Under New York law, certain legal presumptions apply to different types of car accidents. In a negligence lawsuit, for example, certain assumptions may apply to a driver who crashes into the rear of a vehicle.
A rear-end crash involving a stopped or stooping vehicles establishes an obvious or prima facie case of negligence by the driver of the rear vehicle that caused the crash. After this is established, the driver of that vehicle has the burden of proving an explanation of the accident that does not involve negligent behavior. If the rear motorist cannot provide evidence supporting this explanation — or rebutting the presumption of negligent conduct — the driver of the lead car wins the lawsuit or is awarded judgment as a matter of law.
In a decision issued in August, the New York Supreme Court for Nassau County ruled in favor of the driver of the lead vehicle which was rear-ended by another car as the lead vehicle while stopped at a red light. The driver of the rear car presented testimony that was overly vague, could not remember whether he took his foot off the brake and did not know how the crash took place, according to the court.
Moreover, the defendant driver presented insufficient evidence to support the allegation that the driver of the lead car took medication with potential side effects 2.5 hours before the crash which impaired his driving. No evidence supporting this assertion or that he was drowsy was contained in the police report, medical record associated with his hospitalization after the accident or in eyewitness testimony.
The court also addressed the significance of a motorist driving without a valid license and whether it justifies imposing punitive damages. Absence of a driver’s license is obviously illegal and shows poor judgment, but does not indicate negligence and relates only to the legal authority to drive the vehicle. Absence of a license does not address how the car was driven and does not indicate gross negligence or reckless disregard.
Auto accident victims should seek prompt legal representation to assure they can obtain access to evidence and to assure that they prosecute their cases in trials and other legal proceedings. Legal assistance can help protect their right to compensation for serious injuries and other losses.
Source: Nassau County Supreme Court, “White v. Nehorai and Galil Importing Co., Index No. 12221/13 (Aug. 6, 2015),” Assessed Sept. 5, 2015