Court finds city can be held liable for deadly street design

New York's top court has ruled that municipalities can be held liable for failing to redesign dangerous streets.

New York state's top court, the Court of Appeal, has ruled that the City of New York is at least partially to blame for a serious accident because it failed to improve the design of a notoriously dangerous street in Brooklyn, according to Curbed. The court found the city 40 percent liable in the case concerning a 12-year-old boy who was put into a coma after being struck by a speeding motorist. Residents and numerous studies had warned the stretch of street where the accident had occurred was dangerous and prone to speeders.

Accident involving speeding driver

The case centers on an accident that occurred in 2004. Back then a 12-year-old boy was riding his bike along Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn when he was struck by a car going 54 mph in a 30 mph zone. The accident left the boy with multiple skull fractures, put him into a coma, and left him with physical and mental impairments that he continues to suffer from.

While the driver in the case pleaded guilty to assault, the family of the boy argued that the city was also partly responsible for failing to make necessary safety improvements to the street. They appealed their case to the state's top court.

A dangerous street

Gerritsen Avenue had long been the source of complaints by local residents. As the Gothamist reports, Gerritsen Beach residents had warned officials about the street attracting drag-racers and having a persistent problem with speeders. The city's Department of Transportation carried out four studies of the street between 2002 and 2004 and in each study concluded that speeding was a problem that law enforcement alone would not be able to solve. Despite those reports, the DOT failed to implement traffic calming measures that would have reduced speeding along the road. Because of that lack of action, the state's top court found the municipality 40 percent liable for the accident that injured the 12-year-old boy.

After the 2004 accident, the city did reduce Gerritsen Avenue to a three-lane road down from a four-lane road. However, that redesign has not helped matters much. Between 2007 and 2016, for example, the same street saw four fatalities and numerous injuries. The street is so dangerous that it has even been given the nickname the 'Boulevard of Death' by locals. It was only with the death of a 17-year-old cyclist in July that the city finally heeded calls to fully redesign the street and to introduce a protected bike lane along it.

Personal injury law

For those who have been injured in a traffic accident, including pedestrians and cyclists who have been struck by speeding or reckless drivers, it is important to reach out to a personal injury attorney. An accident can cause not just physical and mental injuries, but it often leads to financial hardship as well. An experienced attorney can help clients pursue any claims for compensation that they may be entitled to so that they can recover from their accident faster and with greater peace of mind.