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New York Court Discusses Municipal Liability for Car Accidents

Car accidents are generally caused, at least in part, by negligent driving. Other factors may cause or contribute to bringing about collisions as well, though. For example, if a road suffers from an unsafe design, it may increase the likelihood of crashes or increase the severity of injuries suffered in a crash. Whether the party that designed a road can be held accountable for harm suffered in an accident depends on numerous factors, as discussed in a recent New York opinion issued in a case arising out of a fatal accident. If you lost a loved one in a car crash, it is advisable to confer with a trusted Syracuse car accident lawyer to assess what claims you may be able to assert in pursuit of damages.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the decedent suffered fatal injuries when he was riding as a passenger in the defendant driver’s vehicle. The police report indicated that the deadly accident occurred when the defendant driver, who was intoxicated, struck the curb on an exit ramp, which caused him to lose control of the vehicle, hit a guard rail, and then crash into numerous storefronts. The plaintiff, who was the administrator of the decedent’s estate, commenced claims against the driver and the municipal entities that designed the ramp where the accident occurred. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged the municipal parties negligently planned and designed the ramp, which created a dangerous condition. The municipal entities moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the motion. The plaintiff appealed.

Liability for Negligently  Designed Roadways

Under New York law, municipalities owe a duty to the public to keep their streets in a relatively safe condition. In evaluating whether a municipality upholds this duty, the courts respect the planning and decision-making functions of a municipality. As such, the municipalities are granted qualified immunity from liability arising out of a highway planning decision.

Pursuant to the doctrine of qualified immunity, a municipality will not be deemed liable for a decision made regarding a highway safety plan unless its study of the traffic condition is blatantly inadequate or there is no rational basis for the plan. In the subject case, the court found that the municipal parties met their burden of proving they were entitled to qualified immunity from liability arising out of the planning and design of the subject ramp. Additionally, the municipal parties proved that they created or worsened a dangerous condition. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Knowledgeable Syracuse Lawyer

Car accidents can frequently cause devastating harm, and in some instances, such injuries are insurmountable. If you lost a loved one in a collision, you might be able to seek compensation from multiple parties, and you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The knowledgeable Syracuse attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can assess the circumstances surrounding the accident and offer you advice regarding what damages you may be able to recover. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to set up a meeting.


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