In a decision on August 7, the Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department reversed the lower court’s ruling and granted summary judgment for the plaintiff in a Brooklyn personal injury claim. The injuries in question occurred during a car accident on the Kosciuszko Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Queens. While stopped in the left lane, the plaintiff’s vehicle was rear-ended by the defendant’s vehicle, causing injuries to the plaintiff himself.
As the Court explains in its ruling, the law is clear regarding several aspects of the scenario described above. The driver of a vehicle behind another vehicle must do everything reasonably within his or her power to avoid striking the lead vehicle. This includes maintaining a safe distance and speed. When the front vehicle is stopped and a vehicle collides with it from the rear, this creates a rebuttable presumption that the driver of the rear vehicle acted negligently and caused the accident. The driver presumed to be at fault must provide a non-negligent reason for the accident to overcome this presumption.
In this case, the Court found that the defendant failed to overcome the presumption of negligence against him. In a pre-trial deposition, the defendant told opposing counsel that when he first saw the plaintiff’s vehicle, it was at a stop and that he collided roughly three to four seconds after noticing it. Because of this admission, he could not claim that the plaintiff had stopped short, not giving the defendant ample time to avoid the accident. The defendant also claimed to have skidded as he tried to stop, however the Court found that he did not sufficiently show that the skid was unavoidable. Because the defendant could not overcome the prima facie case that had been established against him, the Second Department granted summary judgment on liability to the plaintiff.