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Determining Fault

Posted by Scott M. Peterson | Sep 19, 2019

Determining who is responsible for an accident can be one of the more difficult jobs of an attorney.  

Yes, there are typically the obvious options - in the case of an accident, for example, the driver.  

But there are also less obvious options, which was highlighted by an article in the Albany Times Union, discussing a new lawsuit against the owner of a general store where two people were killed last year when an out of control limo failed to stop at a stop sign and ran into the lot.  

This accident was, without question, one of the worst in the history of the Capital Region.  Countless articles have been written about the accident itself, the limo company and the driver.  There were, of course, lawsuits arising out of the accident itself.  

But the recent suits claim that the parking lot was inherently dangerous in its design, and in so doing cites to prior incidents where vehicles had run through the same stop sign into the lot.

Essentially what this lawsuit is suggesting is this: the owners of the store had a legal duty to protect those who came into the store and, by extension, the parking lot.  Part of that legal duty is to be conscious of, and remedy, defective or dangerous conditions on the property (think - snow and ice has to be cleared in the winter).  

A dangerous property condition can be one of many things: snow and ice; cracked sidewalk; falling ceiling tiles; unsafe parking lot.  Here, it appears that the argument is that the owners of the property knew - because of prior incidents - that the way the lot was designed placed pedestrians in danger of being hit by cars that were unable to stop for the intersection.  Because they knew that this was a real risk, they had an obligation to fix it.

Whether and to what degree a property owner is required to take action will depend upon the circumstances.  Here, the argument will likely be that the owner, knowing that the lot was dangerous, should have closed off some of the spaces or otherwise modified the layout of the parking lot, to ensure that pedestrians were not walking in an area where they could be struck. 

Determining who is at fault for an accident (and who is not) is a critical component in the investigation following an injury.  If you have questions about an accident, and who is at fault, contact us today.

About the Author

Scott M. Peterson

Scott M. Peterson is the founding partner of D'Orazio Peterson, having left a partnership at a large regional law firm to limit his practice and focus on helping people protect their families.

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