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Know Your Rights

Another Driver Failed to Wait His Turn at a Traffic Sign and a Collision Occurred and I Was Injured: What Are My Rights?

New York law places a duty on all drivers to use reasonable care in the operation of their vehicles. This duty requires drivers to not only follow the rules under New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, enacted by the legislature, but also New York’s “common law”—the rules created through cases decided by the courts. A driver may be liable if he breaches these rules of conduct, and as result, causes injuries to another individual.

Car accidents at intersections are very common. This is because intersections by definition involve the interaction of multiple drivers, each making decisions about when to stop, go or yield to another driver. There are typically multiple ways into and out of an intersection, and multiple traffic control devices that may add to the complexity of the decision making process. Intersections are potentially more dangerous when they are controlled only by signs, rather than a traffic control light. Regardless of whether an intersection is controlled by a traffic light or one or more signs, courts have held that all motorists approaching an intersection must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances by exercising caution. (more…)

Does a Landowner Have a Duty to Inspect his Property to Prevent Someone From Being Injured?

Property owners or those paid to maintain the property owe a duty of “reasonable care” to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition for all who enter upon the land. This includes all foreseeable entrants, even trespassers. The duty extends to not allowing dangerous or hazardous conditions to exist. We recently wrote about some of these conditions, particularly when an owner creates a condition on the land which constitutes a “trap”.

This duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition requires that timely and adequate inspections are conducted to determine whether dangerous or hazardous conditions are present. What constitutes a “timely” and “adequate” inspection is up to a jury to decide, within the context of what is “reasonable” under the circumstances. (more…)

Furniture Fell From a Car and Caused My Injuries: What Are My Rights?

Court decisions and the legislature have shaped New York law, including laws governing the conduct of motorists. It is well established that motorists owe a duty to others in and around the roadway to use reasonable care under the circumstances in the operation of his vehicle. This duty extends beyond safe operation of a motor vehicle, to keeping the road free from dangerous objects and debris.

One problem many drivers encounter is debris on the road. Sometimes this debris is present as the result of natural events, such as fallen branches following a storm. However, sometimes the presence of debris or objects results from human action — particularly other motorists. Large objects, such as furniture, can pose an immediate and significant hazard to motorists who sometimes have only seconds to avoid a collision with the object. When this situation occurs and is the cause of injury following a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. (more…)

I Fell Into a Hidden Hazard on Someone’s Property and Was Injured: Is the Landowner Liable?

Saratoga Springs injury lawyerLandowners owe a duty of reasonable care to all visitors who come onto their land. The duty extends to the prevention of “foreseeable harm” to visitors, and includes not just landowners, but also to any person in possession of the land (e.g., renters or lessees), as well as those who maintain it (e.g., building managers). When a visitor is injured due to a dangerous condition about which the landowner knew or should have known, the visitor may be entitled to compensation for his injuries.

The duty of reasonable care includes the responsibility of the landowner not to create or maintain on his property hidden dangers, which a visitor would not see. Courts have also defined a “trap” as an artificially created, dangerous — but deceptively innocent instrumentality or condition on the land. The major distinction between a dangerous condition and a trap is that a trap is both deceptive in appearance and deliberately created or constructed by the landowner or his agent. For example, in Mayer v. Temple Properties, a landowner has found negligent and liable for injuries where a deep pit was covered with a flimsy material incapable of supporting the weight of a child, but which gave a deceptive appearance of safety. (more…)

My Car Was Rear-ended and I Was Injured. The Other Driver Claims His Brakes Failed: What Are My Rights?

It is well-established that a driver owes other drivers, pedestrians or bicyclists on the roadway a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances in the operation of his vehicle. This duty is established by common law (law created through past court decisions) and by statutory law (by the legislature), and broadly speaking embodies principles of common sense and the use of one’s good judgment when driving. When a motorist breaches this duty and causes injury to another, he faces being found to be negligent and may be liable for damages to fairly compensate the injured person.

One of the most common types of car accidents is the so-called “rear ender.” This involves the situation where one car strikes another car from behind, usually because the second driver was following too closely, travelling too fast, distracted or under the influence or alcohol or drugs. New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1129 governs rear-end collisions, and provides that the driver “not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.” We previously wrote about rear-end collisions, and invite you to learn more about this topic by reading this article. (more…)

I Slipped and Fell and Was Injured on Church Property: Can a Religious Institution be Held Legally Responsible?

New York law requires all property owners and those who possess or maintain such property (collectively referred to in this article as “property owners”) to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances to prevent harm to foreseeable persons who enter their property. This duty extends to all persons – from invited guests, to business patrons, and even to trespassers in some situations.

The duty to prevent foreseeable harm includes the following:

  • Slip and falls – on water, ice or snow, or other slippery substance;
  • Defective stairs – such as resulting from substandard design or construction, or poor maintenance;
  • Unsafe floor surfaces – by example: frayed carpeting, flooring with gaps or large holes;
  • Trip and falls on uneven sidewalks, deteriorated concrete, potholes, or from foreign objects such as items for sale or repair equipment.

If a property owner has either created the dangerous condition, or has actual knowledge or constructive notice of it (i.e., the condition has been present for such period of time that the owner had an opportunity to correct and failed to do so), he may be liable for injury occurring from a slip and fall as a result of the condition. (more…)

Another Driver Gestured for Me To Go And I Was Injured: What Are My Rights?

We have all done it and we have all been in a situation where another driver gestured for us to go ahead– signaling it’s safe for us to pull out, to make a turn, or to cross the street. It is something we encounter often—to be courteous–commonplace in our daily lives.

But what if the gesture is followed by an accident because it actually wasn’t safe for the person who followed the signal, and an injury occurs? Should the person who gestures be held liable because the other driver or pedestrian had a right to rely upon his motioning to proceed? Or is the gesturer not legally responsible because the decision to proceed was up to the other person? These are important questions and the answers may surprise you.

It is settled law that in traffic the party who does not have the right-of-way has the duty to yield or stop for traffic which has the right-of-way. A basic example– a driver going straight has the right-of-way at an intersection where another driver desires to make a left-turn across his lane of travel. Now assume that the driver with the right-of-way gestures for the other driver to make his left hand turn, not realizing that another car, proceeding in the lane next to the gesturing driver, is approaching the intersection and then collides with the driver making the left hand turn. Who is legally responsible for the accident? (more…)

I Fell and Was Injured on Outdoor Stairs: What Are My Rights?

Property owners and those who maintain property (referred to in this article as “property owners”) owe all persons on their property a duty of “reasonable care” under New York law. This means that the owner must take maintain the premises to prevent foreseeable harm to persons who come upon his land. While historically the rights of the injured person depended upon his “status” (i.e., invitee, trespasser, etc.), as a result of the 1976 decision by New York’s highest court—the Court of Appeals—in Basso v. Miller  a more flexible standard allows the jury to determine what is reasonable- there are no longer categories of users that define the standard of care owed based upon their “status.”

The duty to use reasonable care extends throughout the entire property, including to outside stairs, porches, or similar areas. The failure to do so may expose the property owner to legal liability for injuries that result from an Albany trip and fall occurring on outside stairs, the subject of this blog.

The property owner must maintain outdoor stairs to be free of defects that he knows or should know about based upon a reasonable inspection of the premises. This means that such things as visible cracks in stairs that could cause a fall, or that should put the owner on notice that it could collapse, a broken handrail, debris on the stairs, worn out or loose coverings (eg. Carpet, friction strips, etc.), risers not conforming to code, or other similar defects must be repaired. Further, in the winter—the presence of ice or snow that isn’t removed or properly treated may also create liability for the property owner. (more…)

I Fell Into a Hole on Someone’s Property and Was Injured: What Are My Rights?

Perhaps one of the foremost rights of being a property owner is the right to decide who comes onto the property. However, to exclude persons if he desires, the landowner is not required to fence the premises. Nor is the owner of land obligated to fence off portions of the property to protect entrants from obvious minor conditions which exist, if it is known or open and obvious.

However, the property owner must use “reasonable care” in the maintenance of his premises, so as not to create, nor allow to exist, a condition that constitutes a “defect” or “hazard” to those who may come upon the land. This is the standard of care articulated long ago by New York courts—including the highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals— which property owners, those in possession or control or who maintain owe to entrants onto the land. This applies to all who enter, whether invited guests or unknown trespassers. The standard is flexible, however, and allows the jury to decide what is “reasonable” on the part of the owner, possessor, or maintainer based upon the circumstances. Further, the standard allows for the determination of whether the accident or occurrence was “reasonably foreseeable.”

Turning to the issue of how fencing of one’s property may impact legal responsibility for an accident, there are certain circumstances where the use of fencing would lead to injury—and therefore legal liability– as a result of the landowner’s or possessor’s negligence. For instance, if there is a hole in the fence through which individuals are known to enter, and if this causes the entrant to immediately encounter a hazard which the owner knows or should know exists, this could result in a finding of negligence. In one New York case, the court found the landowner liable for the plaintiff’s injuries where the landowner failed to connect his fence with his neighbor’s fence, thus leaving a narrow gap between them, as a result of which the plaintiff was injured due to a hazard within that gap. (more…)

I Was Injured When My Car Was Struck Because the Other Driver Didn’t Have His Lights On: What Are My Rights?

car accident injuriesDrivers of cars and trucks owe a legal duty to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians to use “reasonable care” when driving that is commensurate with the care used by other drivers under similar circumstances. Failing to do so is negligent and may result in liability for injuries caused by the failure to do so. Determining whether or not a driver negligently operated his vehicle is normally a factual inquiry to be decided by a jury. The issue is sometimes determined “as a matter of law”, meaning that the conduct was so clear as to be capable of being determined by a judge. The conduct may be assessed under statute (legislature made law), under “common law” (a body of law created through decisions in other cases), or by a combination of both.

When a driver is found to have violated a statute, he may be found negligent based solely on such violation. In other words, the violation of a statute in and of itself is sometimes sufficient to sustain a finding of negligence, known as negligence per se. This includes conduct such as speeding, running a red light, or failing to yield the right of way. Another common example of negligence per se is when the driver fails to use his headlights while driving at night. Injury caused as a result of failing to use headlights can bring about liability. This issue also applies to dim or broken lights, whether they are headlights or taillights.  (more…)