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New York Court Explains Comparative Fault in Car Accident Cases

Typically, when a rear-end collision occurs, the second driver is deemed at fault. There are some exceptions, however, that would allow for the imposition of some degree of liability on the driver of the vehicle that was struck. One exception was recently discussed in an opinion issued by a New York court in a case in which the plaintiff sought summary judgment on the issue of comparative fault. If you were harmed in a collision, you might be owed damages, and you should speak to a Syracuse car accident lawyer to discuss your potential claims.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s vehicle was stopped at a red light when it was struck from behind by the defendant driver. Immediately after the impact, a vehicle driven by a police officer that worked for the defendant city struck the second car, causing it to again hit the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff, who suffered injuries in the collision, filed a lawsuit against the defendants. The defendant city asserted the affirmative defense of comparative negligence. The plaintiff then filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of comparative fault. The trial court denied the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Comparative Fault in Car Accident Cases

On appeal, the trial court ruling was affirmed. The appellate court explained that, under New York law, a driver approaching another car from behind has a duty to maintain a reasonably safe rate of speed and following distance, in consideration of the conditions present at that time, to avoid a collision. Accordingly, a rear-end collision with a vehicle that is stopping or stopped establishes, prima facie, the negligence of the operator of the second vehicle. As such, the second driver must rebut the inference of negligence by providing a non-negligent cause for the crash.

In the subject case, the plaintiff submitted evidence in support of his motion for summary judgment that demonstrated he was stopped when he was struck in the rear by the defendant driver. In opposition to the plaintiff’s motion, though, the defendant city set forth evidence that demonstrated a triable issue of fact existed as to whether the plaintiff violated section 1144 of New York’s traffic law by failing to yield to an emergency vehicle that had its lights and sirens activated. The court explained that a violation of section 1144 constitutes negligence as a matter of law. As such, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order denying the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.

Meet with an Experienced Syracuse Lawyer

Collisions can cause significant and lasting harm, and in many instances, the injured party can pursue claims against the person responsible for the crash. If you sustained injuries in a car accident, you should meet with a lawyer regarding your options for seeking compensation. The experienced attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 833-200-2000 to set up a meeting.






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