PLAINTIFF WINS SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN QUEENS BUS ACCIDENT CASE By Michael Joseph on March 27, 2022

Our New York City bus accident lawyers are aggressive and have utilized a tool, the summary judgment motion to win for our cleints. While summary judgment is often though of as a defense attorney's tool, to get a case dismissed, our New York bus accident lawyers, have gone on the offensive and have been using summary judgment to win out cleint's case.  Our latest victory involved a bus accident case, where the bus company tried to use every nonsense excuse, and they still lost. 

In our latest win, our NYC bus accident attorneys represented two construction workers on their way to work on the Long Island Expressway in Queens when they were rear ended by a bus operated by the MTA bus company.  Even before deposiitons were held our NYC bus acccident lawyers moved for summary judgment, and successfully argued to the Queens Supreme Court that our clients should win the case because we could prove the bus driver violated New York's Vehicle and Traffic Law. While defendants often argue that summary judgment cannot be granted to Plaintiffs in a personal injury negligence case because factual issues as to how is at fault for an accident are for a jury to determine, our New York bus accident lawyers know that the New York Court of Appeals has held in Andre v. Pomeroy, 35 N.Y.2d 361, 364 (N.Y. 1974), that  Summary judgment is designed to expedite all civil cases by eliminating from the Trial Calendar claims which can properly be resolved as a matter of law. This ruling is consistent with the language of Civil Practice Law and Rule § 3212(b), which states that summary Judgement must be granted where there is no defense to the cause of action or that the defense has no merit.  

One frequent issue that comes up in rear end collission accident cases is the driver who rear ended the vehicle in front tries to blame the vehicle they rear ended by claiming they stopped short or they hit ice or they try to come up with some other excuse. This is exactly what happened in the lateset cases that our car accident attorneys won in Queens Supreme Court. Our NYC bus accident attorneys successfully argued that the New York Courts have recognized that a violation of a statute imposing a specific duty constitutes Negligence Per Se and imposes absolute liability.  More particularly, the New York Courts have held that the Vehicle and Traffic Law establishes standards of care for motorists, and an unexcused violation of such standards of care constitutes negligence per se. In this case, our clients were stopped in traffic when the bus operator rear ended their vehicle, therefore our New York personal injury lawyers argued to the Court that the MTA Bus Company should Be held liable for the accident because the bus driver violated New York's Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1129. Vehicle and Traffic Law §1129(a) imposes a duty on all drivers to drive at a safe speed and maintain a safe distance between vehicles, always compensating for any known adverse road conditions. Caselaw interpreting Vehicle and Traffic Law §1129(a) has recognized that when a driver of a motor vehicle approaches another motor vehicle from the rear, that driver is bound to maintain a reasonably safe distance and a reasonably safe speed under the prevailing conditions to avoid colliding with the other vehicle. Therefore, a rear- end collision is sufficient to create a prima facie case of liability and imposes a duty of explanation with respect to the operator of the offending vehicle.The rationale for this rule is that the presumption of negligence in rear end cases does not arise from the act of the lead vehicle in stopping or braking, but from the duty of the driver of the vehicle behind to keep a safe distance and not collide with traffic ahead. 

In this case, the bus company tried to claim that they were not negligent because of the emergency doctrine and claimed that another driver cut the bus off and he had to switch lanes suddenly to avoid a collission and instead impacted our clients because they stopped short. Our NYC bus accident attorneys successfully argued to the Queens Supreme Court, that this was a feigned issue of fact and insufficient to overcome Plaintiff's proof that the bus driver was negligent in failing to keep the bus under proper control. First, New York Courts have recognized that a claim that the defendant could not avoid a rear end collision because the vehicle in front of them stopped short is legally insufficient to rebut the presumption of negligence because drivers are expected to maintain a reasonable distance between their vehicles and vehicles ahead of them so as to avoid colliding with stopped vehicles. The Defendant's claim that they were not negligent because our clients stopped short was aslo undermined by the fact this this accident occurred at rush hour and it can     easily be anticipated that cars up ahead will make frequent stops in rush hour traffic, and a defendant driver's failure to anticipate and react to the movement of a vehicle in front     of it is not an adequate, nonnegligent explanation for a rear end collission accident.

Our NYC bus accident lawyers successfully argued that the Defendant's claim that he was not at fault because he changed lanes to avoid impacting another unidentified vehicle did not overcome our proof that he violated Vehicle and Traffic Law 1129 because the claim in and of itself established the bus driver's negligence since it meant that the bus driver made an unsafe lane change to avoid hitting a car that stopped in front of him was insufficient to establish a non-negligent explanation because the fact that he hit the Plaintiff’s vehicle so hard that the Plaintiff was pushed forward into another vehicle, is prima facie proof that it was not safe for the Defendant to change lanes and that the bus was travelling at an unsafe speed under the circumstances. The Court rejected the bus driver's claim that the accident occurred because some phantom driver entered his lane and accepted our NYC bus accident attorney's argument that V.T.L. § 1128(a), which prohibits changing lanes unless the driver has first determined that they can safely change lanes. Proof that an accident occurred because the defendant violated VTL § 1128 is also sufficient to establish a prima facie case of liability, entitling the movant to summary judgment.

Our New York City bus accident lawyers are prouf of this win, and in these times when the Court's trial calendars are backed up with Covid, winning the case on a summary judgment motion, requires the defendant to pay interest on any judgment that is ultimately rendered, which reduces the incentive that the defendants normally have to delay the settlement or resolution of the case as long as possible. 

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The Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC

Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC

The Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC, has been helping injured victims recover compensation for their injuries for over a decade. Our attorneys are members of several prestigious organizations, including: 

  • New York State Trial Lawyers Association
  • American Association for Justice
  • New York County Bar Association
  • Westchester County Bar Association

To request your free initial consultation with our team, call our New York City office at (212) 858-0503 or our White Plains office at (914) 574-8330. You can also request a case review online.

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