The kinds of serious motor vehicle collisions that keep car accident lawyers busy seem to happen way too often. Four tragic news items in particular recently caught our attention:
- In Mays Landing, New Jersey, recently, authorities alleged that a drunk driver who was driving on a suspended license caused a three-car crash that resulted in the death of a longtime staffer with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. The accident occurred around 7 a.m. when a vehicle driven by a 34-year-old man allegedly rear ended another vehicle. The force of the accident reportedly pushed the second vehicle into oncoming traffic, where it a truck broadsided it. The 54-year-old staffer, who was in the vehicle that had been rear ended, later died from crash-related injuries.
- In Queens, an SUV allegedly killed an elderly woman who was riding a motorized scooter on a Saturday afternoon as she crossed a street in a crosswalk. According to police, the driver of a Nissan SUV stopped at the intersection before attempting to turn right and striking the woman.
- In Brooklyn, a 10-year-old girl was allegedly struck and killed by a city school bus as she walked to class with her brother. The bus driver was charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.
- Just two days later, a seven-year-old Brooklyn boy was killed while walking to school with his mother. The two were in a crosswalk about three blocks from his elementary school when a 48-year-old woman in an SUV allegedly struck them. The boy was rushed to the hospital, but doctors could not save him. The driver, who remained at the scene, was arrested for aggravated unlicensed operation, two counts of failure to yield to a pedestrian, and two counts of failure to exercise due care.
The tragic traffic incidents described above all share a common cause: human error. Over our decades of experience representing victims of motor vehicle accidents in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state region, we have found that human error constitutes the single most dominant factor contributing to devastating, preventable vehicle collisions.
In this blog post, we discuss why human error plays such an outsized role in motor vehicle accidents, and how an experienced New York auto accident lawyer can help you if someone’s dangerous conduct behind the wheel harms you or your loved one. For more detailed information about your rights after a tragic, preventable collision, contact a skilled traffic accident injury attorney today.
Mistake, Crime, or Both?
Researchers claim that more than 90 percent of traffic accidents are caused by human error. Merriam-Webster defines the word error as “an act or condition of ignorant or imprudent deviation from a code of behavior” or “an act that through ignorance, deficiency, or accident departs from or fails to achieve what should be done.”
When we talk about errors behind the wheel, we mean any unreasonably dangerous action that results in harm to oneself or another person. Some of those errors may also constitute crimes. However, an error that leads to a tragic traffic collision need not also trigger criminal charges for the victims of the collision to have the legal right to receive compensation. To borrow from Merriam Webster, a “deviation from a code of behavior” behind the wheel usually results in legal liability for money damages, whether or not it also subjects a driver to criminal sanction.
Examples of Human Error At the Wheel
What constitutes human error when it comes to motor vehicle-related collisions? Here are some examples:
- Failure to yield: Drivers have a duty to yield the right-of-way to others in a host of driving situations, such as at red lights, stop signs, crosswalks, or even when turning out of a private driveway or a parking lot.
- Speeding: A contributing factor in a quarter of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in the United States, speeding results in more than 9,000 deaths a year. Speeding endangers drivers and others on the road by shortening the time a driver has to see and react to a road hazard, lengthening the distance a vehicle needs to stop, and increasing the force of impact in a collision.
- Distracted driving: Driver distractions come in three forms—manual (which cause the driver to remove his or her hands from the wheel); visual (which draw the drivers eyes from watching the roadway); and cognitive (which pull the driver’s mind from the task of safe driving). An activity can create more than one type of distraction for drivers. One of the most concerning facts about texting and driving, for example, is that texting constitutes a manual, visual, and cognitive distraction all-in-one. In the approximately five seconds that it takes to read or reply to a text, a car traveling at highway speeds will traverse the distance of a football field, all while with its driver’s hands off of the wheel, eyes off of the road, and mind off of the task of driving.
- Alcohol impairment: Drunk driving leads to around 30 deaths a day in the United States, claiming more than 10,000 lives each year. Alcohol use impairs the skills a driver needs for safe driving by reducing the driver’s ability to track moving targets, causing loss of concentration, slowing motor coordination (needed to brake effectively, control speed, and stay in a lane of travel), and inhibiting good decision-making.
- Fatigued driving: Driver drowsiness is also a major cause of accidents in the U.S., particularly among long-haul truck drivers and night shift workers. The effect of drowsiness on a person who has not slept in more than 20 hours is equal to the impairment of a driver who has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams—the legal limit for adult drivers in the U.S. Besides lack of sleep, other factors such as sleep disorders, physical exertion, and an unhealthy diet can contribute to a driver’s fatigue.
- Aggressive driving or road rage: The two terms—aggressive driving and road rage—are also often used interchangeably, but they mean different things. Aggressive driving comprises a wide range of risky driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating, and improper lane changes. Road rage incorporates aggressive driving practices, but with the added element of a driver who intends those aggressive behaviors to serve as a means of expressing anger or inflicting harm.
- Wrong-way driving: A common cause of head-on collisions, wrong way driving occurs under a variety of preventable circumstances, including a driver’s unfamiliarity with traffic patterns or a driver’s alcohol or drug impairment. Sometimes, as in the news item described above, the impact of a collision in one lane of traffic can push vehicles into a lane of oncoming traffic.
- Tailgating: Following a vehicle too closely puts the occupants of both vehicles at serious risk of harm. Cars do not stop instantaneously, as all drivers know. Instead, stopping consists of a series of decisions and actions, beginning with a driver recognizing a need to stop, then reacting by depressing the brakes, and the brakes working to slow—and eventually stop—the vehicle. Larger vehicles require more distance to come to a safe stop, and all vehicles require more distance if the roadway is wet or icy. The driver of a vehicle following another too closely will not have time to complete a safe stop if the lead vehicle suddenly slows or stops. Tailgating constitutes the leading cause of rear-end collisions.
Human Error Points to Legal Liability
These and other human errors cause traffic crashes, which in turn result in injuries and fatalities. When an individual hires a personal injury attorney to pursue compensation for harm caused by a traffic collision, the attorney will typically seek to pinpoint the human errors that led to the crash. The individuals who committed those errors, and any corporate entities on whose behalf those individuals acted, face potential legal liability to victims of the collision.
Lawyers seek to establish that legal liability by collecting evidence that proves:
- That someone owed a duty of care not to act (or fail to act) in a way that put others at unreasonable risk of harm (such as a legal duty to obey traffic laws, for instance);
- That someone breached that duty of care by acting in a manner that caused an unreasonable risk of harm (such as by driving distracted or speeding, for example); and
- That the breach in the duty of care caused the collision and resulting harm to victims.
Every collision has its own unique facts and circumstances, of course. How a lawyer goes about gathering and presenting evidence to prove someone’s legal liability can vary widely from case-to-case. Speak with an experienced collision injury attorney today to determine who may owe you compensation for the harm you suffered because of a preventable collision caused by human error.
If Human Error Leaves You Injured…
Victims of collisions caused by human error may have the right to take legal action for compensation against any legally-liable parties
A lawsuit may seek to recover money to help pay for:
- Medical expenses, including expenses related to emergency treatment at the scene and at the hospital emergency department; transport to the hospital by ambulance or aircraft; physician services; hospitalization; prescription medication; surgical services; physical therapy; and rehabilitation. The injured crash victim can also seek to recover expenses related to prostheses, wheelchairs, crutches, and modifications to the home needed to accommodate disabilities caused by the injury, such as widening doors, lowering countertops, and installing roll-in showers.
- Lost wages if injuries cause an injured crash victim to miss work while recuperating.
- Loss of future earning capacity if the injured individual cannot return to work in the same capacity as before the accident, or at all.
- Property damage, such as the cost of repairing or replacing a damaged vehicle involved in a collision.
- Non-economic damages, which compensate for the harm caused by an accident other than monetary harm, such as physical pain, emotional suffering, loss of the enjoyment of life, and the difficulties of living with a permanent disability.
As we’ve said, every collision has its own facts and circumstances, so no experienced lawyer can guarantee that a collision victim will recover all, or even any, of the categories of damages listed above. However, the most reliable way for victims to obtain the maximum compensation they deserve is to work with a skilled lawyer with years of experience representing local residents in traffic collision lawsuits.
A seasoned legal professional often serves injured clients by:
- Answering questions about the legal process involved in filing a personal injury lawsuit;
- Evaluating which legally-liable parties have financial resources available to pay compensation to an injured collision victim, either through insurance or out of assets;
- Gathering evidence that may prove legal liability and the amount of damages a client deserves to receive;
- Consulting with specialists, including medical experts and accident reconstruction professionals who may provide testimony to help prove a client’s case;
- Filing pleadings, motions, and other paperwork in courts;
- Communicating with the representatives of the at-fault party in an attempt to negotiate an out-of-court settlement for his or her client;
- Appearing in court on the client’s behalf;
- Advising a client on the pros and cons of accepting or rejecting a settlement offer;
- Presenting a case to a judge and jury at trial; and
- Collecting settlements or awards.
Lawyers cannot predict in advance how much time it might take for any particular case to reach a conclusion, or how much (if any) money a client may ultimately receive through a settlement or jury verdict. The duration and outcome of a case depend on a wide variety of factors, including the severity of a client’s injuries, the amount in dispute, and the willingness of a liable party to negotiate a reasonable settlement.
Over our decades of experience, we have represented clients in collision cases that lasted just months, and others that ran on for over a year. We have achieved outcomes we and our clients viewed as favorable that added up to thousands of dollars in some cases, and to millions of dollars in others.
If you have suffered an injury or loss in a preventable traffic collision, then you may have substantial rights to compensation if you act quickly. Contact an experienced, knowledgeable motor vehicle injury attorney as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.