NYC Comptroller's Office 2013 Claims Report Makes Recommendations to Reduce Motor Vehicle Accident Claims; Cites Increase in Claims Against Police
Earlier this week, the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which under the New York City Charter, is responsible for settling and adjusting claims for and against the City, released its fiscal report for the year 2012. In FY 2012, the City paid out $485.9 million in personal injury and property damage tort settlements and judgments, 12 percent less than in FY 2011. However, the cost of these claims to the City still hovers at nearly a half billion dollars annually. In FY 2012, the costliest personal injury claims category was medical malpractice, which cost the City $109.9 million. The second costliest category was motor vehicle claims, at $69.9 million. Civil rights claim settlements and judgments were the third costliest, at $67.9 million. The fourth costliest category was police action claims, at $64.4 million.
In FY 2012, medical malpractice settlements/judgments accounted for 34 of the 79 tort cases that settled for $1 million or more. The five HHC acute care hospitals for which the City paid the highest total amount for medical malpractice claims were: Elmhurst Hospital ($15.6 million); Kings County ($13.3 million); Jacobi Medical Center ($13.2 million); Queens Hospital Center ($12 million) and Lincoln Hospital ($10.6 million).
The report included a new recommendation that the City implement a City-wide program to reduce motor vehicle claims. In FY 2012, the City paid out over $75 million in settlements related to injuries and damages as a result of motor vehicle accidents involving City vehicles. This represents 16 percent of the total tort payout.
The report suggested that an analysis of motor vehicle claims data may reveal areas that could prevent injuries to City employees, the public and property. For example, the report stated that reviewing areas where large numbers of accidents occur may reveal underlying problems that could be addressed such as possible defective roadway designs; potholes; defective or needed traffic control devices.
Also recommended was that the City do more to insure that all drivers and passengers in City vehicles (even those in emergency vehicles) use seat belts which will prevent serious injuries and/or death. (The National Highway Safety Administration reported that 42 percent of police officers killed in vehicular accidents were not wearing seat belts).
Another step that the City should consider to specifically make intersections safer for emergency response vehicles is to use public service announcements to remind the driving public of their responsibility to yield to emergency vehicles that may be approaching intersections. Creating innovative public interest campaigns regarding this issue will raise the public’s awareness of intersection dangers and hopefully save lives and prevent serious injury.
The Comptroller's report also cited as cause for concern the growing number of tort claims filed against the NYPD. Police action claims result from alleged improper police conduct, such as false arrest or imprisonment, shooting of a suspect, excessive force, assault (police brutality), or failure to provide police protection.
An historical high of 9,570 claims filed in FY 2012.3 The number of claims has risen 52 percent over the last five years. In FY 2012, the City paid $152 million in claims involving the NYPD, a decrease of 18 percent over the $186.3 million paid in FY 2011.
Police action claims were the most frequent type of personal injury claim filed in FY 2012 and accounted for the fourth highest claim payout in FY 2012. There were 5,601 new police action claims filed in FY 2012. This represents an increase of 22 percent from the 4,584 claims filed in FY 2011. This is the largest number of new police action filings during the last five fiscal years.