New York has seen many strange and sad stories, but this is one of the strangest.
An Ecudorian immigrant was dragged under a van for about 20 miles. The vehicle operator did not know that he was dragging the man. See the New York Daily news story here.
This sad incident raises some interesting questions on the issue of a lawsuit recovery.
If you or a family member have been injured in auto accident, please call me at 800-851-1434.
The van operator did not know that a man was caught on his undercarriage, and he travelled from Corona, Queens, to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Apparently, the pedestrian, who was celebrating his 26th birthday that day, was struck by vehicle 1. The vehicle 2 driver was following closely, and he did not know that a man’s body was on the road. Vehicle 2 ran over the man, and the man’s body was impaled on its underside skid plate.
The vehicle 1 operator thought that he hit someone, and he reported it to the police. However, there was no victim at the scene. The vehicle 2 operator did not know that there was a man caught under his van, and he drove 20 miles to Brooklyn. The vehicle 2 driver stopped a couple of times because the suspected he was dragging something, and he smelled something burning, but he found nothing. Finally, in Brighton Beach an onlooker saw the mangled body, and the pedestrian flagged-down the operator.
Neither vehicle operator has been charged with a crime. Apparently, this was an accident.
The victim left behind a wife and children in Ecuador. The man’s family eventually will seek recovery for the man’s injuries and death.
From the standpoint of a personal injury lawyer there is an interesting question as to whether vehicle 1 or 2 caused the death? Or did both bring about the death?
This is an important question in the event that either vehicle 1 or 2 or both carried the minimum, required insurance coverage of $25,000/50.000. If the vehicles carried insurance greater than the minimum limits, then this discussion is moot.
Let us go through some possible scenarios:
- Assume that each vehicle carried $25,000/50,000 insurance. If there were no death, each vehicle’s maximum’s coverage would be $25,000 each.
- However, even with this minimum coverage, the coverage for personal injury and wrongful death is separate and is $50,000 pursuant to statute. Therefore, if a driver causes a vehicular death, his insurance would cover to the extent of $50,000.
- It is possible that vehicle 1’s insurance company will claim that driver 1 merely injured the man and that only $25,000 coverage is available for vehicle 1. Vehicle 1’s insurer would argue that vehicle 2 killed the man. Therefore, vehicle 2 would provide $50,000 coverage. There would be $75,000 coverage to the widow, i.e., $25,000 from vehicle 1 and $50,000 from vehicle 2.
- It is also possible that vehicle 2’s insurance company would claim that the man was killed by vehicle 1 and that vehicle 2 was merely dragging a dead body around town. In that event, vehicle 2′ s insurer would deny liability. The family would have to prove that the man was still alive when he was struck and dragged by vehicle 2. In that event, vehicle 2’s insurer would refuse to settle. If a jury accepted this claim, then the family’s total recovery would be $50,000 from vehicle 1.
- Would the insurer’s for both vehicles 1 and 2 concede that both vehicles injured the man and caused his death? In that event each insurance company would provide $50,000 coverage, and the widow would have a possible recovery of $100,000.
I foresee the last possibility as the most likely. However, in our experience certain insurance companies take tough and sometimes irrational positions in order to save money. It is not impossible that each insurance company would seek to claim that its insured had no part in causing the death so that each carrier’s exposure would be $25,000 instead of $50,000.
We have handled many death cases involving motor vehicle accidents. If your family member has been killed due to a motor vehicle accident, please feel free to call me at 800-851-1434.
Mark E. Seitelman, 2/15/09, www.seitelman.com.