cannot fully evaluate negligence unless one substantially discovers all of the circumstances of the accident.
Questions which are critical to the relationship in terms of time, speed and distance amongst the vehicle and the pedestrian at various points in time include the following:
- Did the driver see the pedestrian at any time prior to the contact and, if so, at that point in time?
- At that point in time, was the vehicle moving?
- Was the vehicle stopped?
- Was the pedestrian moving?
- Was the pedestrian stopped?
- Where in the roadway was the vehicle when the operator first saw the pedestrian?
- Where was the pedestrian in the roadway (or other location) when the operator claims to have first seen the pedestrian?
- Did the victim see the vehicle before the accident?
- If so, where was the victim at that time and where was the vehicle
- At any of the points in time described above, if the vehicle was moving, what was the speed of the vehicle?
- When an observation was first made, last made (or otherwise made) of the pedestrian by the vehicle operator at any static and identified moment in time, what distance separated the vehicle and the pedestrian at that moment in time?
- What speed was the vehicle travelling at each specified moment in time?
- How much time elapsed between various identified static points in time (for example how much time went by from the time of first observation up until the time of contact, or how much time elapsed from the time a turn or other identified vehicular action happened up until the time of contact)?
These questions represent only a small sample of the type of interrogation that must be asked when questioning the driver of the offending vehicle. While the questions may sound redundant, each is distinctly different. The common thread that exists amongst time, speed, and distance questions is that they are designed to discover exactly what the driver did and when, as well as to discover how much time, in the exercise of reasonable care, the driver had to react to the circumstances that existed.Can Drivers be Held Liable if the Pedestrian was Outside the Crosswalk?
To discuss such issues in real terms, we can use the example of a child or other pedestrian who crosses the street, outside of any crosswalk, and outside the presence of traffic control devices for either the driver or the pedestrian. The driver might claim that the pedestrian was responsible for his own accident because he crossed in the middle of the street. One might concede that the fact that the pedestrian didn't cross the street at a designated area was not ideal. However, does this really discharge the vehicle operator from negligence? After all, a pedestrian crossing the street outside of a designated area is a foreseeable event that occurs thousands of times per day in New York City, on a regular and ongoing basis. The operator of a potentially deadly motor vehicle still has the duty, in the exercise of reasonable care, to be attentive and alert for such pedestrians. The operator has a duty to see what is there to be seen, and not to drive at an excessive speed, all of which could contribute to an accident involving a pedestrian. Also, once observing a pedestrian in a roadway, the driver still has the obligation to yield.
Often the driver will claim he was operating the vehicle slowly, and carefully, and exercised reasonable care, yet was still unable to avoid the accident. Certainly if this is true then the driver should not be found negligent. On the other hand, it is fair to test the claims of the driver. For example we have handled multiple cases where the driver claims that a child or pedestrian ran out between two parked cars. This claim borders on a cliché defense that is repeated by defense attorneys because the claim has such appeal to a jury. However, when one crosses a city street, there is almost always a parked car somewhere to the pedestrian's right and somewhere to their left, even if neither car is close. Thus, the claim of emerging onto the roadway "between parked cars" has little meaning until there is an examination of where the parked vehicles purportedly were in relation to the pedestrian when they started to cross the street. Were the vehicles really so close to the pedestrian that they would have obscured the vision of a prudent driver? Even if the pedestrian emerged between two closely parked vehicles, how far was he or she into the roadway when he or she was struck? Are we really going to exculpate a potentially speeding and inattentive driver from any responsibility for striking a pedestrian under these circumstances? Perhaps the person who walked out onto a roadway passed through one or even two full lanes of traffic, was in open view, and was visible for an extended period of time prior to being struck so that any driver, in the exercise of reasonable care, would have avoided the accident?
Obviously, the details must be fully investigated and discovered prior to a determination or argument is made whether a driver was negligent for striking a pedestrian outside of the crosswalk. Liability in these types of cases is not necessarily determined by something as simple as whether the injured individual was in a crosswalk or obeyed general traffic signs. Upon further examination, a driver may be fully or partially responsible for an accident that on first glance appeared to be the fault of a pedestrian. On the other hand, in fairness, an accident that first appears to be the fault of the driver may ultimately be shown to be partly or substantially the fault of the injured party. There are no "automatics" when litigating a personal injury case involving a pedestrian.Our Firm Employees Experts to Help Determine Liability in Pedestrian Accident Cases
As discussed, the answers to the many questions relating to time, distance, and speed can be crucial to the issue of negligence in car accident cases. As a result, our firm often retains expert witnesses such as accident reconstruction experts and engineers. The answers to such questions and the opinions of experts which are based on the discovered facts may logically and or scientifically disprove the version of the accident of one party or the other. In addition to conclusions regarding who did what and when, the answers to such questions also allow one to deduce how much time the driver had to react, and whether the reaction time was diminished due to carelessness or inattention, as opposed to just being the product of what one might consider a normal human reaction that was within the bounds of reasonable care.
Other types of experts that we may retain for your pedestrian accident case include biomechanical engineers. These types of experts are often hired to prove a particular injury was caused by an accident, as opposed to proving fault. Indeed, many attorneys try to defend the case by claiming that the mechanism of contact is not consistent with the type of injury claimed to have been caused. A biomechanical engineer might for example testify regarding a twisting or other movement that occurred as a result of a certain impact. This type of testimony, combined with the expert testimony of an orthopedic surgeon or other qualified medical expert, can be important in thwarting frivolous defenses to serious injury claims. (The defendant's attorney or insurance company may claim that your injury or condition was pre-existing or unrelated to the accident).
Certain types of major injuries are common occurrences in pedestrian accidents. These include "bumper" injuries that often occur at the height of one's legs or up to the area of the hips. Such contact often results in broken bones and fractures to the tibia and/or fibula. These are the bones in the lower leg below the knee. Bumper contacts also frequently break the knee (known as the patella itself). The knee is a joint and a fracture to the knee or other joint often involves serious complications. Contact with the bumper also frequently causes a fracture to the femur which is the main leg bone between the knee and the hip. The top of the femur forms a joint with a bone known as the acetabulum. This is the hip joint and a fracture of the hip or any of the pelvic bones surrounding that is also very serious. All of the aforementioned fractures often involve surgery which requires an open reduction and internal fixation, which in the simplest terms is surgery that requires your broken bones to be "reduced" back into place by an open surgery that requires the insertion of hardware. Of course vehicular accidents can and do cause serious injuries and fractures to all parts of the body of the pedestrian. We have handled numerous pedestrian cases that involved paralysis or death. The catastrophic nature of injuries that result from impact between the human body and a vehicle that may weigh thousands of pounds makes it even more essential to carefully choose an attorney with the experience, expertise, and resources to handle your case.Our Attorneys Will Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
Individuals who have been hit by a vehicle while walking may have several types of compensation available to them in a lawsuit. Injured pedestrians who are forced to miss time at work due to their accident may be able to recoup compensation for lost wages. Additionally, victims can receive compensation for any damage the accident causes their future earning potential. Individuals who have been struck by a vehicle may also be forced to undergo numerous medical procedures, purchase medication, and make frequent doctor's visits in the future. A lawsuit may provide injured individuals compensation for any medical costs uncovered by insurance. In addition to the economic damages injured pedestrians may be able to recoup, a lawsuit may provide compensation for some non-economic pain and suffering damages. Non-economic damages accident victims may be able to receive include but are not limited to emotional trauma, loss of life's enjoyment, and long term physical pain.
When an individual dies after being struck by a vehicle, their family may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. As with a regular negligence lawsuit, families filing a claim for wrongful death can recoup compensation for economic and non-economic damage. The compensation families can recover includes but is not limited to lost wages, medical bills, funeral costs, pain and suffering the victim suffered before death, loss of consortium, and loss of parental guidance.
At Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, our pedestrian accident attorneys handle lawsuits for injured victims as well as wrongful death claims for grieving families. Our attorneys realize the tremendous hardships a traffic accident can impose on victims and their families. As a result, we are committed to helping ease their financial burden. We will pursue maximum compensation for all damages victims and their families may have suffered due to the accident.
Our notable results include:
- $2.3 Million settlement in a Brooklyn case by Jonny Kool on behalf of a 60 year old dental assistant struck by a commercial van owned and operated by Staten Island University Hospital. The pedestrian sustained serious injuries to both her legs, including a tibial plateau fracture, requiring multiple surgical procedures. The defendants argued that the plaintiff was at fault for this accident as she failed to observe the turning van and avoid the accident. They also argued that she was outside the crosswalk and, therefore, partially to blame for the accident.
- $450,000 settlement in a Brooklyn case by Dallin M. Fuchs on behalf of a 14-year old boy who sustained a fracture of both his tibia and fibula of his left leg requiring an Open Reduction Internal Fixation(ORIF) surgery with hardware. This case went to trial on two separate occasions as the defendant driver claimed that the infant-plaintiff "darted out" between two parked cars and that the accident was completely his fault. At the second trial, shortly after jury selection, Mr. Fuchs was able to demonstrate to the defense, through prior sworn trial and deposition testimony, that the driver failed to observe the infant-plaintiff and could have avoided the accident had she been paying proper attention.
Our attorneys are recognized as leaders in New York personal injury trial law. Six of our attorneys have achieved AV Preeminent status with Martindale-Hubbell representing the highest ranking for ethical standards and legal ability. Five of our attorneys have been included in Super Lawyers in the New York Metropolitan Area as published in the Magazine Section of the New York Times. Our firm is listed among the Best Lawyers in the State of New York and is listed among the Best Law Firms in the New York Metro area by US News & World Report.
If you have been struck by a vehicle due to a driver's negligence, you may eligible to receive compensation for any damages suffered. To see if you have grounds to file a lawsuit, call 212.406.1700 or contact us online. All consultations are free of charge.