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Family of New Yorker Killed in Auto vs. Train Crash Prepares for Wrongful Death Lawsuit, Facts May Present a Problem

In the early morning hours of February 3, 2015, a horrific tragedy struck the town of Mount Pleasant as a 49-year old mother of three was fatally stricken by an oncoming Metro-North train en route from New York City. In addition, several passengers onboard the train also met their untimely deaths that fateful evening – resulting in a total fatality count of six adults.

According to eyewitnesses, an SUV became sandwiched between the arms of the railroad crossing warning system with virtually no time to react as the train came “immediately upon the vehicle.”

Consequently, the family of the driver has commenced a personal injury lawsuit against the town of Mount Pleasant, the State of New York, the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the County of Westchester – all alleging a faulty and unreasonably dangerous railroad warning system that directly caused the death of the on-track victim and several other commuters on the train.

However, others have revealed a potential issue with the events leading up to the collision which may work to reduce the family’s recovery amount – or eliminate it all together.

Wrongful Death Following an Auto Accident in Westchester County

Under New York’s laws of wrongful death, surviving family members can recover for the actual costs of a victim’s final injury or illness, including medical expenses, funeral and burial costs. In addition, certain immediate family members may be able to recover for the loss of relationship, companionship, mentorship and love due to the unexpected death of their child, parent or spouse.

In all instances, the personal representative of the estate must file the lawsuit on behalf of heirs and beneficiaries. The claims must be filed within two years of the date of death and this time limit is essentially without exception.

Comparative Negligence in New York

The facts surrounding the above-described tragic Westchester County accident are not without controversy and a legal concept known as comparative negligence may be a factor in the family’s recovery.

According to several other eyewitnesses who have recounted their stories to the media, the driver of the vehicle allegedly drove onto the tracks – becoming entrenched between the crossing arms – only after attempting to quickly maneuver past the warnings once the lights had engaged.

In so doing, one arm allegedly struck the rear of her vehicle, at which point she is believed to have exited the vehicle to check the damage. She is then alleged to have returned to the vehicle, attempted to drive forward, attempted to reverse, and was at that point unable to escape the impact of the incoming train.

In New York, a plaintiff who has in some way contributed to his or her own resulting injuries could face a reduction in compensation that matches the extent of the involvement.

In New York, which is known as a “pure comparative fault” state, plaintiffs may be at fault in their own accident to any degree up to 99 percent. The conclusion of this case will be an interesting measure of the effects of comparative fault, if applicable, and its impact on the family’s total recovery.

Contact a Reputable Westchester County Auto Accident Law Firm Right Away

If you are in search of a reputable personal injury lawyer in Westchester County, Lynch Schwab & Gasparini can offer unparalleled representation with unmatched experienced. To get started, call 914-304-4353.   

Posted on June 10, 2015 in Personal Injury