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New York Court Says Motorist Should Have Been Awarded Summary Judgment in Passenger’s Personal Injury Suit

A Syracuse car accident can happen in just a few seconds, changing the course of a crash victim’s life in ways from which he or she may never recover. Expensive medical treatment, time off from work, and travel costs back and forth to the doctor can be financially devastating.

It is important to know that, if you are hurt in a wreck that was not your fault, there is the possibility of filing suit against the responsible individual. Of course, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence, and the defendant may be able to assert a defense to the claim.

Assuming that there are genuine issues of material fact presented by the parties, the issues will ultimately be decided by a jury or a judge as the finder of fact. At trial, a judgment will be rendered in favor of one party or the other; if the plaintiff prevails, the judge or jury will probably also award a certain dollar figure in money damages to the injured party.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case arising in the Supreme Court of Bronx County was the passenger in a vehicle driven by the defendant. According to the plaintiff, the defendant was negligent in his operation of his vehicle, resulting in a collision. The plaintiff sought money damages for personal injuries that she allegedly suffered in the crash. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment as to the plaintiff’s complaint (as well as to cross claims made against him by a co-defendant, the motorist who was driving the other car involved in the crash for which the plaintiff sought monetary compensation.)

The trial court denied the defendant’s summary judgment motion as to the complaint and cross claims against him. He appealed, seeking review of the legal issues from a higher court.

The Reviewing Court’s Decision

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, reversed the lower court’s ruling and ordered that summary judgment be awarded to the defendant. The court first reviewed the facts presented in support of the defendant’s summary judgment motion, namely that the defendant was driving along the street at a reasonable rate of speed and in his lane when another car (operated by a co-defendant) crossed the yellow line and hit the defendant’s vehicle, causing the plaintiff’s injuries.  Although the plaintiff averred that the defendant should have taken evasive action to avoid the accident, the reviewing court opined that the defendant had fulfilled any duty that he owed to the plaintiff by honking his horn and trying to swerve out of the oncoming vehicle’s path.

In the court’s opinion, the defendant’s failure to avert a collision under the circumstances presented by the parties was not negligence; hence the defendant should have been awarded summary judgment. In so holding, the court noted that any averments of the plaintiff were of a speculative nature, given that she was “looking down at her phone” at the time of the crash and did not see the accident happen.

Call a Syracuse Lawyer About Your Car Accident

A Syracuse car accident can result in serious, physically devastating personal injuries – even wrongful death. If you or a member of your family has been hurt in a car wreck caused by a careless driver, you should speak with an attorney about filing a claim for money damages. There is a limited time for filing personal injury and wrongful death claims in New York, so it is important that you get legal advice concerning your case as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment with a member of our legal team, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000 and ask for a complimentary case evaluation.

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