Using technology similar to that employed by police to track crime, the New York City comptroller aims to limit liability for personal injuries incurred by the negligence of city government and employees.
The comptroller’s office has tailored the technology to identify potential problem spots far sooner than they otherwise might be discovered. The agency said the system could serve as an early warning of liability issues, ranging from unfilled potholes to falling tree limbs to civil rights violations by police to medical malpractice claims at city-run hospitals.
Manhattan personal injury lawyers recognize that personal injury claims against the government tend to be more complex than those against individuals or businesses. This is because governments, and often the employees, are protected under the theory of sovereign immunity. So to successfully pursue a negligence claim against the city for the actions of a worker, we may first need to prove the worker was reckless or acting outside the scope of his or her duties.
In cases where an injured party can make a strong claim for negligence at the outset, the city will often seek to settle the matter out-of-court, rather than spend the time and money to battle the case in litigation.
Still, the comptroller, Scott Stringer, was quoted by The New York Times as saying even these settlements have become a major expense for the city. For example, the city paid $11.5 million to settle just one lawsuit last year on behalf of a young engineer who suffered paralysis, traumatic brain injury, damage to his spinal cord and lungs when he was felled by a fungus-covered branch in the summer of 2009 in Central Park.
Since then, the city upped its tree pruning budget from $1.45 million to $4.45 million, hoping to prevent similar injuries, both in the park and on along city sidewalks.
This is a good step toward prevention, it addresses just one area of liability to which the city may be exposed. With ClaimStat, the comptroller says the city can track the thousands of claims made against the city annually by those who assert the city is responsible for injuries they incurred.
Stringer said that similar to the way CompStat defied the notion that rising crime was inevitable and police had no way to be proactive, ClaimStat challenges the same notion with regard to personal injury claims.
The system may prove valuable also for plaintiffs in cases where injury is not prevented. Such a database could serve as hard proof that the city was aware of a certain dangerous condition and failed to take steps to address it.
The comptroller’s report on the new program addresses claims made against the city agencies which tend to incur the most scrutiny: The department of sanitation, the department of environmental protection, the department of parks and recreation, the health and hospitals corporation and the police department.
This year, the city has budgeted nearly $675 million for judgments and settlements brought against the city. Fast-forward four years, and the city expects that figure to balloon to more than $780 million – an increase of more than 15 percent. That breaks down to about $80 for every resident of the city.
Claims against some agencies are expected to rise more quickly than others, if nothing is done to address the underlying issues. For example, the police department saw a more than 30 percent rise in liability lawsuits from 2008 and 2013, reaching $140 million in the final year of the analysis. That represents the highest figure of all the city’s departments.
What the ClaimStat program would do would give the agency the chance to break down the claims by precinct, and evaluate performance in each. Already, the system has identified the Bronx as the area with the four highest number of personal injury lawsuits filed against police. Other areas with a high number of claims included Harlem, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, central Brooklyn and the North Shore of Staten Island.
The agency said the program will also show that when budget cuts are implemented to certain programs – such as tree pruning – the city’s bottom line, as well as residents’ safety – is directly impacted.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Comptroller Aims to Curb Personal-Injury Claims Against New York City, July 9, 2014, By Benjamin Weiser, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
Pedestrian in Queens Killed After Being Hit by Allegedly Drunk Driver, July 14, 2014, Manhattan Personal Injury Lawyer Blog