It is no secret that motor vehicle accidents are a huge problem in New York City, with so many people on the roads it is inevitable. All you have to do is open the morning paper or turn on the evening news to be confronted with a seemingly endless stream of stories about pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists who were seriously injured after being hit by a car.
Unfortunately, the New York Police Department rarely launches full investigations into these crashes. Limited funding means that there are only 19 officers on the NYPD’s citywide Accident Investigation Squad. These investigators are called in only when an accident victim dies or is deemed “likely to die.” In nearly all other cases, New York City motor vehicle accidents are not investigated.
In an attempt to better this trend, Transportation Alternatives – a nonprofit group dedicated to improving walking, biking and transit options throughout New York City – has partnered with two City Councilmembers to introduce legislation that aims to overhaul the NYPD’s crash prevention and response strategies.
The Crash Investigation Reform Act would require the NYPD to investigate all accidents that result in serious injuries, even in cases where the victim is expected to survive. In addition, it calls on the NYPD to evaluate and implement new strategies for increasing enforcement of existing traffic laws.
Currently, lax enforcement means that many bad drivers are able to escape criminal liability. For example, Transportation Alternatives reported that although 21 New York City cyclists were killed after being hit by cars in 2011, only two drivers have been arrested.
One of the Act’s biggest proponents is a man whose wife was killed by a suspected intoxicated and unlicensed driver in June 2011. Because the wife was initially expected to survive, police did not investigate the crash. Now, the lack of evidence has led the Brooklyn district attorney to drop charges against the driver.
Proponents say that the city’s accident prevention strategy is also failing. According to the City Council, approximately 60 percent of all pedestrian and cyclist fatalities can be attributed to illegal driving. However, the Act’s sponsors say that the NYPD is not doing enough to crack down on speeding and distracted driving. As evidence, they point to the fact that some precincts in Brooklyn did not issue a single speeding ticket in June 2012.
The act was introduced in late July 2012. It remains to be seen whether it will be passed into law.
The lack of a police presence at New York City motor vehicle accident scenes makes it all the more necessary for victims to seek the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Even if criminal charges are never brought, accident victims have a right to hold negligent drivers accountable in civil court. In a personal injury lawsuit, accident victims can seek compensation for damages including lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering. In the absence of a police investigation, an attorney can work with investigators and accident reconstruction specialists to gather sufficient evidence to prove fault.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a serious traffic accident, a New York City personal injury attorney can help you protect your rights.