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Summary Judgment Should Have Been Granted to Motorist in New York Rear-End Collision Accident Case

Although a Syracuse car accident can happen in many different ways, rear-end collisions, side-impact accidents, and head-on crashes are some of the most common scenarios for car wrecks nowadays. Driver distraction or inattention, speeding, and drunk or impaired driving are common causes of these types of car accidents. In motor vehicle accident cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that the accident proximately resulted from a breach of duty on the defendant’s part.

If the plaintiff cannot produce sufficient evidence to raise a question for the trier of fact on the question of negligence, his or her case is likely to be dismissed prior to trial. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to be represented by a qualified accident attorney in such cases.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who was riding in the car of the first defendant as they traveled along a busy highway. An SUV that had been traveling in the same vicinity as the first defendant allegedly “suddenly merged” and stopped in front of the first defendant’s vehicle. The first defendant was able to stop without rear-ending the SUV, but the second defendant, who was traveling behind the first defendant in traffic, was unable to stop and ran into the back of the first defendant’s vehicle. The plaintiff sued both the first defendant and the second defendant, seeking monetary compensation for injuries she allegedly sustained in the crash.

The first defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking judgment as a matter of law as to the plaintiff’s complaint against him. The Supreme Court of Schenectady County denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and he appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department, reversed the lower court’s order denying summary judgment to the first defendant. The reviewing court began its analysis by pointing out that, while drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid an accident, there is generally no basis upon which to impose liability upon a lead driver (such as the first defendant) who is forced to stop suddenly and does not strike the vehicle in front of him or her. Given the first defendant’s testimony that the SUV “jumped in front” of him without a signal and then came to a complete stop, the appellate division found that the first defendant had satisfied his burden, as the moving party, of establishing that he was not negligent.

In response, the plaintiff had failed to raise a triable issue of fact, in the court’s opinion. Although the plaintiff contended on appeal that the first defendant had failed to pay proper attention to traffic conditions, she did not testify or offer any other proof regarding the defendant’s observations of the SUV prior to the accident. Thus, the reviewing court ruled that summary judgment should have been granted to the first defendant.

Call an Experienced Injury Lawyer

Motor vehicle rear-end collisions can cause serious personal injuries that can result in thousands of dollars in medical costs and considerable amounts of lost income. Pain and suffering and loss of spousal consortium are also frequent results of motor vehicle accidents. If you have been hurt in a Syracuse car accident or collision, you have only a limited time in which to file a claim for money damages against the negligent driver who caused the crash in which you were injured. To schedule a free consultation regarding your case, call the attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000 today.

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