Causes of Car Accidents in Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester
Drivers who operate a motor vehicle negligently can be held liable if they cause an auto accident that result in injury, death or other losses. Those who are injured or lose a loved one can seek funds to defray the cost of their losses and compensate for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.
Determining the cause of a car accident is usually the first step toward obtaining a proper financial recovery. The cause of a car accident indicates who should be held liable for the accident victim’s losses.
Since 1987, the car accident attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, have helped many seriously injured people and grieving families in Albany, Syracuse and across New York State. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.
- 1 Causes of Car Accidents in Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester
- 2 Why Do Car Accidents Happen?
- 3 Investigating the Cause of Car Accidents
- 4 Drunk Driving Accidents
- 5 Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers in Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester, NY
- 6 Reckless Driving Accidents
- 7 Accidents Caused by Defective Parts
- 8 Call Our Albany Car Accident Attorneys Today
Why Do Car Accidents Happen?
In its latest available motor vehicle crash statistics, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles reports that 93.3 percent of crashes in 2012 had one or more contributing factor. Many of these factors involve driver error.
Among the causes of car accidents we frequently deal with are:
- Speeding – Exceeding the posted speed limit or a safe speed for conditions is a factor in about one third of car accidents every year. Speeding drivers have less time to react to unexpected conditions in the road ahead, which may lead to a collision or loss of control of the vehicle. Excessive speed increases the impact of a collision and the severity of injuries suffered.
- Drunk driving – Despite strict standards and penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol, drunk driving is a factor in about 30 percent of car accidents nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Even though the legal limit for is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent, any amount of alcohol can cause impairment.
- Drugged driving – In New York, a person is guilty of a DUI if he or she operates a motor vehicle while his or her ability to operate the vehicle is impaired by the use of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. Drugs that may lead to impairment include illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine or prescription drugs such as Oxycodone / OxyContin.
- Distracted driving – We often think of distracted driving as texting while driving or other cell phone behind the wheel of a car. However, distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving, including putting on makeup or dealing with a pet.
- Fatigued driving – Driver fatigue is considered a factor in an accident if a driver was reported to have been drowsy, sleepy, asleep, tired or exhausted behind the wheel at the time of the accident. Fatigue slows reaction time, makes drivers less attentive and impairs decision-making skills. People who work a night shift and young drivers who work while going to school are more likely than others to drive while fatigued. Fatigued driving is often a cause of truck accidents as well.
- Aggressive driving – Tailgating, flashing headlights, speeding or weaving through traffic are just a few forms of aggressive driving. Operating a motor vehicle in a selfish, bold or pushy manner without regard for the rights or safety of others is inexcusable conduct.
- Faulty car parts – Cars and automotive parts are frequently recalled because they have defects caused by faulty design and/or manufacturing. Unfortunately, recalls usually happen after many car accidents, injuries and deaths have been blamed on these faulty car parts. When an investigation into a car crash shows that a faulty part or system caused the crash, the manufacturer and others may be held liable.
- Road conditions – Sometimes, it is the road itself that causes an accident, including the road’s faulty design, construction or maintenance. In other cases, work to maintain a roadway may endanger drivers if a work zone is not properly set up by workers. Local governments, construction companies, independent contractors and others may be held liable if their negligence leads to road conditions that endanger drivers.
Investigating the Cause of Car Accidents
Conducting a thorough investigation into a car accident is the best way to determine why the crash occurred and who should be held liable.
An investigation includes collecting and analyzing evidence from the accident scene, including skid marks, crash debris and road conditions.
Additional evidence may include:
- Police reports
- Vehicle damage
- Event Data Recorder (“black box”) information available in many recent passenger vehicle models
- Witness statements
- Drivers’ cell phone data
- Recall notices.
In some cases, accident reconstruction experts are called in to determine how and why a complex car accident occurred. These consultants can provide written and illustrated reports of their findings. If necessary, they can explain the accident in clear language as expert witnesses testifying before a jury.
Drunk Driving Accidents
No reasonable person would drink and drive. Unfortunately, every day, people in Albany, Syracuse and throughout New York defy the law – and common sense – by consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel or by selling or providing alcohol to drunk drivers. As a result, they expose others to the risk of car accidents, injury, and death.
According to the most recent yearly crash statistics, drunk drivers in New York caused:
- 8,368 total crashes
- 387 deaths
- 6,019 injuries.
It is not only motorists and passengers who were harmed. In the same year, drunk drivers caused 510 pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and 111 deaths in our state.
The car accident lawyers of Powers & Santola, LLP, have been protecting the rights of crash victims and their families in New York since 1987. If you have been harmed or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a suspected drunk driver, we can seek the compensation you deserve. Contact our drunk driving accident lawyers in New York to receive a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.
What Are New York’s Drunk Driving Laws?
New York State defines driving while intoxicated (DWI) as driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher or “other evidence of intoxication.” If a driver is operating a commercial vehicle, the BAC limit is 0.04.
A related offense is driving while ability impaired by alcohol (DWAI), which means driving with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.07 “or other evidence of impairment.”
In New York, it is also illegal for a driver under age 21 to drive with a 0.02 BAC and for a driver of any age to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs.
Signs of a driver’s impairment could include:
- Unusually slow or fast speed
- Weaving or drifting across lanes
- Smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath
- Glassy, bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- The inability to pass a standardized field sobriety test (SFST).
These criminal laws could play an important role in your auto accident case. If the driver who caused your crash is charged and ultimately convicted of a violation of one of these laws, it could constitute negligence per se. In other words, the driver’s negligence would be established as a matter of law.
If your damages go beyond what is covered by no-fault insurance, a finding of negligence per se could help you to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more through the driver’s liability coverage.
However, a driver’s conviction is not necessary to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the driver in New York State. A driver who is found not guilty under criminal law could still be held liable in a civil claim.
Who Can You Sue for a Drunk Driving Accident in New York?
In many drunk driving accident cases, the drunk driver who caused your crash is not the only one who can (and should) be held legally accountable. New York law allows other parties to be sued, or held liable, for the harm you have suffered. These parties include:
- Employer – If the driver was “on the clock,” so to speak, when the accident occurred, you may be able to sue the driver’s employer. This will require showing that the driver was carrying out a business purpose and not engaged in a “frolic and detour” from work duties.
- Bar, restaurant or store – Under New York’s “dram shop” law, anyone who sells alcohol to one who is “actually or apparently” under age 21 (the legal drinking age) or “visibly intoxicated” can be held liable if it can be shown that the sale contributed to the person’s intoxication, and the person’s intoxication in turn caused your accident and injuries.
- Social hosts – New York law also creates liability for anyone who provides or assists a person under age 21 with obtaining alcohol. This is commonly called “social host liability.” As with a dram shop claim, it must be shown that the alcohol contributed to the person’s intoxication, and the person’s intoxication caused a crash that harmed you.
Keep in mind that you can seek a recovery in a drunk driving accident claim from the drunk driver or other parties regardless of whether you were a motorist in another car, a passenger in the drunk driver’s car or a pedestrian or bicyclist on the street.
Punitive Damages in a Drunk Driving Accident Lawsuit
In many drunk driving accident cases, punitive damages may be sought as well. This is because drunk driving often falls within the type of reckless conduct that punitive damages are designed to punish and deter.
The driver’s high level of intoxication may be evidence that supports a punitive damages award. Another factor may be the driver’s history of DWI convictions or drunk driving accidents. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports, nearly one out of every five drunk drivers who caused a fatal crash during one recent year had a prior DWI conviction.
Distracted Driving Accident Lawyers in Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester, NY
Distracted driving is driving while also engaged in any activity that is not a part of operating the motor vehicle. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles reports that 48,714 auto accidents during a recent year involved, at least in part, “driver distraction / inattention.”
Distracted driving is nothing new. However, it has increased during the last decade due to cell phone use and texting while driving.
The car accident attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, have a record of helping victims and their families in Albany, Syracuse and elsewhere in New York State to recover after being hurt in distracted driving crashes.
If you have been hurt or lost a family member in a crash, schedule a free initial consultation with us today and learn more about how we can protect your rights.
Threats Posed by Distracted Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) takes distracted driving so seriously that it has created an extensive website. The site is devoted to educating the public about the threat of this form of reckless driving.
According to the NHTSA, about 3,328 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2012 – the most recent available statistics. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver during the same year.
The NHTSA defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” This includes:
- Using a cellphone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.
“[B]ecause text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction,” the NHTSA states.
Like other states, New York has taken steps to end the most dangerous kinds of distracted driving. Under New York State law, you cannot legally use a hand-held mobile telephone or send a text or e-mail while you drive.
The New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee’s SafeNY initiative also dedicates a page to Distracted Driving, Talking & Texting, with an explanation of the law and tips for avoiding distracted driving.
We’ll Work With You to Fight Distracted Driving
An additional way to fight distracted driving behavior is to hold a distracted driver accountable for any injuries or losses the driver causes.
A driver whose negligence – distracted driving – has caused a car accident may be held liable through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
A civil claim against a distracted driver may request compensation for medical expenses, property damage, lost income, pain and suffering and more. This applies to any form of distracted driving that leads to an accident – not just texting while driving or talking on a cell phone.
An attorney’s investigation into a car accident may demonstrate that driver distraction caused a crash. Evidence may include:
- Police report
- Witness (including passenger) statements
- Cell phone data showing conversations or text transmissions at or near the time of the crash
- Fast-food wrappers and/or time-stamped receipts indicating food purchases prior to the accident (indicating eating or drinking distractions)
Information from the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder (indicating a lack of braking – and lack of attention – just prior to the crash).
An attorney can analyze this evidence, consult with highly qualified experts and establish the best case possible for compensation through a settlement or verdict.
Reckless Driving Accidents
Reckless drivers not only take their own lives in their hands, they also take the lives of all other drivers and passengers on the road. Reckless driving is a common cause of motor vehicle accidents and frequently results in serious bodily injury or death.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, our reckless driving accident lawyers have decades of experience representing those injured in car crashes in Albany, Syracuse, and throughout New York. If you have been hurt by a reckless driver, or have lost a loved one in an accident with a reckless driver, contact our law firm today.
We have achieved significant settlements and verdicts for individuals just like you. Let us put our experience and past successes to work in your case.
What is Reckless Driving in New York?
Reckless driving is a crime in New York State. Our state defines the offense as driving that unreasonably dangers others or interferes “with the free and proper use of the public highway.”
As the most recent New York State car accident statistics show, many types of driving that fall under the definition of “reckless driving” cause accidents, including:
- Driving while distracted (including talking on a cell phone or texting while driving)
- Tailgating (following too close)
- Unsafe speed
- Unsafe lane changing
- Alcohol use (drunk driving)
- Aggressive driving/road rage
- Passing too closely
- Illegal/Prescription drug use (drugged driving)
Other types of reckless driving include illegal road racing, failing to pull over for an emergency vehicle, or driving with a vehicle that is clearly unsafe and should not be on the road.
Our state’s reckless driving law establishes a standard of care that drivers must follow. If a driver violates this law and causes an accident, it can constitute negligence per se or presumed negligence. This is important to know.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm at the hands of a reckless driver, and your injuries and losses allow you to go beyond no-fault insurance coverage, you can seek to recover compensation through that driver’s liability insurance.
This compensation can include coverage of your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering and more. If a driver who has caused your accident is charged with reckless driving, it can help to establish your right to collect these damages.
Can You Seek Punitive Damages in a New York Reckless Driving Accident Case?
Under New York law, punitive damages are allowed in a personal injury lawsuit if you can show that a person who caused your injuries engaged in “willful or wanton negligence or recklessness.”
The different types of driving listed above – from driving while intoxicated to driving while texting – certainly could fall into this category of conduct. So, you could be eligible to recover punitive damages as well if you are harmed by a reckless driver.
Punitive damages are not meant to compensate you for your losses but instead to punish and deter certain misconduct. They can exceed compensatory damages by a significant amount.
Time is of the Essence in New York Car Accident Injury Claims
The sooner you contact us after your reckless driving accident, the sooner our car accident lawyers will be able to get to work on investigating your case and building a comprehensive claim against the driver who harmed you. You can count on Powers & Santola, LLP, to explore all options and seek a maximum recovery for you.
We can also immediately take charge of any communications with your insurance company so you do not have to worry about handling numerous calls. Our goal is to provide you with the dedicated service you need so you can focus on healing and getting your life back on track after the traumatic experience of being harmed by a reckless driver.
Accidents Caused by Defective Parts
Securing Compensation When Vehicle Recalls and Defective Parts Cause Injury
The federal government sets safety standards to define the minimum performance requirements for automotive parts that affect the safe operation of the vehicle, including tires, brakes, gas tanks, and fuel systems.
There are government safety standards for safety features that protect passengers in the event of an accident: air bags, seat belts, and child car seats.
If a safety feature is determined to be defective, the vehicle is usually recalled and the part is replaced (such as the recent recall of many models of Toyota cars). This is the responsibility of the manufacturer but as we’ve seen it can take years for the manufacturer to own up to that responsibility. In the meantime, drivers and passengers in those cars are injured and killed.
The car accident lawyers at Powers & Santola, LLP., have the experience, skill and resources to bring product liability cases through to verdicts. We have been representing seriously injured people since 1987, securing millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients. When you need experienced legal help, contact our upstate New York law office to schedule a free initial consultation. Se Habla Español.
Auto manufacturers and auto part manufacturers can be held financially responsible for injuries caused by defective car parts. This is called a “product liability” lawsuit. These are complex personal injury cases that always involve extensive use of experts in the field — automotive design experts, as well as accident reconstruction experts and medical experts. Our personal injury attorneys can help you seek compensation for:
- Defective seat belts and faulty airbags
- Defective tires
- Defective brakes
- Defectively designed fuel systems or gas tanks
- Defective child car seats
You May Be Able to Sue Multiple Parties
If your accident was caused by another driver’s negligence or reckless driving, we may be able to bring a successful personal injury claim against the other driver. That does not mean you cannot also seek compensation for further injuries resulting from a failed seat belt, an explosive air bag, or a faulty car seat. You may need multiple sources of financial recovery if your injuries or your child’s injuries are severe.
At Powers & Santola, LLP., we look for every possible source of financial recovery for our clients. Serious injuries bring a lifetime of costs that can be a tremendous burden to families. Full compensation can mean the difference between good medical care and stress and hardship. We work to ensure you get the recovery you need.
Call Our Albany Car Accident Attorneys Today
If you have been injured in a car accident in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, or elsewhere in New York State, contact Powers & Santola, LLP. We can provide a free consultation and start an investigation into your crash as soon as possible. We will act quickly to seek the recovery you need and deserve after a car accident