Keogh Crispi
Call Us Today For A Free Consultation
212-518-2417

Chain Reaction Crashes and Proximate Cause Under the Law

In a city the size of New York, you can expect car accidents to happen on a daily basis. With millions of residents traveling every which way virtually around-the-clock, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made that lead to collisions. In fact, with such crowded streets and area highways, it is not uncommon for a single mistake to ensnare many travelers at once.

For example, just this week, Major Deegan Expressway was shut down following a ten-car crash early in the morning as many commuters were headed to work. As reported by the NY Daily News, the accident struck in the southbound lanes near Mosholu Parkway. Few details about this particular accident have yet been reported. But at least two people were brought to a local hospital for their injuries

Who Is At Fault?

Under general negligence rules in the civil law, individuals are responsible for the harm caused by their negligence. In most car accident cases, the damage for which a negligent driver is responsible is straightforward. For example, if one car runs a stop sign and slams into another car, then the driver who ran the sign can be required to pay for the other party's medical bills, lost wages, property damage, pain and suffering, and other losses arising from the accident.

But what about accident that involve dozens of vehicles? Is one person responsible for all of it? The answer, as with so much in the law, is: It Depends. A driver in a chain reaction accident can be held responsible for all the damages that were actually and proximately caused by his negligence.

"Actual" cause is usually easy to prove. That simply means that if the individual had not acted negligently (i.e. sped on the highway and lost control of the car) then none of the other damage would have arisen. In a chain reaction case, there is usually one single act that causes all of the damage (though other drivers may have contributed to the harm in some way, perhaps by following too closely).

Beyond actual damages, "proximate" cause must also be shown. Proximate cause usually means that the injury must have been reasonably foreseen as a risk of the negligence. The most famous legal case discussing this principle is from the Court of Appeals of New York, Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad.

These issues can be complex, but, in general, the requirement of showing proximate cause may limit particularly unique or bizarre damages in a chain reaction case. For example, it is likely foreseeable that speeding on a busy highway could cause a chain reaction that damages many cars and personal injuries. However, if a pedestrian is walking down the street, startled by the car accident, and has a heart attack from the shock, that may not be enough to show proximate cause. In other words, just because the negligence actually caused an injury (the heart attack) does not necessarily mean that the one who caused the accident can be held liable. The heart attack was not reasonably foreseeable.

NYC Car Accident Lawyers

If you were injured in a New York City car accident and have questions about your legal rights, please contact the legal professionals at Keogh Crispi, P.C. for guidance and counsel. Our team of NYC accident attorneys serve residents throughout the city, from Manhattan and Brooklyn to the Bronx and Queens. You can give us a call at any time at 212-818-0600 or send us a message online to share your story and see how we can help.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • Rated by super lawyers pat james crispi
  • New York's top verdicts & settlements
  • New york county nycla lawyers association
  • new york city bar
  • american association for justice
  • NYSBA

Find Our New York Office Location

521 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1740
New York, NY 10175

Phone: 212-518-2417
Fax: 212-818-0180
Map & Directions

Review Us

Attorney Advertising