Determining Fault in Some Common NY Car Accident Scenarios

Car Accident Injury Lawsuit New York

Nobody expects a car accident to occur, but when one does occur, the parties involved may have other issues besides personal injuries or vehicle damage. After the immediate matter of possible harm to each vehicle’s occupants, one of the major concerns is the issue of who is at fault in a car accident.

New York state’s laws outline a pure comparative negligence model when determining how much each party is at fault for causing an accident. 

For example, after an investigation, evidence may reveal that one motorist was partially responsible for an accident by only 20%. The other party, however, may have contributed 80% toward the collision by their negligent violation of a traffic rule such as speeding or driving while intoxicated.

How To Tell Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident

Insurance companies work with state laws, such as New York’s pure comparative fault model, to assess how much each driver contributed to an accident. This may provide the basis for property damage assessment or an injury claim amount to be reduced accordingly. Insurance adjusters may accept that their company’s policyholder was liable for the accident, but if you are the other driver, some of the blame may be shifted to you. If an insurance company can place a percentage of the comparative fault on you, your claim for personal or property damages could be reduced by that percent.

Unfortunately, an insurance company may place a much greater priority on reducing your claim amount instead of making sure that you receive the compensation you justifiably deserve. If an accident causes serious or long-term injuries, you or a family member could be deprived of recovering lost income or the full cost of medical treatment. The insurance company also might not take into account your pain and suffering.

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An experienced car accident attorney may prove to be the most decisive factor in countering inflated or false allegations regarding your blame for an accident. If you are seriously harmed and decide to file a personal injury lawsuit, the court will determine your case rather than the insurance companies.

Your attorney presents the court with evidence, which may include a police department accident report, witness statements, and any pictures taken at the accident scene. By gathering and reviewing evidence, a knowledgeable accident claim attorney could play a vital role in assigning accurate proportional fault and obtaining the full recovery you’re entitled to.

According to statistics compiled by the NYC Police Department, more than 9,700 vehicle collisions occurred across NYC’s five boroughs during September 2021. Close to 29,000 drivers and passengers were involved. 

Here are some of the issues associated with assigning fault in different types of auto accidents.

Who Is at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

Based on the most recent figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2019, almost 600,000 accidents nationwide involving injuries or fatalities were caused by a rear-end collision. According to the Federal Highway Administration, that same year, nearly 25% of the nation’s fatal crashes occurring in a work zone involved a collision from the rear.

If a vehicle struck you from behind, you might have less assigned blame even though you may have stopped abruptly. If you approached a work zone and an employee signaled you to stop, for example, you did what you were required to do. When an approaching motorist behind you fails to pay attention and slams your vehicle from the rear, a greater percentage of fault can be assigned to that driver for causing the accident.

Your attorney may interview work zone employees who witnessed the accident at the construction site. Passengers in your car or other individuals at the scene may also provide eye-witness testimonies to help determine each driver’s fault.

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A rear-end accident often means that the moving driver was negligent in upholding a duty, which was reflected by a failure to stop in time. He or she may have a much larger percentage of assigned fault, if not 100%, for causing injuries. However, circumstances such as a stopped car’s brake lights failing may reduce the approaching motorist’s percentage of fault.

Who Is Typically at Fault When a Side-Impact Collision Occurs?

Side-impact collisions are also known as “T-bone” accidents. They usually occur in a traffic-light intersection or at a stop sign. In the most common scenario, a car is struck by another vehicle at about a 90-degree angle. T-bone accidents are often the most catastrophic and usually occur because of negligence or distracted driving on the part of the motorist in the striking vehicle.

Motorists found to have violated a traffic law, or who was driving carelessly may easily be assigned a higher percentage of blame for a T-bone crash. Speeding drivers who fail to stop at a red light or stop sign can strike someone just by going through an intersection. Because a traffic law was breached, the motorist could have a higher degree of fault.

If your vehicle was struck from the side while crossing an intersection, the court may review pictures taken with a mobile phone. If the side of your vehicle is damaged or displays paint from the other vehicle, it shows that another car struck you. Skid marks left on the street could also indicate whether a striking motorist was speeding before plowing into an intersection.

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A motorist who could have avoided being struck from the side may, however, also have some fault for causing a T-bone accident. If the court finds that he or she drove into an intersection against a red light while talking on a cellphone, damages may be reduced by the driver’s proportional fault. In addition to using a cellphone, other common driver distractions include talking to passengers, eating, or any action that can take an individual’s attention away from the road, like listening to music.

Who Could Be at Fault for a Vehicle Rollover?

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In some cases, a defective vehicle or part could also cause an accident. In some cases, the vehicle’s manufacturer may be held liable for injuries or death. As noted in statistics compiled by the NHTSA, rollovers contributed to almost 2,500 deaths and over 50,000 injuries in 2019. New York motorists reportedly died in over 400 rollovers that year.

Because of vehicle weight and the ease of shifting the center of gravity, rollovers may be caused by common maneuvers such as swerving to avoid potholes. Injured passengers or individuals on the street who may have been harmed may also file a claim with your insurance company.

If you were seriously injured in a single-vehicle rollover accident, you might file an insurance claim. Your insurance company, however, may try to assign blame to you based on the police report. Distractions such as using a mobile phone could place you at fault.

Car Accident Lawsuits and Claims

An insurance company may subpoena phone records to show whether you had sent or received a text message at the time of the crash. Evidence of speeding may also increase your personal liability for causing harm to yourself or your passengers. However, in some instances, your attorney could file a legal action to hold a vehicle manufacturer liable for injuries or death by showing that a faulty design or a malfunctioning safety feature contributed to a rollover.

The NHTSA maintains a website that regularly publishes vehicle manufacturers and models recalled when a design flaw or faulty component is discovered. Issues such as malfunctioning brakes or steering components could reveal whether a manufacturer contributed to a rollover.

Your vehicle’s inspection reports may also show that your car was well maintained and that you took reasonable precautions to use it only as its manufacturer intended. Gathering evidence from the scene and reconstructing the accident may show that the rollover was an unexpected event that occurred outside of your control.

Women generally face higher risks of severe injury and death during rollovers and car crashes because of a particular type of design flaw. When automobile engineers design and test new cars, larger crash-test dummies that represent the male body are often used. Based on these tests, an airbag may cause injuries when it fails to inflate or protect a woman’s body on impact as promised in a vehicle’s advertised claims. An attorney may prove that the vehicle manufacturer was at fault for the harm caused.

How May the Driver at Fault Be Determined in a Multi-Vehicle Pileup?

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Car pileups are also known as chain reaction vehicle accidents and involve three or more cars. A motorist, for example, can set off a dangerous chain of events when driving on an icy road. Even while driving within the speed limit, he or she may not have stopped in time before rear-ending another vehicle. Because the road was slippery, the car that was rear-ended may have been suddenly pushed into an intersection and struck by another driver. Establishing each motorist’s percentage of fault generally begins by showing how the first driver was negligent or failed to uphold a traffic law.

Drivers owe a duty of care to drive cautiously and keep a safe distance, especially during inclement weather conditions. Proper vehicle maintenance may also play a role in determining fault. By not checking the car’s tires for traction and pressure, for example, a motorist may have fallen below the standards required for driving in icy conditions. Skid marks may also show whether a motorist was driving too fast for the road conditions or should have applied the brakes sooner.

Car Accident Cases

After law enforcement files an accident report, the second motorist in the chain reaction may find that officials assigned some comparative fault. Distractions or impairment, for example, may affect the first motorist’s percentage of liability, but the second driver may have had the right-of-way and did not move quickly enough due to a distraction such as a text message.

If a cellphone distraction prevented any of the drivers from controlling their vehicles, there might be a shared liability. However, if a driver had been drinking, an official intoxication report may be enough to assign a significant percentage of fault.

Depending on each vehicle’s impact and the make and model, debris may have fallen into the road or flown into the air. Other individuals who were not directly involved in the pileup but were also harmed may file a claim against one or more drivers who were in the chain reaction.

Is It Difficult To Show Who Was at Fault in a Head-On Collision?

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According to the NHTSA’s data, nationwide head-on collisions accounted for more than 10% of car crash fatalities in 2019. About 5% of that year’s head-on crashes resulted in injuries. The overall number of crashes involving a vehicle striking the front of another car coming in the opposite direction reached 180,000 in 2019.

Establishing a percentage of fault for a head-on crash could prove to be complicated. Because motorists can see an oncoming vehicle heading straight toward them, a general duty of care exists to move out of its way. If you could not avoid the accident at all, you may not be assigned a percentage of fault. Proof of being stuck at a red light with stopped cars surrounding you, for example, may show that you did not have a reasonable opportunity to move your vehicle out of the way.

Many New York motorists install dashboard cameras, which could help assign fault for a head-on collision. Footage may show whether an oncoming motorist was negligent or instead swerved suddenly to prevent hitting a pedestrian or a darting cyclist on the road.

Lacking camera footage, an official investigation team may be able to determine fault for a head-on accident. A crash reconstruction team could discover which driver might have reasonably moved out of the way or if he or she should have tried. If, for example, a driver remains in an oncoming motorist’s way by falling below a standard duty of care, the percentage of fault assigned may reduce the damages awarded.

Head-on collisions may cause catastrophic injuries that could result in a permanent disability or wrongful death. Recovering the full amount deserved may depend on showing that the oncoming motorist had 100% culpability for causing an avoidable crash.

Who Is at Fault in an Alcohol-Related Commercial Vehicle Crash — the Driver or the Employer?

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Because it is illegal to drive while impaired, intoxication may be determined by test results showing that a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level was higher than 0.08% at the time of the accident. Based on NHTSA data, over 10,000 vehicle accident deaths nationwide were attributable to a driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher in 2019. According to NYPD reports, 172 vehicles in NYC were involved in alcohol-related accidents during September 2021.

If the driver of a commercial vehicle was found to be drinking and driving while on the job, his or her employer may face full responsibility if the employee causes a vehicle accident. It may need to be shown, however, that the intoxicated driver was operating a vehicle while he or she was working. This is also referred to as operating within “the scope of employment,” and the courts may define the applicable circumstances somewhat broadly. 

An intoxicated employee traveling to a sales meeting, for example, might cause an employer to be held responsible if he or she causes an accident. Employers could also be held responsible for either hiring individuals known to have alcohol issues or allowing them to continue driving a vehicle for work-related purposes.

Under New York’s Dram Shop Law, an individual harmed by a drunk driver may also have cause to file a legal action against an establishment, such as a bar or restaurant, for serving a visibly intoxicated patron alcohol. Serving alcohol to an underage patron could also enable a personal injury suit if an individual is harmed by a driver under the legal drinking age.

Can Fully Deserved Accident Compensation Be Obtained Directly Through an Insurance Company?

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Because of the complex nature of determining fault in New York, it may not be practical to attempt to obtain the compensation you deserve by doing it alone. Insurance companies may be more focused on limiting the amounts they pay out. 

This may be particularly relevant if you lost time from work, suffered severe injuries, or became disabled; the full extent of your damages could be much greater than what an insurance company will offer. If you’re in or near the New York City area, it may serve your interest to contact the experienced car accident attorney Queens residents have learned to trust.

Contact Car Accident Lawyer in Queens

The benefits of contacting Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates include determining what your accident entitles you to receive. You may have experienced a great deal of pain and suffering in addition to initial and long-term medical expenses. Your ability to work at your job could have also been affected. Regardless of the circumstances, you could find yourself comfortably reassured that you’ll be represented by an aggressive and accomplished legal team with decades of combined legal experience.

Learn more about the total compensation you can receive by scheduling a no-fee consultation online or calling (888) ASK-ELLIOT / (888) 275-3554.