If you are keenly familiar with the rules of the road, you probably know that, as a driver, you are required to maintain a “safe following distance” between you and the vehicle in front you. If a rear-end collision takes place, it is generally presumed that the rear driver is at fault, having failed to maintain that safe distance. If you were injured because someone rear-ended you, you may have a strong case that may allow you to win without even having to go to trial.
A recent case from Queens demonstrated what’s involved in winning when you’ve been rear-ended. The accident took place at an intersection controlled by a traffic light. The plaintiff allegedly approached the red light and stopped. According to her lawsuit, three seconds later, a truck driven by the defendant hit her. When you are in a stopped or stopping vehicle, you are often in a strong position in your injury case. In order to obtain a summary judgment in your favor, which means that the defendants are judged legally liable without a trial, you have to show that your vehicle was either stopped or stopping. The burden then shifts to the defendant to show a non-negligent explanation for the happening of the accident. If the defendant is then not able to show a non-negligent explanation for the happening of the accident, then liability will be granted against the rear ending vehicle.
In this case, the plaintiff had proof that she was stopped at a red light on Northern Boulevard and that, while stopped for the traffic signal, the defendant driver rear-ended her. That, according to the Appellate Division, Second Department, plainly established that the defendant driver was negligent and that the plaintiff did nothing that would make her partly at fault.
So what if you are injured and you are the rear driver? Is your case for damages for your injuries necessarily hopeless? No. A different recent case from the Bronx shows how you can still obtain a favorable outcome, depending on the facts. In that case, the plaintiff was following a box truck traveling along the Major Deegan Expressway. The box truck encountered a bridge overpass that was too low. The truck hit the overpass and came to a sudden and total stop. The rear driver hit his brakes but could not avoid the impact. The collision caused the rear driver to suffer injuries.
In that situation, the Appellate Division, First Department decided that, despite being the driver who rear-ended another vehicle, the plaintiff could still go forward and pursue his case. The difference was one of circumstances. The first case mentioned above took place at a red light at a city street intersection, where drivers should expect other drivers to be stopped or stopping. By contrast, the court ruled that the plaintiff in the second case still had a potential case, despite being a rear driver, since the stop took place in the middle of an expressway under normal traffic conditions and was sudden and complete. The rear driver was, according to the court, entitled to “reasonably expect that traffic would continue unimpeded” and therefore entitled to go forward with his case.
Each vehicle accident case is unique in its own way. To make sure your case is presented in a persuasive manner, contact the New York City auto accident attorneys at the law offices of Jacob Oresky. Our team has advocated on behalf of injured drivers and passengers in cases throughout the New York City metro area, including in Westchester County and on Long Island. We strive to deliver to our clients the effective representation they expect, along with personalized service they may not get elsewhere.
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