Swept Off My Wheels

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Q: One morning, in New York City, while pulling out from the right curb of a one-way street, I was rear-ended by a street sweeper.  The sweeper was going at a very high rate of speed.  My car was hit hard; it span out 180 degrees, so much that the car’s front now faced backwards.

The operator says that, no, I was making a sudden move from the middle lane of the street towards the right curb, and that he was going at a normal rate of speed.  He says that I suddenly swerved in front of him.  Although the operator observed all this, he admittedly did not slow down or apply his brakes.  Somebody took photographs, but I have not seen them.

A: If the photographs show that your car was struck primarily in the rear, that supports your story.  If they show that your car was struck primarily on the right (passenger) side, that supports the defendants’.

The Vehicle and Traffic Law sets forth a uniform set of traffic regulations, the rules of the road.  Under section 1103, a defendant engaged in work on a highway, such as street sweeping, cannot be liable unless the defendant has intentionally done an act of an unreasonable character in disregard of a known or obvious risk.  The risk must be so great as to make it highly probable that harm will follow.  The defendant must act with ‘conscious indifference’ to the outcome.

In other words, the defendant is subject to a recklessness standard, not a mere negligence standard.  If the defendant was operating the sweeper solely to clean the street, then the defendant was engaged in highway maintenance and thus subject to the recklessness standard of care.  What is more, if the driver can, but fails to, take evasive action to avoid a forceful collision, a reasonable jury can find that this conduct itself constitutes recklessness.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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