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New York Court Analyzes Judgment as a Matter of Law in Car Accident Cases

Car accidents are common throughout New York, and in many instances, they cause not only property damage but also significant injuries. Fortunately, parties harmed in collisions caused by reckless drivers can often recover damages in civil lawsuits. While in most car accident cases, the courts will find that there are issues of fact that must be resolved by a jury at trial, in some cases, they will find that no factual disputes exist and judgment should be granted in favor of one party as a matter of law. Recently, a New York court issued an opinion discussing judgment as a matter of law in car accident cases, ultimately determining that the trial court erred in granting judgment in favor of the plaintiff. If you were injured in a collision caused by another driver’s carelessness, you might be owed compensation, and you should meet with a Syracuse personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Subject Accident

It is alleged that the plaintiff was sitting in the driver’s seat of her car, which was parked on the street. She subsequently felt an impact, first on the left rear side and then by the driver’s side door of her vehicle. She then saw the decedent’s vehicle on the left side of her car. Immediately before the crash, the decedent was coming out of the driveway that was behind the plaintiff’s car.

It is reported that the force of the impact caused the plaintiff’s vehicle to move two feet forward and strike the car in front of it. The plaintiff suffered injuries in the accident and filed a negligence claim against the decedent. Following the decedent’s death, a representative of her estate was substituted as the defendant. The case proceeded to trial, and at the close of evidence on the matter of liability, the defendant moved for judgment in her favor as a matter of law. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.  

Judgment as a Matter of Law in Car Accident Cases

The appellate court reversed the trial court ruling, reinstated the complaint, and remitted the case for a new trial. The court noted that pursuant to New York law, a motion for judgment as a matter of law should only be granted if the trial court determines that based on the evidence presented, there is no rational process by which the factfinder could find in favor of the non-moving party.

Further, the court explained that in New York, if a motorist collides with a parked car, it creates a prima facie case of negligence on behalf of the motorist, who must then rebut the inference by offering a non-negligent reason for the crash. The court noted, though, that the defendant failed to provide any such explanation in the subject case. Thus, the trial court erred in granting judgment in its favor.

Meet with a Trusted Syracuse Personal Injury Attorney

While some collisions are truly unavoidable, most car crashes are the result of reckless driving, and people that cause accidents should be held accountable. If you suffered harm in a collision, it is advisable to meet with an attorney to evaluate what claims you may be able to pursue. The trusted Syracuse personal injury attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to set up a conference.

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