Fatal Hit-and-Run Accident in Hamilton Heights
Few details are available about a hit-and-run wreck in Manhattan which claimed the life of a backseat passenger.
In the predawn hours of June 27, 2020, a 2015 Mercedes ran a red light at the corner of 145th Street and Broadway and slammed into a Honda. Five people inside the Honda were seriously injured, and one did not survive. Police are looking for the Mercedes driver, who fled the scene on foot.
A head injury officially caused 22-year-old Christian Davis’ death.
Car Crashes and Head Injuries
Sports-related head injuries, like concussions, and combat-related head injuries, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, dominate much of the discussion in this area. But vehicle collisions are the leading cause of head injuries in the United States. That’s because these incidents combine all three major head injury causes, which are:
- Trauma: In low-speed collisions, seat belts, airbags, and other restraint systems do a good job of minimizing or eliminating trauma-related head injuries. But these systems can only absorb so much force. As a result, high-speed collisions, like an intersection hit-and-run, often cause trauma-related head injuries.
- Motion: Contrary to popular myth, the brain does not fit snugly inside the skull like a head in a motorcycle helmet. Instead, the skull is basically a water tank. This tank holds cerebrospinal fluid which suspends the brain. Any sudden motion, like car crash motion, causes the brain to slam against the inside of the skull.
- Noise: Explosions and other loud blasts are responsible for many combat-related head injuries. These loud noises create shock waves which disrupt brain functions. Many car crash witnesses say the resulting noise is much like an explosion.
Collision-related head injuries are very difficult to diagnose. Many people do not experience signature symptoms, such as nausea and unconsciousness. As a result, many doctors ascribe head injury symptoms to shock from the accident.
Additionally, many head injury victims “feel fine.” The brain is very adept at hiding its own injuries. That’s why many concussed football players want their coaches to put them back in the game. These players legitimately feel fine, so they see no need to sit out. Likewise, if doctors ask about head injury symptoms, car crash victims likely feel no pain.
Finally, largely for these reasons, head injury misdiagnosis is very common. Nationwide, head injuries send millions of people to hospital emergency rooms. Many of them are treated quickly and released almost immediately. As a result, their injuries worsen. Once more advanced head injury symptoms appear, such as personality changes and tinnitus (ringing in the ear), these wounds are much more difficult to treat.
Medical Attention and Other Immediate Needs
When victims partner with a New York personal injury attorney, these diagnosis issues are normally not a problem. Attorneys quickly connect victims with doctors. These doctors focus on collision-related injuries. So, they know how to diagnose and treat head injuries.
As a bonus, attorneys normally send letters of protection to medical providers. Since these letters guarantee payment when the case is resolved, the provider charges no money upfront. So, victims do not need to worry about additional bills. They can focus on getting better.
Attorneys do the same thing when it comes to vehicle replacement. The sudden loss of a family car is almost as devastating as a sudden personal injury. So, our office quickly connects victims with vehicle rental establishments. Normally, these providers charge nothing upfront.
Many insurance companies promise immediate vehicle replacement. But the insurance company normally provides a cheap replacement. If a family drove a minivan, a Honda will not do. Attorneys replace lost vehicles with comparable vehicles. Therefore, a family gets the transportation it needs, instead of the transportation the insurance company is willing to pay for.
Tracking Down the Tortfeasor After a Hit-and-Run
The successful resolution of a hit-and-run claim usually hinges on locating the tortfeasor (negligent driver). Unfortunately, police investigations often do not produce the needed results. In some jurisdictions, fewer than 10 percent of hit-and-run drivers are successfully prosecuted in criminal court. That’s mostly because of the high burden of proof.
Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Typically, in hit-and-run cases, a competent witness must have got a good look at the driver at or near the time of the crash. That’s about the only way to exclude other reasonable alternatives (e.g. someone else was driving the car).
The high burden of proof often has a chilling effect, especially in cases with few leads. Many police investigators feel there is no point in following up, because it’s almost impossible to obtain a conviction.
But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Since the burden of proof is lower, a little evidence goes a long way. So, many New York personal injury attorneys partner with private investigators to obtain evidence like:
- Additional Witness Statements: Emergency responders typically only interview witnesses who voluntarily come forward at the scene. Attorneys and investigators dig deeper. They locate people who might have seen something, even if it was only part of the crash.
- Surveillance Video: Unless there was a red-light or traffic camera at that intersection, police investigators rarely review video footage. However, even if the camera was several blocks away, the footage could help an attorney track down a vehicle’s owner. More on that below.
- Body Shops: When hit-and-run tortfeasors have their vehicles repaired, they normally do not go to Service King. Instead, they go to underground body shops or shade tree mechanics. These places purposely stay under police radar and often refuse to cooperate with investigators. Personal injury attorneys do not have these impediments.
The endgame is different in civil court. It’s more likely than not that the owner was operating a vehicle at a given time. A partial plate number and a general vehicle description is usually sufficient to make this showing. In other words, there’s no need to identify the driver, conclusively or otherwise.
Hit-and-run crash victims normally have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact The Carrion Firm, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.