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New York Court Examines Establishing Municipal Liability in Car Accident Cases

The majority of car accidents are borne out of negligence. While typically, the negligence is in the form of careless driving, in some instances, it is the negligent design and maintenance of roads that lead to collisions. In such cases, the town may be responsible for any losses caused by the crash, but proving liability can be challenging, as demonstrated by a recent New York ruling. If you were hurt in a car crash caused by inadequate road maintenance, it is smart to confer with a Syracuse personal injury lawyer to assess your possible claims.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was involved in a single-vehicle accident on a street in the defendant town between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on a day in September 2006. The accident occurred after the plaintiff failed to negotiate a curve, which was preceded by a curve warning and a reduced speed limit sign. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant town negligently maintained the roadway and installed adequate traffic control devices.

Allegedly, though, there were no known witnesses to the accident, and the plaintiff could not recall the events leading to the crash. The plaintiff initiated an action against the defendant town, among others. The defendant town moved for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the complaint against it. The trial court denied the defendant town’s motion, prompting the defendant town to appeal.

Establishing Municipal Liability in Car Accident Cases

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s order, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant town. The court explained that while a municipality has a duty to maintain its roads in a reasonably safe condition, it is not an insurer of road safety and will only be liable for injuries caused by its negligence.

Rather, the plaintiff must prove that the absence of a traffic control device directly led to the accident. Here, the defendant town demonstrated prima facie that the plaintiff could not establish the inadequacy of the curve warning sign as the proximate cause of the accident without speculation.

Since the plaintiff had no recollection of the event and there were no eyewitnesses, it was equally plausible that other factors caused the accident. In response, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact.

The plaintiff’s assertion of his driving habits as custom and practice evidence was deemed inadmissible, and the expert’s opinion lacked substance, being speculative and conclusory. Consequently, the court found that the plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence to counter the defendant town’s showing and failed to establish a triable issue of fact. Therefore, the court stated that the trial court should have granted the defendant town motion for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint against it.

Talk to a Dedicated Syracuse Personal Injury Attorney

Car accidents, in most cases, are caused by carelessness, and the parties that recklessly cause them should be held accountable for any damages that ensue. If you were injured in a collision, it is wise to talk to an attorney about your rights. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our dedicated Syracuse personal injury attorneys possess the skills and resources needed to help you seek justice. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to arrange a meeting.

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