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Fatal accident may have been triggered by state court officers

A recent fatal accident in New York City raises questions of whether the family of the deceased bicycle rider will be able to collect wrongful death damages.  On May 27 at 11:30 p.m., a car was being driven erratically in the Bronx, where it ran a red light and nearly struck a car driven by New York State Court officers. The car kept going, and, after crossing a bridge and traveling a few hundred yards, it caused the fatal accident by striking a bicyclist from behind. The bicyclist flew onto the hood of the car and then landed on the asphalt.

The victim was dead at the scene. He was a 42-year-old assistant professor of neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College. He was reportedly working on important research at the school. After striking the bicyclist, the car continued until it struck another vehicle, and the persons inside the car got out and fled on foot.

The court officers reportedly turned on their emergency lights and tried to pull over the car after it ran the red light. That action has raised the issue of whether they caused the driver to drive even more erratically in response to a chase scenario. Court officers are allowed to take action to stop a crime only under "extreme circumstances," according to a state court spokesperson.

Generally, under New York law, a negligent operator who causes a fatal accident can be held liable for wrongful death damages to the immediate family of the innocent victim. When family members choose to pursue wrongful death compensation, they will need to prove, in court, that the negligent driver's actions contributed to their loved one's death. When a case is successfully presented, a court may award both punitive and non-punitive damages. 

Source: The New York Times, "Bicyclist Is Killed by Car Fleeing Court Police", Benjamin Mueller, May 28, 2015

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