Three-Car Crash Kills Pedestrian
In July 2020, 58-year-old Mariya Ursachenko stepped off the pavement to cross Ocean Avenue at the Avenue J intersection in Brooklyn. She never made it to the other side.
As she entered the intersection, Mohammed Nasim was approaching from the south “at a high rate of speed,” according to police. Nasim ran a red light and smashed into a Lexus. The force of that collision propelled the Lexus into Ursachenko. Emergency responders rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she was subsequently declared dead.
Authorities apprehended Nasim a short distance from the accident scene. He now faces various charges, including vehicular manslaughter, failure to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, and reckless driving.
Speed and Pedestrian Wrecks
Overall, speed is one of the leading factors in car crash injuries. This factor is even more pronounced in pedestrian accidents.
During a collision, a steel cage and multiple restraint layers shield vehicle occupants from injury. These protections ofter make a significant difference in low-speed collisions. But pedestrians have no such protections. Instead, they literally have nothing but the clothes on their backs.
The statistics support these assertions. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is travelling slower than 15mph, the pedestrian serious injury rate is less than 10 percent. The serious injury rate skyrockets to 90 percent at impact speeds of 40mph or higher.
When drivers hit pedestrians, they are usually travelling at or near top speed. Most pedestrian wrecks occur outside marked crosswalks and at non-intersections. Other times, as in the above story, the driver saw no reason to slow down. Chain reaction wrecks like this one often involve foreseeability issues. More on that below.
Speed is also a good example of the two basic types of negligence claims in a vehicle collision case.
Ordinary negligence is essentially a lack of care. Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must obey the rules of the road, drive defensively, and as my grandfather said, look out for th’ other fella. If a driver’s conduct slips below the standard of care, and that breach causes injury, the driver could be liable for damages.
Contrary to popular myth, the posted speed limit in New York is not an absolute speed limit. Instead, the posted limit is a presumptively reasonable speed under ideal conditions. Because of the duty of care, drivers have a responsibility to slow down when hazards or potential hazards are present, like water on the road or pedestrians on the sidewalk.
If the driver was travelling above the posted limit, the negligence per se shortcut usually applies. Tortfeasors could be liable for damages as a matter of law if:
- They violate a safety law, and
- That violation substantially causes injury.
In both situations, damages in a car crash claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.
Wrongful death claims work a bit differently from a procedural standpoint, especially in New York. Many wrongful deaths occur in the immediate wake of a collision. Other times, victims succumb to their injuries weeks or months later.
This possible delay is one reason a good New York personal injury attorney never settles claims too quickly. If settlement occurs before the full extent of the victim’s injuries are known, the settlement amount might not provide fair compensation for all losses.
Many states allow surviving family members to bring wrongful death claims. But in New York, only the decedent’s personal representative has the power to bring such a claim. If the victim died without a will, a judge normally appoints a representative.
Furthermore, New York law limits wrongful death recovery to pecuniary losses. These losses include:
- Medical bills related to the deceased person’s final injury or illness,
- Funeral and burial expenses,
- Lost future financial and emotional support,
- Children’s loss of inheritance, and
- Decedent’s pain and suffering.
Some of these damages are difficult to calculate, especially if the decedent was a small child. So, many attorneys partner with accountants and other such professionals in these cases.
Note that the above list did not include recovery for the survivors’ grief and suffering. New York law does not allow such damages in wrongful death claims. Compensation might still be available, under a separate action like negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Foreseeability and Car Crashes
In the above story, Nasim’s vehicle did not strike Ursachenko. Yet he still faces vehicular manslaughter and related charges. That’s because her death was a foreseeable result of his reckless driving.
Ordinary negligence and negligence per se claims both involve this element. “Foreseeable” does not mean “inevitable” or even “likely.” Instead, this f-word basically means “possible.”
Admittedly, this concept is a bit abstract. Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, a classic 1928 New York case, sheds some additional light on the foreseeability issue.
Ms. Paslgraf and her daughters were waiting for a train to Rockaway Beach. Unbeknownst to them, a scene that could have come from a Three Stooges film was unfolding on the other side of the station.
A late-arriving passenger, whom witnesses described as overweight, was trying to board a train as it pulled away from the platform. One railroad worker tried to push the man into the car from behind as another one tried to pull him inside. During the commotion, the passenger dropped a package. That package contained fireworks. When the fireworks hit the ground, they exploded. That explosion triggered a shock wave which pushed a large set of scales onto poor Ms. Palsgraf, who never saw it coming.
The court later held that although the railroad employees were negligent, the company was not responsible for Ms. Paslgraf’s injuries. Her wounds were not a foreseeable result of the aforementioned passenger jostling.
The foreseeability rule is different in some contexts. Third-party assaults are a good example. Landowners are legally responsible for these injuries in some cases, even though they had nothing to do with the incident itself.
Injured pedestrians are typically entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact The Carrion Firm, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.