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I Got Rear-Ended in New York. What’s the Best Way for Me to Get the Compensation I Need?
January 22, 2019 at 12:00 AM
by Newman, Anzalone & Newman, LLP
I Got Rear-Ended in New York. What’s the Best Way for Me to Get the Compensation I Need?

No one wants to imagine being rear-ended in an auto accident. However, whether it is due to a driver under-appreciating how slick or slippery roads are, a driver falling victim to distractions like cell phones, or some other cause, these accidents happen all too often. When it happens to you, you probably know that the rear driver is typically at fault and that you may be entitled to compensation in court. But would you know how to go about getting that much-needed compensation? And, more precisely, would you know the best way to do it? For answers to these and other questions, be sure to retain the services of a skilled New York City injury attorney.

Many people probably know that they can sue the driver who rear-ended them. But there’s more to it than that. A full trial on the issue of the accident’s causation and the other driver’s liability can possibly be very time consuming and stressful–and there may be a way to avoid it. That method for avoiding a full trial on the issue of liability is called “summary judgment,” and was a key to success for a pair of injured drivers in their recent cases.

Summary judgment means that the judge has decided that, of the factual disputes that may exist between you and the other driver, there are none that would alter the outcome of the case. Even if every factual dispute was resolved in your opponent’s favor, the law would still dictate that you win. When that happens, you win on liability and the case moves on to a trial–albeit only on the issue of how much your damages award should be.

Rear-end accidents can often be very fertile cases for injured plaintiffs to win on summary judgment. The law requires all drivers to keep a proper lookout for other vehicles and to maintain a safe following distance from the car or truck in front of them. If someone rear ends you, the law presumes that the rear driver did not do one or both of those two required things. The only way that the rear driver can avoid summary judgment in the front driver’s favor is by asserting, with proper support, that there was some special or unique circumstance in that accident that possibly made the front driver to blame and required a trial on who was at fault.

The ‘sudden stop’ defense argument often isn’t enough to stop your case

One of the more common arguments that a rear driver may try to use is that the front driver improperly came to a sudden stop. In a Long Island case, W.L. was rear-ended by J.S. The front driver sued and filed a request for summary judgment. The rear driver said that the question of fault should go to trial because W.L. came to a sudden stop. Both the trial judge and the Appellate Division ruled for W.L. The appeals court stated that the rear driver’s “sudden stop” argument “was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether there was a nonnegligent explanation for the rear-end collision.”

In a case from the Bronx, B.U. was rear-ended. Again, the defense tried to argue that the lead driver had stopped too quickly. Again, the courts ruled for the injured lead driver. As the Appellate Division stated, the defense’s argument that B.U. “stopped abruptly does not explain why defendant driver failed to maintain a safe distance, and is insufficient to constitute a nonnegligent explanation.” The rear driver was legally obliged to maintain a proper distance and the two vehicles’ collision proved that the rear driver didn’t do that, so B.U. was entitled to judgment in her favor.

In the law, as in many other areas of life, there may be more than one way to achieve the goal you desire. Sometimes, success can be measured by not only reaching your goal but also doing so in the best way possible. In civil litigation like personal injury lawsuits, that may mean seeking summary judgment. What