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Multi-Vehicle Wreck in Carlstadt NJ Creates Liability Questions

A taxi driver who couldn’t wait to get to the gas station triggered a three-car crash that injured at least four people.
The collision occurred on Washington Avenue in Carlstadt, New Jersey. Police said that a minivan taxi driver made a left turn towards a gas station driveway and turned directly into the path of an oncoming ambulance. When the ambulance driver then swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid a collision, the vehicle struck a large semi-truck, as well as a passenger car.
Further down the New Jersey Turnpike, a tractor-trailer was almost completely demolished in another crash, but authorities are not sure that the two auto accidents were related. It was also not immediately apparent whether the ambulance had a patient inside the emergency vehicle.
Altogether, police estimate that four or five people were seriously injured in the car accidents. Thankfully, all of the car accident victims are expected to survive.
Common Carrier Duty
For generations, taxi drivers, long-haul truck drivers, tour bus drivers, and other operators who carried people and/or cargo for a fee were held to a higher duty of care than non-commercial drivers. But that all changed with Bethel v. New York Transit Authority (1998). In this case, a New York man injured his back when he fell through a defective wheelchair-accessible folding seat on an MTA bus. He later sued to get compensation for his injuries.
A Court of Appeals eventually overruled a century-old rule and held that common carriers should be held to a duty of reasonable care just like all other drivers. The court reasoned that this approach was justified based on the vast technological and regulatory innovations that had occurred in the preceding hundred years. Additionally, said the appellate court, the new rule would also avoid confusion over which rule to apply in particular cases.
Despite the ruling, the “extraordinary duty of care” may still apply in some cases, such as:

  • When a vehicle is engaged in unusually dangerous transportation, such as a tour bus that travels at freeway speeds during darkness.
  • When older vehicles do not have the very latest technological innovations, like rear-view cameras or driver-assist features.
  • When passengers are injured, or cargo is damaged, during unsafe loading or unloading procedures.

New York is one of the only states to hold common carriers to a duty of reasonable care instead of a duty of extraordinary care.

For prompt assistance with a motor vehicle crash claim, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Manhattan today. You only have a limited amount of time in which to act, so call Proner & Proner as soon as possible.

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