A car accident often produces confusion over who is responsible. There may be conflicting accounts given by participants and witnesses. In order to sustain a personal injury lawsuit following an accident, the plaintiff must provide evidence of the defendant's negligence. When the accounts and evidence gathered before going to court fail to demonstrate any such negligence, the case is likely to be dismissed on summary judgment—that is, without trial.
Driver “Remembers” Accident Months After Telling Police He Did Not
Consider a recent case heard by the Appellate Division, First Department. The plaintiffs in this case were passengers in a vehicle which got into a car accident. Police officers arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and took statements from the drivers involved. The driver of the plaintiffs' vehicle said he “had no memory of how the accident happened.” Three other drivers, however, told police that the plaintiffs' driver had “crossed the double yellow line” from the eastbound lane of the road “and entered the westbound lane of traffic.”
Despite these statements, the passengers sued not only their driver, but also the other three drivers. During a pretrial deposition, the plaintiffs' driver claimed “his memory returned” several months after the accident, and that he now said the other three drivers had crossed into his lane, not the other way around as they told the police. Based on this new testimony, the plaintiffs asked Manhattan Supreme Court to deny the other drivers' motion for summary judgment.
The Supreme Court rejected this argument and granted summary judgment. On appeal, the First Department affirmed. As the appeals court explained, the plaintiffs' driver's testimony taken at the scene was recorded in an official police report, and it is “axiomatic that statements made by a party in an affidavit, a police report, or a deposition that are not denied by the party constitute an admission” of said statement. Attempting to contradict such a statement in subsequent testimony—as the plaintiffs' driver did here—is “insufficient to defeat summary judgment, as the later version presents only a feigned issue of fact.” In other words, a person who tells the police one thing and then tries to change their story later “to avoid the consequences of his prior admission” is not going to be treated as a credible witness by the court.
Get Advice from a New York Personal Injury Lawyer
There are, of course, cases where a person in an accident may genuinely not know or recall the circumstances. That is why if you have been in an accident, it is important to seek advice from an experienced New York personal injury attorney. An attorney can assist you in gathering information about an accident so that if it is necessary to proceed with a personal injury lawsuit, you are in the best position possible to recover damages. While no attorney can guarantee a favorable outcome, your chances are much better if you have someone on your side who understands the legal system. Contact the attorneys at Mahir Nisar Attorney at Law today if you would like to speak with someone about your case.