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Comparative negligence in a Pedestrian Car Accident Case. Kozlowski v. Ringler, 189 A.D.2d 1025 (4th Dep’t 1993)


Pedestrian accidents are a significant public health concern that can cause devastating injuries, permanent disabilities, and fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pedestrian deaths accounted for 17% of all traffic fatalities in the United States in 2019. Despite the increasing awareness and efforts to reduce pedestrian accidents, they remain a significant problem. In Kozlowski v. Ringler, the court discussed determining liability in pedestrian accidents, including the concept of comparative liability.

In New York, comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that applies in pedestrian car accident cases. This means that the pedestrian’s own negligence or fault in the accident may reduce the amount of compensation they can recover. If the pedestrian is found to be partially at fault, the court will apportion fault between the parties based on their respective degrees of fault.

Kozlowski v. Ringler case involves a pedestrian accident that occurred in June 1988 in Utica, New York. The plaintiff, Richard Kozlowski, was walking on a sidewalk when he was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant, Gregory Ringler. Kozlowski suffered severe injuries, including a fractured pelvis, a dislocated hip, and a fractured femur. Kozlowski filed a lawsuit against Ringler, claiming that Ringler was negligent and liable for his injuries.

The case was heard in the Supreme Court of Oneida County, where the jury found Ringler 75% at fault for the accident and Kozlowski 25% at fault. The jury awarded Kozlowski $750,000 in damages, but the award was reduced to $562,500 based on the percentage of fault assigned to him.

Ringler appealed the decision to the Fourth Department of the New York State Supreme Court, arguing that the lower court’s jury instructions on negligence and proximate cause were erroneous. Ringler claimed that Kozlowski’s own negligence was the sole cause of the accident and that Ringler’s actions did not constitute negligence. The Fourth Department of the New York State Supreme Court heard the appeal and issued a ruling in favor of Kozlowski.

The court found that a driver has a duty of care to avoid hitting pedestrians, and that duty is breached if the driver fails to take reasonable precautions to prevent an accident. The court further ruled that a pedestrian’s negligence does not necessarily absolve a driver of liability, but it may be a factor in determining the degree of fault.

In its ruling, the court cited several precedents and legal principles to support its decision. One such precedent was the “last clear chance” doctrine, which holds that a defendant who has the last clear chance to avoid an accident but fails to do so is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The court also relied on the “zone of danger” rule, which states that a defendant who places a plaintiff in immediate danger of physical harm is liable for any injuries resulting from that danger.

The court found that Ringler breached his duty of care by failing to keep a proper lookout and failing to take evasive action to avoid hitting Kozlowski. The court also found that Kozlowski’s own negligence was not the sole cause of the accident and that Ringler’s actions were a significant factor in the accident. The court therefore upheld the jury’s verdict and denied Ringler’s appeal.

Pedestrian accidents can have catastrophic consequences, and it is essential for drivers to take the necessary precautions to avoid them. Drivers must be aware of their surroundings, obey traffic laws and speed limits, avoid distractions while driving, and yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Similarly, pedestrians must also exercise caution and follow traffic laws to avoid accidents. By understanding the legal principles established in cases like Kozlowski v. Ringler, we can work towards reducing pedestrian accidents and ensuring that those who are injured receive the compensation they deserve.

If you are injured in a car accident in New York should contact an experienced New York pedestrian car accident lawyer who can help you understand your legal rights and options for pursuing compensation for your injuries. Pedestrians who are hit by cars often suffer serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. An experienced lawyer can help you calculate the full extent of your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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