Spring is Here, But Sidewalks Still Pose a Danger in New York City

This time of year can be especially treacherous on New York City sidewalks. Not only does the threat of slippery snow continue to exist, but the warmer temps of March can melt the snow only for it to freeze as glare ice during the night. Moreover, this constant thawing and freezing process can make sidewalks buckle and break, often leaving large holes and cracks in the sidewalk. All of these factors taken together can make this time of year one of the most dangerous for New York sidewalk accidents.

Given the potentially severe injuries that can occur from sidewalk accidents, it is important to know who can be held liable for your injuries if you unfortunately fall on a poorly maintained or slippery sidewalk.

Who is Responsible for Fixing and Cleaning NYC Sidewalks?

The legal concept of holding New York property owners and occupiers legally responsible for accidents that occur on their property is commonly known as “premise liability.” The liability of property owners varies greatly depending where the accident actually occurs – different property owners owe different duties to those on their property.

In the case of sidewalks in New York City, property owners whose property abuts the sidewalk may be held liable for injuries on that sidewalk resulting from defects in the sidewalk if the property owner creates the defect or causes it to occur because of a special use, OR, if a statute or ordinance create liability.

In the past, the City of New York was the party most often held responsible for sidewalk defects, but that all changed with the passage of a New York City Administrative Code section – specifically NYC Administrative Code section 7-210, which created liability by ordinance.

Section 7-210 effectively shifted tort liability from the City to the abutting property owner for injuries caused by the owner’s failure to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition. The code section specifically says that failure to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition includes “the negligent failure to install, construct, reconstruct, repave, repair or replace defective sidewalk flags and the negligent failure to remove snow, ice, dirt or other material from the sidewalk.”

As is quite clear from the language of the ordinance, a property owner may be held liable for not only failing to clear away snow and ice but also when they fail to adequately repair the sidewalk when it is unreasonably damaged. However, it is important to note that this ordinance does not apply to one-, two- or three-family homes that are owner occupied and used exclusively for residential purposes. In those situations, it is still possible for the City of New York to be liable for the injuries occurring on dangerously maintained sidewalks.

When Can Single Family Homes be Liable for Sidewalk Injuries?

Even though owner occupied residences of less than four units are not held liable by the NYC Administrative Code section, that does not mean the they can never be responsible for poorly maintained or slippery sidewalks – the creation of the ordinance didn’t erase all of the law regarding these homes that existed prior to the ordinance.

One-, two- and three-family homes can still be held liable for injuries that occurred on the abutting sidewalk if they created the dangerous condition or defect, or caused it to occur because of some special use of the sidewalk.

For example, if an abutting property owner breaks chunks out of the sidewalk by driving vehicles or special equipment on the sidewalk they can be held liable for any injury that occurs because of those missing pieces, even if it is a single family home. Also, if the abutting property owner throws water out onto the sidewalk, only for it to freeze, they can also be potentially liable for any injuries that occur because of the ice.

As for liability being attached by special use, imagine a property owner who installs and embeds a water shut-off valve for their private residence in the sidewalk abutting their property. If someone has an accident because of that valve, the property owner may be held responsible.

As this article illustrates, liability for sidewalk accidents is quite complicated in New York City – with even the slightest variation in circumstances leading to a completely different result. If anything, these complex legal issues only further the need to contact an experienced personal injury attorney if you have been injured in a sidewalk accident.

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New York City Sidewalk Injuries: Who’s Responsible?

Property owners in New York City are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks in front of their buildings. When they fail to adequately care for their sidewalks, they become liable for the injuries that pedestrians suffer.

Several years ago, the city signed two bills into law that reduce the city’s liability for someone’s injuries occurring from a defective or poorly maintained sidewalk and place that responsibility upon the owner.

The Adjoining Landowner Liability Bill forces property owners to maintain sidewalks in front of and adjoining their buildings. They also have to remove ice and snow during the winter. While most residential owners of one, two or three-family units are exempt, every other property owner has to maintain their property or face fines and personal liability for people who suffer sidewalk injuries. Some of the sidewalk conditions created by neglect or carelessness include:

  • Sidewalk cracks
  • Uneven or raised pavement
  • Broken pavement
  • Loose bricks in walkways
  • Grating that can catch a heel, walker or cane
  • Flat-lying metal doors that are higher or lower than the sidewalk’s level

Actions to Take when Injured on a NYC Sidewalk

Whether your sidewalk injury takes place in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, or Staten Island there are some basic steps you should take to ensure that the responsible parties are held liable:

  • Get medical attention: Call 911 if you believe your sidewalk injury may be serious.
  • Look for the cause: what caused your fall? Pay attention as to what specifically caused you to fall. Was it a defect in the sidewalk itself, or was the fall caused by snow, ice or oil on the sidewalk surface?
  • Document your surroundings: If you have a camera or cell phone available take plenty of pictures of the apparent cause or causes of the fall. Also, periodically photograph your injuries.
  • Record witness info: Write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of any people who witnessed your sidewalk injury. They may provide important evidence to aid in obtaining compensation for your injuries.
  • Contact an attorney: A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, resulting disabilities and pain and suffering caused by the sidewalk accident.

Whether your sidewalk injury resulted from a slip, trip or fall, you need to act fast if you want compensation. New York’s laws only allow injured people a limited period of time to bring an action for damages. Most importantly, you may have to file preliminary papers (notice of claim) and failure to do so may bar a later lawsuit.

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Battle of the Sexes: Who are New York City’s Dangerous Drivers?

There are plenty of old jokes about female drivers – they should not be told by New York City men. Recent research from the New York City Department of Transportation reveals that pedestrians need to be more concerned about male drivers than their female counterparts. In 80 percent of New York City accidents involving pedestrian deaths or injuries, a male driver was behind the wheel.

The study also debunked another New York traffic myth. Taxicabs surprisingly accounted for only 16 percent of pedestrian accidents, despite making up half of New York City traffic during working hours.

Pedestrians face the greatest risk of being injured between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., with 40 percent of pedestrian crashes occurring during these hours. Pedestrian/vehicle accidents between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. are more likely to result in pedestrian fatalities, however. The most dangerous months for pedestrians were November and December. The report attributed this to increased pedestrian traffic because of holiday shopping and shorter daylight hours. Left-hand turns across crosswalks accounted for three times the pedestrian fatalities as right-hand turns. Overall, 256 traffic fatalities were reported in New York City last year.

How can a pedestrian avoid becoming one of these statistics? The NYCDOT provides some tips:

  • Give yourself the most time to cross by waiting for a newly turned green or walk signal.
  • Stop and look in all directions before you cross. Keep scanning for vehicles as you cross.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, use reflective material, carry a flashlight and hold your hand up high: Do whatever it takes to make yourself more visible to drivers.

If you are a pedestrian injured by a negligent motorist, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

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Insuring Your Car in Queens: How Are Your Rates Calculated?

Factors Influencing Car Insurance Premiums

The cost of your car insurance premiums is based on a number of factors:

  • Age: Drivers under 25 have the most accidents. The safest drivers are generally between the ages of 50 and 65.
  • Gender: Women tend to be safer drivers than men.
  • Marital Status: A married person is considered to be more stable and pays lower premiums than a single person with an identical driving record.
  • Driving Record: Having a history of accidents and/or moving violations places you at greater risk of future accidents and results in higher insurance premiums. However, as your driving record improves, your insurance premiums become lower.
  • Credit Rating: If you have a poor credit history or no credit history, insurance companies may see you as a higher risk and may charge you higher rates.
  • Occupation and Vehicle Use: If you have a job that requires you to use your vehicle frequently or drive significant distances regularly you may be at greater risk of accidents and therefore subject to higher insurance premiums. Anti-theft devices may help to lower your insurance costs.
  • Where You Live: Where you live, drive and park your car may be the biggest determining factor in how much insurance you will pay. People who live in areas with little or no traffic pay less than those who live in congested areas with lots of traffic, car thefts and accidents. Even the cost of medical care in your area may affect the amount of your insurance premiums.

Comparing Queens to Other New York City Boroughs

In the five boroughs, car insurance rates are based on factors such as population density, the number of automobiles, rates of car theft and traffic congestion. Brooklyn has the highest car insurance rates, with an average annual premium of $3,550.47 followed by the Bronx at $3,022.40. Queens ranks third, at $2,549.69. Queens is the second most populous borough after Brooklyn and has a lower population density. Its rate of automobile theft is less than half that of Brooklyn. However, other factors serve to keep Queens car insurance rates relatively high. The borough houses two of the world’s busiest airports, JFK and LaGuardia, which increases vehicle use and traffic congestion in the borough. In addition, Citifield, where the New York Mets play, is also located in Queens. Within the borough of Queens, your neighborhood or zip code may also affect your insurance rates based on population, traffic congestion and the number of automobile thefts. For example, the average annual insurance rate in zip code 11106 is $2868 while the average annual premium in zip code 11412 is $3233.

Contact the Orlow Firm

If you have any questions, please contact the New York car accident attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free consultation by calling (646) 647-3398.

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Car Insurance: The Very Basics

The Minimum Insurance Coverage Required by New York State Law

As personal injury attorneys, we at The Orlow Firm urge all Queens residents to become educated consumers when it comes to car insurance coverage. In this article, we provide information as to the absolute minimum insurance coverage required by state law. In our next article, Car Insurance: How Much is Enough?, we strongly advise you to consider obtaining coverage above the minimum requirements levels.

In-State Insurance Coverage

You must have New York State-issued automobile liability insurance in order to register a vehicle in New York State. Failure to maintain this coverage can result in suspension of your vehicle registration and driver’s license. Even if you don’t use your vehicle, your insurance coverage must remain in effect while your registration is still valid. Your auto insurance policy must be issued in the name of the vehicle registrant, and remain in the name of the registrant at all times. In addition, your car insurance coverage must be issued by a company that is licensed by the NYS Department of Financial Services and certified by the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles. Auto insurance coverage from out-of-state is not acceptable.

Basic Coverage

In the event of an automobile accident, basic coverage provides reimbursement for medical procedures, lost earnings and other reasonable expenses, property damage, and death benefit payable to the estate of the person affected.

At the very least you must have the following coverage:

  • $10,000 for property damage for a single accident
  • $25,000 for bodily injury and $50,000 for death for a person involved in an accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for death for two or more people in an accident
  • $50,000 mandatory no-fault insurance

No-Fault Coverage

The purpose of no-fault coverage is to provide prompt payment of benefits regardless of who was at fault and whether or not the accident involved negligence. Lawsuits may be brought only for economic losses that exceed the no-fault coverage limits, for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, or for “serious injury” as defined by New York State Insurance Law. No-fault coverage provides personal injury protection and does not pay for damage to your property or vehicle.

Reducing the Cost of Car Insurance

Here are some the ways you can reduce the cost of your car insurance: accident prevention courses, automatic seat belts or air bags, factory-installed anti-lock braking systems (ABS), anti-theft devices (alarm systems, ignition cut-off devices and certain electronic tracking systems), factory-installed daytime running lamps, driver training for persons under age 21, “careful driver” or “accident-free” discounts, and multi-car discounts.

Contact the Orlow Firm

If you have any questions, contact the Queens car accident attorneys at The Orlow Firm for a free consultation at (646) 647-3398.

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