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Liability in Rear-End Accidents

Liability in Rear-End Accidents

The prevailing view among many New Yorkers when it comes to rear-end collisions is that the driver of the rear vehicle is 100% at fault.  Allstate Insurance Company shared and asserted this view in its summary judgment motion in a recent New York subrogation action.  However, as you will see below, the prevailing view is not entirely accurate.

Allstate sought to recover uninsured motorist benefits that it paid to the plaintiff, Ms. Lopez (its Insured) for injuries sustained when the defendant’s vehicle rear-ended her car at a stop sign on the entrance ramp leading to Route I-95.

During discovery, plaintiff stated in her deposition that she had been stopped at a stop sign when her vehicle was struck from behind by the defendant, Mr. Garcia.  In his deposition, Mr. Garcia asserted that the plaintiff had inexplicably stopped suddenly after it had proceeded through the stop sign, resulting in the defendant striking Ms. Lopez’s vehicle.

When it comes to rear-end collisions, New York law states that a “rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle creates a prima facie case of negligence with respect to the operator of the moving vehicle and imposes a duty on that operator to rebut the inference of negligence by providing a non negligent explanation for the collision (see Tutrani v. County of Suffolk, 10 NY3d 906, 908 [2008].  

Therefore, because the Court felt that the defendant’s non-negligent explanation — that he had struck plaintiff when she inexplicably stopped her vehicle after it had proceeded through the stop sign — raised a triable issue of fact, it was unwilling to grant Allstate’s motion seeking summary judgment.  

By: Richard A. Rodriguez, Esq.

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