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New York Court Discusses Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases

Car accidents occur regularly in New York, and many people injured in collisions will seek compensation from the driver they deem responsible for the accident. It is not uncommon for a defendant in a car crash case to argue that the plaintiff actually caused the accident, and therefore, the plaintiff’s claims should be denied. While comparative negligence is a valid defense, it is not grounds for dismissing a plaintiff’s claims at the pleading stage, as explained in an opinion recently issued by a New York court in a car accident case. If you were injured by a negligent driver, it is smart to meet with a Syracuse car accident lawyer to discuss your potential claims.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was operating a motorbike when he was struck by a car driven by the defendant. The defendant driver was reportedly driving at an excessive speed in an attempt to complete her job duties for the day when she made a sudden left turn without using her signal, cutting off the plaintiff. The plaintiff suffered critical injuries in the collision and subsequently filed a lawsuit in federal court asserting negligence claims against the defendant driver and her employer.

Allegedly, the defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings asking the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, arguing in part that he was comparatively negligent and, therefore, could not recover compensation. The motion was referred to a magistrate judge, who recommended it be denied. The defendants filed objections to the recommendation.

The Comparative Negligence Defense

The court adopted the magistrate’s recommendation and denied the defendants’ motion. The defendants argued that the magistrate erred in failing to deem the plaintiff negligent per se and the sole proximate cause of the accident and his injuries. In support of their position, the defendants argued that while proximate cause is typically an issue for the jury, in cases in which only one conclusion can be drawn from the undisputed facts, it can be determined as a matter of law.

The defendants further argued that if the plaintiff had maintained a safe following distance, the accident would not have occurred. In response, the plaintiff pointed out that New York is a comparative negligence state rather than a contributory negligence state, and therefore any negligence attributed to the plaintiff would merely result in a proportional reduction of any damages he was awarded. Further, the plaintiff argued that as proximate cause is a fact-specific inquiry, it cannot be determined absent discovery. The court agreed with the plaintiff’s reasoning and denied the defendant’s motion.

Speak to a Seasoned Syracuse Lawyer

Car accidents can cause significant trauma, and motorists that drive recklessly and injure others should be held responsible for their negligence. If you sustained injuries in a collision, you should speak to an attorney regarding what damages you may be owed. The seasoned car accident attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can gather the evidence needed to set forth persuasive arguments on your behalf to provide you with a strong chance of obtaining a favorable result. We can be reached via our online form or by calling 833-200-2000 to set up a consultation.

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