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New York Court Discusses Proof of Proximate Cause in Car Accident Cases

Car accidents are unfortunately common in New York, and while some people involved in collisions walk away without harm, many suffer significant injuries. People hurt in car accidents can recover compensation, but only if they can demonstrate that another party proximately caused their harm. In a recent New York case in which the defendant argued the plaintiff was at fault for a car crash, the court discussed the concept of proximate harm and what evidence is needed to establish negligence. If you sustained damages in a collision, it is wise to meet with a Syracuse personal injury attorney to discuss your possible claims.

Factual Background of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff initiated a lawsuit seeking compensation for personal injuries she sustained during a motor vehicle collision involving a car she was driving and a car owned and operated by the defendants. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint, arguing that the accident resulted from the plaintiff’s attempt to change lanes when it was not safe to do so, and that her negligence was the only cause of the accident. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.

Establishing Proximate Cause in New York Car Accident Cases

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. The court considered the well-established legal principle that there could be more than one proximate cause of an accident but noted that the defendants bore the burden of establishing that they were not at fault in causing the accident or that another person’s negligence was the sole proximate cause of the accident, as they were the ones seeking summary judgment.

The court also recognized the obligation of a driver with the right-of-way to keep a proper lookout and take reasonable steps to avoid collisions, even when they have the right-of-way. The court further noted that a driver with the right-of-way is entitled to assume that other drivers will obey traffic laws requiring them to yield. If the driver has only seconds to react to a vehicle that has failed to yield, however, they are not comparatively negligent for failing to avoid the collision.

In the subject case, the defendants relied on an affidavit from the defendant driver, which stated that he did not have a chance to avoid the accident, in support of their motion. The court found, though, that the defendant driver’s affidavit was conclusory and lacked specific facts to allow the court to properly evaluate this assertion.

Rather, the court found that the evidence presented by the defendants failed to establish prima facie that the defendant driver was free from fault in causing the accident or that the plaintiff’s negligence was the sole proximate cause of the collision. Consequently, the court determined that the defendants had not met their prima facie burden, making it unnecessary to evaluate the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s opposition papers, and upheld the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Syracuse Personal Injury Attorney

Car accidents often lead to significant and lasting trauma and people that cause such collisions should be held accountable. If you sustained injuries in a car crash caused by someone else’s negligence, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney. The trusted Syracuse personal injury attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can assess the facts of your case and help you seek any damages you may be owed. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to set up a meeting.

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