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New York Car Accident Involving Multiple Rear-End Collisions Should Not Have Been Resolved Via Summary Judgment

There seems to be a widely held belief that, in a rear-end collision, the driver in the second car is automatically at fault. While such a driver is usually held liable in such a situation, this is not necessarily the result in every case. It all comes down to the particular facts in the case at hand. For example, what if there was construction ahead and the first driver adhered to signage warning drivers to slow down, but the second driver did not?

What if a large animal (such a deer) ran into the path of the first vehicle, causing her to stop suddenly to avoid a dangerous crash? What if the second driver was on his or her phone and not paying attention? Sometimes such cases must be resolved by a jury, with each side making their respective arguments as to why the other was at fault.

Another potential scenario is that there wasn’t just one accident but several separate accidents that occurred in rapid succession. Who is to blame in those kinds of cases? Unfortunately, the answer is not always clear.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case considered on appeal was a man who was allegedly injured in a multi-vehicle automobile accident that occurred when the vehicle in which the plaintiff was a passenger was rear-ended by a second car, which was then rear-ended by yet a third vehicle. The plaintiff sought summary judgment as to the liability of the driver of the third vehicle. The Supreme Court of Bronx County granted the plaintiff’s motion. The driver of the third car appealed.

Resolution of the Issue on Appeal

The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, reversed the trial court’s order. On appeal, the driver of the third vehicle insisted that the lower tribunal had been wrong to grant summary judgment to the plaintiff with regard to her alleged liability. As grounds, she pointed to her affidavit, in which she had averred that she was at a complete stop behind the second vehicle, which had apparently already struck the first vehicle (in which the plaintiff was riding as a passenger), when a fourth vehicle struck her car in the rear and propelled her into the second vehicle.

The appellate tribunal agreed with the plaintiff that summary judgment was inappropriate under these circumstances. Even if, assuming for the sake of argument, the plaintiff had established a case of prima facie negligence against the driver of the third car, the reviewing court held that driver of the third car had raised a triable issue of fact through her affidavit explaining that her car was pushed into the second car by the driver of the fourth car.

In so holding, the court noted that the fact that plaintiff, who was merely a passenger and not a driver of any of the involved vehicles, was free from comparative negligence did not change the outcome of the court’s opinion. This was because even an “innocent passenger” such as the plaintiff was required to establish a particular defendant’s negligence in order to prevail against that defendant.

Need Advice About a Syracuse Car Crash Case?

Our roads get more crowded every year, increasing the likelihood of serious and potentially fatal car accidents. When a “pileup” wreck like the one at issue here happens, sorting out liability can be a complicated endeavor. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a Syracuse car crash, you need experienced legal representation in order to fight for the compensation to which you are entitled. For a free consultation regarding an automobile collision in the Syracuse-Buffalo region of upstate New York, call the personal injury lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, today at 315-479-9000. Our lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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