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New York Court Discusses Causation in Car Accident Cases

In New York car accident cases, a plaintiff must do more than just show that the defendant’s negligence caused the collision in order to recover damages. Specifically, they must also show that they suffered actual losses due to the collision. Generally, the issue of causation is within the purview of the jury, though. This was demonstrated recently in a New York opinion issued in a car accident case, in which the court reversed a trial court ruling dismissing the plaintiff’s claims. If you were hurt in a collision, it is important to understand what evidence you must produce to recover compensation, and you should contact a Syracuse car accident attorney to discuss your potential claims.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant struck the plaintiff’s car from behind. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, setting forth a negligence claim. After the completion of discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to prove her alleged injuries were the result of the collision. The court agreed and granted the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff then appealed.

Establishing Damage and Causation in Car Accident Cases

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it explained the issue of causation is typically one that should be resolved by the fact-finder. Summary judgment may be appropriate, however, even if there is objective medical proof of serious harm, if there are additional factors that interrupt the chain of causation between the claimed injury and the accident. Such factors may include a gap in treatment, a preexisting condition, or an intervening medical issue.

In the subject case, the trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, not because it did not believe that the plaintiff suffered a serious medical condition, but because there was a gap in the plaintiff’s treatment. As such, the salient issue on appeal was whether the alleged injury was the result of the collision, not whether the plaintiff suffered serious harm.

Despite the defendant’s arguments to the contrary, the court found that the evidence of record failed to show, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff did, in fact stop all therapeutic care in the fourteen-month period where the defendant alleged there was a gap in care. Further, the trial court erred in determining that the plaintiff’s explanation for the purported gap was disingenuous, as it was the equivalent of a credibility determination, which is not appropriate on a motion for summary judgment. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Syracuse Attorney

Car accidents can cause substantial physical and emotional trauma, and people that recklessly cause collisions should be held accountable. If you suffered injuries in a car crash caused by another driver, it is smart to meet with an attorney to discuss your options. The experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best result possible under the facts of your case. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to set up a conference.

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