Wrong Way Accidents
Wrong way accidents are a particular problem in Westchester County, New York, where we have our main offices in White Plains, New York. The most tragic and severe example occurred in July of 2009, when Diane Schuler, who was driving while intoxicated (more than twice the legal limit) with a blood alcohol level of 0.19, drove southbound in the northbound lanes of the Taconic near Hawthorne, NY, with her three nieces and young son and daughter in the vehicle. The tremendous collision killed Schuler, her three young nieces, and her daughter, (only her then five year old son survived the crash) and three men in the northbound left lane. The Schuler tragedy was followed in short order by several other wrong way drivers on the Taconic. Fortunately, however, these other drivers did not cause any harm to others but certainly struck fear in many drivers on the correct side of the highway!
Wrong way accidents generally result in some of the most serious injuries and fatalities, as the combined speed of the vehicles (In the Schuler case it is estimated that the vehicles collided at well over 100 mph) leaves virtually no time for the drivers to brake or for take other evasive maneuvers. The forces of the impact and the substantial intrusion into the occupant compartments of both vehicles, regardless of the use of seatbelts and airbag deployment frequently result in catastrophic injuries.
In addition to drivers who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, there are numerous other contributing factors which can result in wrong way accidents. For example, the Taconic Parkway in particular has many entrances and exits with signage that is somewhat confusing, especially at night, with inexperienced or elderly drivers who have difficulty with their sight, or is harder to visualize because of inadequate lighting. Other reasons for wrong way accidents are vegetation or overgrown trees which obscure signs, (especially in the spring and summer months), distracted drivers who are on their cell phones, texting, sending emails, paying attention to children, operating GPS devices or the car stereo.
Municipalities have tried different options to prevent drivers from entering roadways in the wrong direction, including posting “Wrong Way—Go Back” signs along exit ramps, which are also sometimes illuminated, and lighted arrows pointed in the opposite direction to warn drivers of their mistake.
When our office is retained by clients who have been injured due to the negligence of a wrong way driver, we act immediately to secure critical evidence wherever possible, such as roadway debris, photographs of skid marks and other tire markings, and identifying any and all witnesses to the accident, documented on the police report or not. We will obtain traffic studies through Freedom of Information requests, particularly in cases such as on the Taconic, knowing that there have been prior accidents and near misses. We often retain the services of engineers or other experts who can establish the reasons for the accident, examine whether the design of the roadway or the signage was defective, measure the forces exerted on the occupants of the vehicle, and in some cases, identify additional defendants that bear potential responsibility for the accident, such as contractors hired by the State to assist in roadway design and construction.
At the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel, in the Bronx, White Plains, and Peekskill, New York, we have successfully represented numerous clients throughout the State of New York who suffered injuries in wrong way accidents, due to the negligence of other drivers, municipalities, and sometimes those who are responsible to keep signs unobstructed from vegetation and trees. We quickly and aggressively attempt to determine all possible parties that are responsible for our clients’ damages, including past and future pain and suffering, past and future medical and hospital expenses, past and future lost earnings, loss of earnings potential, and loss of the ability to perform activities of daily living. Contact the knowledgeable and experienced lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark A. Siesel for a free consultation to discuss your potential case in detail. Contact us at (914) 428-7386 or online.