Lawsuit alleges NYPD failure to investigate road deaths

Clara Heyworth

CNN reports on Vaccaro & White’s lawsuit on behalf of Jacob Stevens to require NYPD to investigate all serious injury crashes, not just fatal crashes.

Jacob Stevens scrambled to new wife Clara’s side moments after she was struck by a car and whispered desperate entreaties for her to live. But in his heart, he knew that Clara Heyworth, 28, would soon die. Blood from a wound on her head was spilling onto the road, Stevens said, and it was clear that she was seriously injured.

When traffic crashes result in death, and sometimes when death is imminent, a specialized squad within the NYPD called the Accident Investigation Squad — trained to perform a comprehensive canvas of the scene — is called in to investigate.

“A sergeant or a lieutenant makes a determination after consultation with the doctors — say, at the hospital to keep it simple — that there is a likelihood (of death),” said John Cassidy, executive officer of the NYPD Transportation Bureau, at a City Council hearing in February. “At that point, the accident investigation technicians … respond to the location, and they begin the examination of the scene.”

The problem, according to Steve Vaccaro, Stevens’ attorney, is that the NYPD has substituted a more restrictive and ill-defined standard of “likely to die.”

“It is left to untrained officers, given no guidance as to what ‘likely to die’ means, to obtain a prognosis for the victim from emergency room personnel completely engrossed in saving the victim’s life,” Vaccaro said. Meanwhile, “the decision of whether to gather and preserve evidence of how the crash occurred hangs in the balance.”


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