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Short Stop Does Not Overcome Presumption of Rear End Negligence

February 23, 2016

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It is well-settled that a rear-end collision with a stopped car or stopping vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the driver of the rear vehicle. That driver must then come forward with a “non-negligent” explanation of the accident.
In <em><a href="">Dewees v. Bentley</a>, </em>a bus rear-ended a van on the RFK Bridge in Queens, New York. Plaintiff, a passenger in the bus sued the bus and the driver/owner of the van. The van moved for summary judgment maintaining the bus-driver was at fault for the collision since the bus rear ended the van. In opposing this motion, the bus-driver maintained it was not liable for the collision because the van short-stopped right before the collision occurred. In granting the van’s motion for summary judgment, the Supreme Court of New York did not find the short stop of the van rebutted the presumption of the bus’s negligence as the rear end vehicle.
In sum, it is very difficult for a rear-end vehicle to overcome the presumption of negligence. Thus, defendant-drivers of the rear vehicle should often consider early resolution of these cases rather than incurring the costs of litigation.
Thanks to Caroline Freilich for her contribution to this post.


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