Sun Glare Held not to be an Excuse for Car Accident

New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals, yesterday decided a case holding that a sun glare was not a valid excuse for causing a motor vehicle accident.  In the case before the court the defendant driver was making a left hand turn, turning west, at 4:05 pm in late February.  The driver struck a pedestrian who was crossing the street.  The excuse of the driver was that he was looking to his right for oncoming traffic and when he started to turn left, he was unexpectedly blinded by the sun glare.  The driver thus claimed he did not see the pedestrian until the last second, before striking her.  The pedestrian was killed in the accident.  The name of the case is Lifson v. City of Syracuse (decided October 13, 2011). A copy of the decision can be read here. At the trial of the action the judge instructed the jury that they could consider the sun glare an emergency situation.  If the jury found that the defendant driver was involved in an emergency situation not of his own making, and that his response to the emergency was that of a reasonably prudent person, then they should find the driver was not at fault.  The jury did find that the driver was faced with an emergency situation and acted reasonably in response, thus dismissing the case against him. The estate for the pedestrian appealed the decision.  The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court, but the NY Court of Appeal's reversed, holding:
[Defendant driver] was about to turn west at a time of day that the sun would be setting.  It is well known, and therefore cannot be considered a sudden and unexpected circumstance, that the sun can interfere with one's vision as it nears the horizon at sunset, particularly when one is heading west...under the circumstances presented, there is no reasonable view of the evidence under which sun glare constitutes a qualifying emergency.
In explaining its reasoning the court discussed an earlier decision, in which it found the driver did not face an emergency situation where his car slid on ice. There, the court found that the driver was generally aware that he was driving in bad weather consisting of precipitation with a mix of snow, rain and hail. Thus the ice should not have been unexpected, and the driver was not faced with a sudden and unexpected emergency.  That case is Caristo v. Sanzone, 96 NY2d 172 (2001). Thus in New York, sun glare directly from the sun is not a reasonable excuse for causing a motor vehicle accident.  The finding may be different based on a different set of facts, such as perhaps sun glare that is reflected off of a mirror or glass, from an unexpected direction. If you are involved in a car accident in New York  as a result of weather conditions it is always best to consult with an attorney who is experienced with car accident cases.  A lawyer who has experience with NY motor vehicle accident cases is will best be able to evaluate the facts of the case and advise you of your rights. Zalman Schnurman & Miner is experienced in handling cases where pedestrians have been struck by cars.  We are experienced in handling motor vehicle accidents which were caused by weather conditions including sun glare, snow, ice, puddles, water, fog, etc. Just this month, we settled a case for over 2 million dollars.  In that case the driver of a truck struck a pedestrian in a crosswalk in Suffolh County, New York.  The initial police report claimed the driver was blinded by sun glare.  Subsequently the engineer, hired by the driver's attorney, claimed the driver could not see the pedestrian because she was stepping out of shadows caused by trees.  Regardless of the excuses offered on behalf of the driver, we were able to obtain a settlement in excess of two million dollars for our client.  We will be happy to speak to you about your New York motor vehcile accident case, and offer a free consultation. - Marc Miner, Esq. Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C.  is a New York law firm that concentrates in personal injury actions such as pedestrian-vehicular accidents, car accidents; motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents, premises liability, trip and falls, slip and falls, snow and ice cases, construction accidents, medical malpractice, traumatic brain injuries, wrongful death, etc. Learn more at, or contact us at 1-800-LAWLINE, or 1-800-529-5463 Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. handles personal injury actions in New York City, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and Rockland County.  We can often refer you to attorneys in other areas that we have worked with in the past. The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not meant as legal advice, or to cover all possible facts or factors. An attorney should be consulted to discuss specific facts and laws.

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