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Using Your Opponent’s Guilty Plea to a Vehicle & Traffic Law Violation in Your New York Auto Accident Case

Legal News GavelThere are lots of types of evidence that can potentially bolster your case. The best types of proof are those that not only indicate that you should win but also that you should win your case as a matter of law, which means that you win without even having to go to trial. One type of evidence that can help you in that regard is if the driver who hit you was convicted of a Vehicle & Traffic Law violation in connection with the accident. Skilled New York car accident counsel can help you put all of your evidence together to build a winning case.

One example in which a Vehicle & Traffic Law violation was part of the proof was an accident case originating in Ulster County. The case involved John, who was driving northbound. Peter was driving southbound along the same road. At some point, Peter steered his vehicle across the road’s double-yellow line and struck the left front part of John’s vehicle.

John sued for the injuries he suffered as a result of the crash. When you’re suing for injuries caused by an auto accident, there are several hurdles you will need to clear in order to achieve a successful result. One hurdle is not something that you “must” overcome, but it is something that, if you can clear it, offers significant benefit. That hurdle is obtaining a summary judgment in your favor on the issue of liability. This will allow you to hold the other driver liable without having to go through a trial on liability.

When the defendant you’re suing has committed a violation of the Vehicle & Traffic Law, that violation may be enough to entitle you to summary judgment under a theory of “per se negligence,” which means that the defendant is deemed to be legally negligent simply because he violated the statute. In John’s case, he testified that Peter’s vehicle crossed the double-yellow line. Peter received a ticket for crossing the double-yellow line and later pled guilty to that violation. This is enough to prove per se negligence.

Just because you prove per se negligence doesn’t automatically mean you win. The law gives the driver who hit you the opportunity to establish that his negligence was legally excused. For example, an “unforeseen and unexpected medical emergency” can constitute a valid excuse. Peter did not have any proof of any such medical emergency, however, so his per se negligence was not excused in this case.

Proving that you suffered a “serious injury”

Even after you have proven that the driver you’re suing was negligent per se and that the driver had no excuse for his negligence, your task is still not complete. The driver who hit you may attempt to argue that the injuries you suffered were too minor to entitle you to a judgment. In New York, Insurance Law Section 5104 requires that you have suffered a “serious injury” in order to pursue a personal injury action. Section 5102 defines a serious injury as “a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than [90] days during the [180] days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.” In other words, you need proof that the injury you suffered interfered with your regular daily activities for at least 50% of the time during the six months immediately after your accident.

Generally, proving the existence of a serious injury involves giving the court persuasive medical evidence. John had the medical testimony of one of his treating physicians, Dr. Mendoza. Dr. Mendoza testified that John had “among other things, lumbar radiculopathy, cervical thoracic lumbar sprain/strain, traumatic bursitis of the left shoulder, left shoulder sprain/strain and cervical thoracic lumbar muscle spasms.” These things, according to the doctor, inflicted on John a substantial loss of range of motion. This testimony was enough to prove that John’s injury was serious under the criteria required by the Insurance Law.

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, talk to the Queens car accident attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman. Our team has been helping injured people throughout the New York City area seek out beneficial outcomes for many years. To schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified attorneys, contact us toll-free at 718-896-2700 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

What Is (And Is Not) a ‘Valid, Non-Negligent Explanation’ and What Does That Mean for Your New York Rear-End Accident Case?, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Oct. 25, 2017

Winning Your New York Car Accident Case Using a Summary Judgment Motion, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, Oct. 16, 2017

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