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New York Police Sued Over Poor Handling of Pedestrian Accidents

New York City is a thriving metropolis – a city where many locals walk to work and thousands of tourists stroll, enjoying the shopping and stunning architecture. Unfortunately, walking through the streets in this beautiful city is more dangerous than many realize. The NYC Department of Transportation reports over 7,000 motor vehicle crashes were recorded that led to serious injuries or fatalities to pedestrians.

New York personal injury attorneys and citizens are voicing concerns not only that these numbers are too high, but that the New York Police Department is not taking these accidents seriously. In fact, one citizen is so upset with the NYPD’s handling of a tragic pedestrian accident that he recently filed suit against the city.

The suit alleges the city is not following state law which requires an investigation for any serious personal injury caused by a motor vehicle accident, but is instead sending investigators out only if the injured person is “dead or likely to die.” The suit claims this policy for pedestrian accident investigations is systemically flawed.

A Tragic Accident and Look Into the City’s “Dead or Likely to Die” Policy

A man was waiting for his wife when they spotted each other across a street in Brooklyn. While crossing the street to meet her husband, the woman was struck by a car. The man claims he remembers hearing a horrible “crash and crunch” noise as a Honda sedan hit his wife.

The driver of the Honda only had a learners permit and, an hour after the accident, still had a blood alcohol content of 0.07. Although the legal limit in New York is 0.08, because of the time lapse, the result would still have been enough for a prosecution.

Unfortunately, the police testing equipment was improperly calibrated so the reading could not be used in court. The driver was arrested, but later released because of this error. Making matters worse, the investigation on the accident was called off because the woman was not dead on arrival at the local hospital.

She died the next day, but the investigation did not resume until four days after the accident. The lapse meant skid marks, surveillance video, alcohol in the blood stream of the driver, the location of clothing thrown from the victim’s body upon impact and other forms of evidence were lost. Since no photos were taken at the crime scene, there was little evidence to prosecute the driver.

The delay was a result of the city’s “Dead or Likely to Die” Policy. Due to budgetary restraints, the city’s Accident Investigation Squad is composed of only 19 investigators. These investigators determine whether a driver responsible for an accident involving a pedestrian or cyclist broke the law. Unfortunately, although state law requires an investigation in the event of “serious physical injury,” the Patrolman’s Handbook only requires dispatch of investigators if the victim has died or is likely to die.

Because the investigators did not gather critical evidence in this accident, criminal charges cannot be filed. Instead, the deceased woman’s husband is attempting to pursue justice through civil courts.

Not the First Negative Publicity For Pedestrian and Cyclists Accidents

Unfortunately, this is not the first case citizens and personal injury lawyers are claiming the department botched. Last October, the city received negative publicity for its handling of the death of a cyclist hit by a truck driver who left the scene. The family is suing the city alleging the NYPD withheld information about the investigation.

Another accident resulted in the victim suffering severe brain damage. The investigation into the crash did not begin until forty days after the crash.

Generally, pedestrians and cyclists are able to recover damages for injuries caused due to another person’s negligence. Victims need to prove that the driver:

  • Owed a duty to the victim
  • Failed to fulfill this duty
  • Caused an accident that led to the victim’s injuries

The first element is almost always satisfied as every person operating a motor vehicle has a duty to drive safely. In the cases the NYPD is currently accused of handling poorly, causation is the most difficult to establish. Without the much needed evidence that is often produced by an investigation, it is difficult to establish that the driver was not operating the vehicle safely. In the Brooklyn accident, the presence of alcohol could have easily established this element.

If you or a loved one is injured in a motor vehicle accident, either as a pedestrian or a cyclist, you may be able to recover medical and rehabilitative expenses. However, proving your case can be difficult. It is wise to discuss your unique situation with an experienced New York pedestrian accident lawyer to ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.