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Appellate Tribunal Says New York Trial Court Acted Appropriately in Entering Judgment on Defense Verdict in Car Accident Case

Filing a Syracuse car accident lawsuit is just one of many steps towards recovering fair compensation for medical costs, lost earnings, and other losses caused by a negligent driver. Because New York is a “no-fault” state, there are certain thresholds that must be met in order for the plaintiff to be able to assert his or her claim in a court of law.

The insurance companies who defend such cases try very hard to keep cases out of court, if at all possible. They have teams of professionals, including medical experts, who work together to minimize the amount of money that is ultimately paid to those who are hurt in automobile accidents.

If you have been involved in a car crash recently, you should talk to a lawyer who can represent your interests in the matter as soon as possible – preferably, before giving a statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Insurance adjusters are well-seasoned in the art of manipulating a would-be plaintiff’s statement, as well as in other tactics to keep the insurance company’s payout as small as possible.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case appealed from the Supreme Court for New York County, the plaintiff was a woman who filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant driver, seeking to recover compensation for injuries that she allegedly received in an automobile accident. The case was tried to a jury, which found in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff sought appellate review.

The Decision of the Reviewing Court

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the trial court’s decision to enter judgment upon the jury’s verdict. The plaintiff argued on appeal that she should have been allowed to call a certain independent medical examination “watchdog” as a rebuttal witness. According to the plaintiff, the person whom she wished to call as a watchdog had been present during an examination of her conducted by the defendant’s medical expert (an orthopedic surgeon). The defendant’s expert testified that his examination of the plaintiff had lasted over 30 minutes, but the plaintiff disagreed and sought to have the watchdog testify as to the actual length of the examination. While the court agreed that the trial court had made a mistake in not allowing the plaintiff to call the watchdog as a rebuttal witness at trial, the plaintiff’s substantial rights were not sufficiently prejudiced by the mistake so as to require a reversal of the trial court’s order. In so holding, the appellate tribunal pointed out that the plaintiff herself could have testified to the length of the examination insomuch as her testimony had been continued after the expert had spoken at trial. Furthermore, the expert himself had admitted that his exam had taken less time than he had originally said.

The court also ruled in the defendant’s favor as to the remaining issues, at least one of which the court opined had not been properly preserved for appellate consideration. With regard to the plaintiff’s allegation that she should have been granted a directed verdict on the issue of the “serious injury” threshold codified at New York Insurance Law ยง 5102(d), the court noted that the multiple expert witnesses had testified that the plaintiff’s alleged injuries were either nonexistent or were not causally related to the accident.

Contact a New York Attorney

Car accidents can cause serious injuries, but the insurance companies of negligent drivers are rarely willing to offer a fair settlement unless it is clear that the plaintiff is prepared to take the matter in front of a jury. If you or someone in your family has been involved in a car accident and you need to talk to a lawyer about filing a claim against the person responsible, please contact DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP. You can reach us by calling 315-479-9000 or by using the contact form on this website. We serve clients throughout the cities of Rochester and Syracuse, as well as the surrounding communities.

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