Manhattan Pedestrian Killed By Falling Debris
Michele Mirman | Accident | January 16, 2020
Walking down the street should not put your life in danger. However, that’s a reality New Yorker face every single day. Sadly, one New York City woman’s recent uptown Manhattan walk was her last. The 60-year-old was struck and killed by falling debris on W. 49th Street.
According to reports, the woman was walking next to a building maintained by Himmel + Meringoff Properties when part of the façade came crashing down. She was pronounced dead at the scene, due to blunt force trauma to the head.
The Department of Buildings is, in cooperation with building owners, conducting a “full structural stability inspection” to identify why this tragedy might have occurred. While this was clearly an accident, someone can still be held accountable. Her family may seek damages from the building owner, property maintenance group, and/or a government agency to compensate for the pedestrian’s untimely and tragic death.
Owners Can’t Just Let Their Buildings Degrade and Collapse
When you own property in New York City, you have an obligation to maintain the premises. You can’t just let it degrade, fall apart, or break down if that could pose a threat to someone’s safety. If there’s an identifiable hazard, it has to be fixed.
Buildings don’t usually just crumble. Façades and architectural features don’t usually just fall to the ground. When something like that happens, it might indicate that the owner (or person responsible for maintenance) dropped the ball.
When an owner negligently maintains his or her premises and someone gets hurt, they can be held financially accountable for resulting injuries. This is also true when victims do not survive the extent of their injuries. In that case, families might have a legitimate claim for damages.
NYC Government Agencies Charged With Oversight
Generally speaking, it’s up to property owners, architects, engineers, and contractors to make sure that a building is safe before, during, and after it’s built. If a building collapses or begins to fall apart, those parties might all be liable if someone is hurt or killed as a result. However, they’re not the only ones who might be responsible.
Government agencies in NYC have to make sure that buildings are constructed in compliance with state and local laws. Government agencies have the responsibility of identifying potential violations and citing owners and responsible parties. If a government agency fails to carry out this important duty, it might be at least partly responsible if there is an accident. Under the New York Court of Claims Act, the government can be liable if its negligence (or the negligence of a worker) causes someone to get hurt or suffer.
Wrongful Death Claims in NYC
When an accident is fatal, negligent parties don’t automatically escape civil liability. Even though the victim might have died, the right to file a lawsuit might shift to their surviving family members. Actually, the right shifts to a personal representative, who files a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of those survivors.
Spouses, parents, children, and other immediate family members can generally recover damages secured through a wrongful death claim. Those damages are different from those awarded in other types of personal injury cases. In New York, wrongful death cases are used to help a family secure compensation for pecuniary losses.
Should the family of the 60-year-old woman decide that they want to pursue legal action, they could potentially be awarded damages for:
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of the victim’s work benefits
- Loss of the victim’s wages and income, and
- Funeral and/or burial costs.
Damages for pain and suffering or emotional anguish are not available. Those are only available to compensate the victim, not family members. It’s important to note that those non-economic damages might be available if a victim survives his or her injuries for even a short period of time. However, they must be sought through a different type of claim, altogether.
Since there are several potentially liable parties, and perhaps more than one way to seek damages, it’s important to enlist the help of an experienced personal injury attorney if you find yourself in a similar situation.