Liability is often difficult to determine in accidents involving multiple cars. In some cases, however, liability can be fairly straightforward. In New York, a rear collision with a stopped vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence against the driver of the rear vehicle.
One New York court recently considered liability in a case involving a four-vehicle accident. The plaintiff in Martey v. Gotham Area Limousine Corp. was riding as a passenger in a vehicle owned by a limousine company at the time of the accident. The plaintiff’s affidavit state that the driver encountered stopped vehicles as he approached the intersection and struck the rear of one of the vehicles. That vehicle then struck the vehicle in front of it, which in turn struck the vehicle in front of it.
The plaintiff filed suit against the drivers and vehicle owners. She moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability, arguing that she was an innocent passenger who did not contribute to the accident. The driver and owner of the vehicle in which the plaintiff was riding argued that the motion was premature because discovery had not yet been conducted. The driver also submitted and affidavit claiming that the vehicle in front of him had caused the accident by stopping abruptly.
Neither the vehicle in which the plaintiff was riding nor the vehicle it struck moved for summary judgment, but the other defendants did. The moving defendants alleged that they were stopped at the traffic light when struck from behind.
A party moving for summary judgment on the issue of liability must establish that he or she is free of comparative negligence and that another party’s negligence was the substantial cause of the accident. The burden then shifts to the defendant to raise a triable issue of fact.
The court noted that the rear-end collision with the stopped vehicle established a prima facie case against the driver and owner of the vehicle in which the plaintiff was riding. Those defendants failed to provide a non-negligent explanation. The driver’s bare assertion that the vehicle in front of him stopped abruptly is not enough to raise a triable issue of fact. The court found the plaintiff had made her prima facie case and the defendants failed to raise a triable issue of fact. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion.
The court also found that all of the defendants other than the owner and driver of the plaintiff’s vehicle were entitled to summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against those defendants. A rear collision establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the rear vehicle, and all of the other vehicles had been hit in the rear while stopped. The court found that the vehicle the plaintiff was riding in was the substantial cause of the accident. The court noted that the defendants for the first vehicle struck had not moved for summary judgment, but granted it anyway pursuant to CPLR §3212(b). The plaintiff may proceed with her claim for damages against the driver and owner of the vehicle she was riding in.
Although the plaintiff’s claims against most of the defendants were dismissed, she has succeeded in establishing liability on the at fault parties and may recover damages from the driver and/or owner of the vehicle she was in. This case illustrates how a multiple vehicle accident can be caused by the negligence of just one party. The evidence showed that the other vehicles were stopped when they were struck and the collision caused two of them to move forward and hit another car. This information, along with the presumption that liability is on the rear car, allowed the court to easily determine liability despite the number of vehicles involved.
Our New York automobile accident attorney is knowledgeable in all aspects of the law involving chain reaction accidents. If you have been seriously injured in a rear-end multi-vehicle accident, we can help you, whether fault lies with one driver or multiple drivers. Call us at 1-877-313-7673. The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations.
Martey v. Gotham Area Limousine Corp., Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York
More Blog Entries:
Multiple Defendants in New York Auto Accident Cases, February 29, 2016,, New York Injury Lawyer Blog