The young Manhattan man killed in a wrong-way accident in Brooklyn in July was the victim of a drunk driver. That’s not unusual. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), 69% of wrong-way drivers involved in fatal collisions across a six-year period were legally intoxicated. The vast majority of those intoxicated drivers had blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15% or greater.
Of course, many other factors contribute to wrong-way accidents, including unfamiliarity with the area, poorly marked one-way streets or entrance / exit ramps and other driver impairments such as distracted driving and fatigue. While these contributing factors are diverse, the vast majority of accidents of this type occur as the result of negligence.
Wrong-way traffic accidents aren’t common: about 300-400 people are killed in wrong-way crashes each year. However, these accidents are particularly dangerous, as they often result in head-on collisions at relatively high rates of speed. If you’ve been injured in a wrong-way traffic crash or have lost a loved one because another driver was traveling the wrong way on a one-way street or in the wrong lane of traffic, your next step should be to contact an experienced New York car accident lawyer.
Liability for Wrong-Way Traffic Accidents
When assessing liability for a wrong-way traffic accident, the driver who was traveling in the wrong direction or the wrong lane of traffic is the most obvious candidate for legal responsibility. And, in fact, the vast majority of wrong-way drivers will be deemed at least partially responsible—knowingly or not, a driver traveling the wrong way down a one-way street, in the wrong lane of traffic, or in the wrong direction on an on-ramp or off-ramp is violating traffic regulations.
However, the right New York wrong-way accident attorney will investigate the circumstances of the accident to determine whether there may be additional responsible parties. For example, if the crash was partially due to poorly-designed or poorly-marked roadways or ramps, the governmental entity responsible for design and maintenance of the road may be partially responsible.
A wrong-way crash victim or the surviving family members of a driver or passenger killed in a wrong-way collision can’t afford to overlook additional parties who may share responsibility. First, the existence of other potentially liable parties may affect the victim’s ability to recover from the wrong-way driver. The driver’s insurance company may be less willing to enter into a fair settlement if there is another potentially responsible party. And, if the case against the driver proceeds to trial, the judge or jury may apportion responsibility to another party, such as the governmental entity responsible for the road, even though that entity isn’t a party to the lawsuit. When that happens, total compensation can be significantly reduced.
In addition, wrong-way accidents are often very serious or fatal. Many New York drivers carry only the minimum coverage required under state law, which may be inadequate to compensate the victim for his or her injuries. Identifying other potentially responsible parties can help ensure that the victim has access to compensation that is adequate to cover medical expenses and provide a foundation for rebuilding after a serious injury or the loss of a loved one.
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