It was a typical rush hour morning on Wednesday, when a Long Island train full of passengers crashed into the end of a platform as it was pulling into one of New York’s busiest stations: the Atlantic Terminal. The front portion of the train apparently hit a bumping block while going above 10 mph (in a 5 mph zone), causing the train to derail and smash into a small structure. Passengers were hurled onto the floor and into each other.
It is no secret that motorcycles can be very dangerous for their operators no matter how hard you try to drive one safely. In fact, there were more than 4,000 motorcycle crashes reported to police in New York in 2014 alone. Injuries are usually the result of direct impact between the driver and the other vehicle or pavement because it is not an enclosed vehicle equipped with safety measures in case of an accident. Due in part to their small and quick nature, motorcycles are also often less visible on roadways, especially during poor weather. They are generally less stable than a regular automobile, too. However, regardless of the myriad of reasons that motorcycles can be dangerous, motorcyclists have the right to travel the streets safely and without being injured by other traffic, though the laws governing motorcycles and other vehicles are different.
Before the Thanksgiving holiday we began discussing a new topic on the blog – our recent experiences representing clients on claims of wrongful arrest. We continue the discussion this week by considering the applicable legal standard for deciding these cases.
Under New York law, an individual will prevail on a claim of wrongful or false arrest if he/she can show that the arrest was not privileged, meaning the arrest was not based on probable cause. In New York, probable cause to arrest exists when the officers have knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a crime.
Lately, it seems like every time we turn on the news we hear another story in which law enforcement officers are alleged to have responded with excessive force or otherwise acted inappropriately in the line of duty. We’ve been witness to a series of tragic incidents nationwide involving fatal shootings by police of unarmed teenagers, which have made us aware of the grave dimensions of the problem.
As these stories have received more attention and news coverage, claims of police misconduct have also become a more frequent occurrence in my legal practice. In the last year alone I have fielded dozens of inquiries from people about potential claims that their rights have been violated by a law enforcement officer — far more than any previous period in my career. Most of the calls I receive are those relating to “excessive force” claims – that is injuries sustained as a result of an arrest and/or interrogation by someone involved in law enforcement. Over the course of the next few weeks I am going to address this topic here on my blog.
Last week I received a call from a current client regarding the unexpected death of his brother who was involved in a terrible car accident. My client’s brother was 41 years old, married, and had 3 children. The entire family seemed to be in a state of shock and my client was calling to ask if there was anything I might be able to do to help.
It’s important to understand that there are limits to what can be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit when a close family member has died in an accident. The specifics of the accident are not important to the point I am making here – this is not a question of who is at fault, or how the accident happened. It is a matter of properly understanding what it means to bring a lawsuit for ‘wrongful death’ and what types of damages can be recovered.
Simply stated, money damages in a wrongful death lawsuit under New York law are limited to pecuniary loss with respect to the injuries suffered by the victim; there is no remedy for the sadness and despair that a family member feels when someone close to them dies.
I think the reason people sometimes get confused is because they hear that a lawsuit allows a plaintiff to recover damages for pain and suffering. Pain and suffered can be included as damages in a personal injury lawsuit but this only covers or refers to the pain and suffering directly experienced by the accident victim. In the case of an accident, pain and suffering would only be included in a damage award if the victim had any awareness of the injury prior to death. [Read more…]