Who is Responsible for a Rear End Collision

Rear end car accidents can result in serious injuries to the occupants of the vehicles. In New York the general rule is that the rear vehicle in a rear end accident is at fault. Such is because the driver of the rear vehicle is required to leave sufficient space to be able to stop safely without hitting the car in front.

It is well established that a rear-end collision with a stopped vehicle establishes a case of negligence on the part of the operator of the second vehicle. This rule has been applied when the front vehicle stops suddenly in slow-moving traffic, even if the sudden stop is repetitive, when the front vehicle, although in stop-and-go traffic, stopped while crossing an intersection, and when the front car stopped after having changed lanes. When such a rear-end collision occurs, the injured occupants of the front vehicle are entitled to summary judgment on liability, unless the driver of the following vehicle can provide a non-negligent explanation, in evidentiary form, for the collision. Johnson v. Phillips, 261 A.D.2d 269.

The rear vehicle is under a duty to maintain a safe distance between his car and the car in front of his. His failure to do so, in the absence of a non negligent explanation, constitutes negligence as a matter of law. This is true whether the lead vehicle is stopped or stopping. Billis v. Tunjian, 120 A.d.3d 1168,

The rule is codified in New York's Vehicle and Traffic Law §1129(a) which states:

The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.

A defendant’s allegation that plaintiff’s car stopped suddenly, is insufficient to avoid liability.

Although the rear driver may maintain that the accident was the result of front vehicle stopping suddenly, this does not explain his failure to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of him and is “insufficient to rebut the presumption that no negligence on plaintiff's part contributed to the accident” Dicturel v. Dukureh, 71 A.D.3d 558. It has been repeatedly so held, particularly when the rear driver fails to explain why he or she did not maintain a safe following distance. Bene v Dalessio, 135 A.D.3d 679. While a non-negligent explanation for a rear-end collision may include evidence of a sudden stop of the lead vehicle, vehicle stops which are foreseeable under the prevailing traffic conditions, even if sudden and frequent, must be anticipated by the driver who follows, since he or she is under a duty to maintain a safe distance between his or her car and the car ahead. De Castillo v Sormeley, 140 A.D.3d 918.

Rear end collisions can result in serious injuries, including death, broken bones, herniated and bulging discs in the neck or back, and whiplash type injuries.

If you have been injured in a rear end collision, or other type of motor vehicle accident you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. is a a law firm experienced in handling rear end motor vehicle accident cases. Consultations are always free. For a free consultation contact 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463)

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