Many times following a car accident, the drivers involved will have different recollections of the event. In a two-car accident, for example, each driver may claim the other caused the accident. In such cases it may take time for litigation to settle who is actually responsible, as the disputed facts generally prevent a quick resolution.
Here is a simple illustration of how New York courts need to sort out conflicting stories between drivers in an accident. One afternoon in December 2013, a woman was driving her car in Brooklyn. As she drove through an intersection, her vehicle collided with a New York City public bus. The woman later sued the New York City Transit Authority, seeking damages for the injuries she suffered in the accident.
In December 2014, a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge awarded summary judgment to the plaintiff on the question of the Transit Authority's liability. Summary judgment is generally granted when there are no material facts in dispute and the law clearly establishes one party's liability. Here, the Transit Authority appealed, arguing summary judgment was not appropriate because they very much disputed who was responsible for the accident.
During discovery, the plaintiff testified she “entered the intersection at 25 miles per hour with a steady green traffic light in her favor,” while the bus driver ran a red light traveling at about 50 miles per hour. The bus driver, in contrast, stated in both an accident report and a police report taken at the scene that he “proceeded into the intersection with a green light.”
On appeal, the Appellate Division, Second Department, said this unresolved dispute over who “ran the light” made the Brooklyn Supreme Court's grant of summary judgment premature. For one thing, it is possible both parties share responsibility for the accident, in which case a judge or jury must determine the plaintiff's “comparative fault” before deciding whether she is entitled to any damages. For example, if a jury were to decide both drivers were equally at fault, any damages awarded the plaintiff would have to be reduced by 50%.
Do Not Go to Court Without a Personal Injury Lawyer
Even seemingly simple car accidents may lead to long, complex litigation. The accident in the case above occurred more than two years ago, yet the parties have yet to proceed to trial. It is not atypical for a personal injury case in New York to take several years when taking into account the time necessary for a jury trial and any appeals.That is why you should never try and settle an accident case on your own. An experienced New York personal injury lawyer understands the court system and can guide you through the process. While no attorney can guarantee a favorable outcome, you will be in the best position to receive compensation if you work with an attorney who specializes in auto accident cases. If you need assistance following a car accident or similar event, contact the offices of Nisar & Mason, P.C. right away.