In a decision that will have a serious impact on the outcome of lawsuits involving car, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents, the highest court in New York State has ruled that cities and other municipalities can be held responsible for accidents on dangerous roads. The ruling stems from the case of a 12-year-old Brooklyn boy who was seriously injured when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle on a road well-known for excessive speeding.
The City of New York was found to be 40 percent responsible for the accident, which put the boy in a coma and left him with a loss of motor functions and reduced mental capacity. Even though the driver of the car was traveling at a speed close to 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit on Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, he was not the only one who caused the accident. A jury found that the City of New York should have conducted a traffic study of the roadway to determine what safety measures could have be taken to prevent accidents. The jury concluded that it was the failure of the City to do so that contributed to the tragic collision. The City disagreed and submitted a motion to the court stating that a traffic study or an installation of safety measures, “was not a substantial factor in causing the accident.”
The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest appellate court, recently handed down its decision and agreed with the initial ruling that New York City’s negligence in regard to ignoring the concerns from the community about the conditions of the roadway did in fact contribute to the accident. Local residents had been complaining to government officials about the extreme speeding on Gerritsen Avenue, even referring to it as a racetrack. The judge who presided over the appeal ruled that the City had prior knowledge of the dangerous conditions and did nothing to correct them. After the accident occurred, the Department of Transportation made some provisions to the Brooklyn road, including decreasing the number of lanes and positioning a painted median on portions of the road. Plans for pedestrian islands and established lanes for bicyclists never went forward.
The court’s decision opens the door for other plaintiffs involved in personal injury cases. Further legal precedent has been set to hold a city or other municipalities responsible for injuries suffered due to accidents in locations known to officials to be dangerous. If traffic studies are not completed and safety measures are not put into place, municipalities can and indeed should be held liable for future accidents. If you’ve been injured in a road accident and believe a city or municipality knew of a dangerous condition and failed to remedy it, you may have a strong lawsuit against that city or municipality. When filing a lawsuit against a city or municipality, there are short and strict deadlines in which the lawsuit must be filed. Call Finz & Finz, P.C., for a free and informative consultation.