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New York Appellate Court Finds that Summary Judgment Was Improper Due to Lack of Evidence that Motorcycle Operator Took Reasonable Measures to Avoid Crash with Dump Truck

After a Syracuse motor vehicle accident, the drivers, eyewitnesses, and first responders likely have their own opinions as to who caused the crash – Driver A or Driver B, assuming it was a two-vehicle accident. However, in some situations, it is determined that the parties have shared fault in causing the wreck. Under New York law, a party’s monetary recovery in a negligence case is reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault attributed to him or her by the finder of fact. Thus, insurance companies have an incentive to blame the opposing party if at all possible, so as to pay a lesser amount of damages even if their own insured was “mostly” to blame. Thus, it is very important that a person who has been hurt in a car, truck, or motorcycle collision talk to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible so that his or her legal rights may be protected.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case filed in the Supreme Court of Steuben County, the plaintiff was a woman who was riding as a passenger on a motorcycle when it collided with a dump truck that allegedly ignored a traffic control device. She filed suit against the owner and operator of the dump truck, as well as the driver of the motorcycle. The dump truck owner and operator filed a cross claim against the motorcycle driver, alleging that he was to blame for the accident and seeking indemnification and contribution. The motorcycle driver passed away while the lawsuit was pending, and the administratrix of his estate was substituted. The trial court granted the administratrix’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the cross claim asserted against her.

The Court’s Ruling on the Issues

The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department reversed the trial court’s order granting the administratrix’s motion for summary judgment on the cross claim of the remaining defendants. The court noted that, in moving for summary judgment, the administratrix had the initial burden of showing, as a matter of law, that the motorcycle driver was operating his motorcycle in a lawful and prudent manner and that “there was nothing [he] could have done to avoid the collision.” In the court’s opinion, the administratrix failed in this burden.

Under the principles of comparative fault that apply in motor vehicle accidents in the state of New York, even if a driver legally enters an intersection, he or she may be assessed some or all of the fault in a negligence case if he or she did not use reasonable care to avoid a collision. Here, the evidence showed that the motorcycle driver had the right-of-way as he proceeded into the intersection and that he applied his brakes; however, he did not blow his horn or try to steer around the dump truck. Under these circumstances, the appellate court found that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether the motorcycle driver exercised reasonable care to avoid the accident.

For Legal Assistance in a Syracuse Motorcycle Accident Case

If you or a family member has been hurt in a motorcycle crash caused by a negligent driver, you may be entitled to payment for lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, medical expenses, and other damages. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Syracuse motorcycle accident attorney, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, at 315-479-9000.

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