A particularly gruesome accident occurred in Queens on April 4. A car containing five college students skidded off the road into Steinway Creek, killing the four passengers. The driver, who survived the fatal car accident, was recently released from the hospital. He tested negative for alcohol and has not yet been charged by New York authorities.
Despite being apparently sober, the driver reportedly admitted that he was speeding down a dead-end street before the car skidded and plunged into the creek. Where there is negligence or recklessness that results in death, the perpetrator can potentially be charged with some form of involuntary manslaughter involving the use of a vehicle. From the civil liability perspective, it appears from all reports that the driver was at least negligent in speeding on a slippery road that was twice marked as a dead-end street.
It appears likely that the 20-year-old East Elmhurst resident is liable for wrongful death tort damages to the estates of each of the four decedents. In such situations, however, it’s distinctly possible that the young man’s insurance coverage is insufficient to compensate for four deaths. If his policy is “stacked” with other family household policies or with the coverage on other household vehicles, there could be additional insurance from that source.
Furthermore, the families of each victim will want to scour all of their vehicle insurance policies to get the total amount available in underinsured motorists’ coverage. That coverage appears on the victim’s own policy or the policies of family members. Tracing the full scope of available insurance in a situation like this is often best put in the hands of an experienced litigator, as there are sometimes funds available that are not obvious on a surface inquiry.
In New York, the next of kin of each decedent must file to start an estate in behalf of the deceased loved one. The executor of the estate will pursue damages from the fatal car accident by filing a wrongful death action against the driver. When damages are recovered the executor will distribute it to family members in the percentage provided by law.
Source: New York Post, “Queens creek crash driver released from hospital“, Larry Celona and Priscilla Degregory, April 7, 2014