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New York’s Highest Court Issues Important New Ruling Benefiting Auto Accident Victims

Legal News GavelA very important new decision from the New York Court of Appeals could be a substantial benefit for people injured in vehicle accidents or pedestrian accidents. The high court’s ruling in favor of an injured sanitation worker was very important because it widens the sets of circumstances under which victims injured in accidents can go to court and use summary judgment to avoid full trials on the issue of liability. This lessens the circumstances in which a defendant can force a more protracted litigation on the victim, which can be stressful, time consuming, and expensive. When it comes to keeping up on changes in the law and how they can benefit you, rely upon the knowledge of an experienced New York car accident attorney.

The Department of Sanitation worker, Carlos, was at work when he was struck. During wintry weather, he was responsible for equipping sanitation trucks with tire chains and snow plows. While Carlos was working, a truck skidded on a slick surface and crashed into a Toyota car. The impact thrust the Toyota into Carlos, pinning him against a rack of tires. Carlos’ injuries were substantial. He eventually needed spinal fusion surgery and extensive physical therapy. He was permanently disabled from working as a result of the accident.

The worker sued the city for the damages he suffered. As is the case for many injury plaintiffs, Carlos sought a summary judgment in his favor on the issue of the city’s liability. Getting the judge to issue a summary judgment in your favor on the issue of liability can be an important benefit to your case. That means that the court has declared your opponent legally liable for your injuries without your having to go through a full trial on the question of fault. You can then focus on proving the extent of the damages you suffered.

Both the trial court and the Appellate Division determined that Carlos was not entitled to summary judgment. The courts stated that disputed issues remained unresolved regarding Carlos’ possible contributory negligence. In New York, the rule of “contributory negligence” says that it is possible that both a defendant and an injured plaintiff can both be, to certain degrees, to blame for an accident. If a plaintiff is partly at fault (or “contributorily negligent”), the injured plaintiff is still allowed to recover, but the amount of compensation is reduced based upon the percentage of blame the jury assesses to the plaintiff.

Essentially, what the trial court and Appellate Division said was, if an injured plaintiff cannot prove that he was 100% free of blame for the accident, he must undergo a full trial on the issue of liability, no matter how much evidence he has proving the defendant’s blameworthiness.

The Court of Appeal decided differently. The new high court opinion says that giving an injured plaintiff the burden of proving that he was 100% free of blame in order to obtain a summary judgment was not consistent with the relevant New York statutes. It would unfairly flip the burden from the defendant to the plaintiff. This meant Carlos was entitled to the summary judgment he sought in his injury case.

If you have been injured in an auto accident, make sure you have an attorney who has a detailed and up-to-date knowledge of the law and how to use it in your favor. The skilled Queens pedestrian accident attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman have been effectively representing injured people throughout the New York City area for many years. Talk to us and learn more about your options. Contact us toll-free at 877-754-3099 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Contributory negligence doesn’t necessarily bar compensation for pedestrians, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Jan. 24, 2015

How does contributory negligence work in New York?, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Jan. 29, 2014

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