The Syracuse Post Standard reports that a Syracuse man, Harold Field, died Friday from auto accident injuries suffered in a three-car collision at the intersection of Stump Road and State Street Road in Skaneateles. The newspaper reports Field had injured his head, pelvis and leg in the accident. Field was driving east on Stump Road when he failed to stop at a stop sign and struck a vehicle driven by Shawn McLaughlin of Auburn, New York, which was traveling south on State Street Road. The crash forced McLaughlin’s car into the path of another car, driven by Matthew Virkler of Baldwinsville, who was traveling north on State Street Road.
Legal questions arise from this tragic accident.
First, can Harlod Field’s family bring a claim for wrongful death? Almost certainly not. Since Field was at fault for failing to observe or obey the stop sign, his estate (family) has no claim against anyone for wrongful death. Nevertheless, Field’s no-fault insurance policy will pay any medical expenses incurred before he died up to $50,000 pursuant to New York no-fault law as well as the standard $2,000 no-fault death benefit.
Second, is Field’s estate, and his insurance carrier, liable to the other two innocent drivers for their injuries and car damage? Almost certainly. Since Field was at fault, the other two injured drivers will have valid claims against his estate and his insurance carrier for pain and suffering and any medical expenses and lost wages not covered by no-fault.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about another local car accident caused by the failure to obey a stop sign. Driver inattentiveness is usually the cause, though sometimes the insurance companies for the drivers who ignored a stop sign attempt to avoid responsibility by claiming that the stop sign was obscured by bushes or trees, or by claiming that sun glare prevented their insured from seeing the sign.
Stop signs only work, obviously, if people see them and obey them. In the U.S., more than 40,000 people die in car crashes each year. It is the leading cause of death for people under 40 years old. On average of 112 people die each day in car crashes in the U.S. Many of these deaths happen at intersections because a driver failed to observe a traffic control device (red light, stop sign, yield sign, etc.).
Pay attention when driving, especially at intersections. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by telephones or other electronic devices. Keep your eyes on the road. Be safe.