New York Court Discusses Proximate Cause in Car Accident Cases

Fatal car accidents sadly are a common occurrence in New York, and in many cases, they are caused by dangerous conditions encountered in the roadway. While people who lose loved ones in collisions are frequently able to recover damages from the parties responsible, fatalities do not always arise out of negligence, and a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s acts proximately caused the harm alleged to recover damages. Recently, a New York court issued an opinion explaining the proof needed to establish proximate cause in a case in which the plaintiff’s decedent died after crashing into a barricade on a bridge. If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you could be owed damages, and it is advisable to contact a knowledgeable Buffalo car accident attorney about your rights.

The Decedent’s Harm

Allegedly, the decedent was a passenger in a vehicle that crashed into a bridge that was no longer in commission. He suffered fatal injuries in the accident, after which the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging, in part, that the defendant negligently maintained and operated the bridge. Specifically, the plaintiff asserted that the steel box barrier the defendant used at the entrance of the bridge created a dangerous condition. A non-jury trial was held, and the court determined that the steel box barrier was not a substantial factor in bringing about the decedent’s death and found in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff appealed, but on appeal, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Establishing Proximate Cause in Negligence Claims

The appellate court found that, contrary to the plaintiff’s assertions, a fair assessment of the evidence supported the trial court’s ruling. Further, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the ruling violated prior case law establishing that victims of accidents are not required to name specific remedies and prove that if they were implemented, it would have prevented the harm suffered. Instead, the court explained that a trial court is not precluded from weighing whether a person was likely to suffer the same harm regardless of whether the defendant acted negligently.

Thus, in the subject case, although the plaintiff submitted evidence that supported the conclusion that the defendants created a dangerous condition by not using a W-beam, the trial court was permitted to find that the decedent would have suffered fatal injuries regardless of whether the W-beam was used. Therefore, the steel box beam was not a substantial factor in bringing about the decedent’s death. As such, the appellate court found that the trial court’s ruling was based on a fair interpretation of the evidence.

Speak to a Trusted Personal Injury Attorney in Buffalo

Dangerous roads and structures tragically cause many fatal collisions, and the parties that create deadly conditions should be held accountable for any losses that ensue. If you lost a loved one due to a fatal car accident, it is in your best interest to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. The trusted Buffalo car accident attorneys of the Dietrich Law Firm P.C. take pride in helping people hurt by the negligence of others seek redress for their losses, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us to set up a meeting at 716-839-3939 or via our form online.

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