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Victims of Rear End Car Accidents Have Special Legal Protections in New York

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Peter J. Gregory
Jan 19, 2021
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Unlike other type of car accidents, drivers often cannot evade being rear-ended. Instead, drivers and their passengers must absorb the full force of the impact, without a chance to brace or protect themselves. It is a common misconception to think of all rear-end collisions are minor accidents. In reality, these accidents can result in very serious injuries, namely to the head, back, neck, and shoulders, especially in rear-end collisions that involve disproportionately sized vehicles, where the results can be serious.

Generally, in New York, and in the absence of any negligence on the part of a plaintiff, a rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle establishes a “prima facie” case of negligence against the driver and owner of the moving vehicle.  This means that the negligence of the defendants will be accepted as correct until proven otherwise.  It also imposes a duty on the defendants to come forward with an adequate, non-negligent explanation for the collision in order to rebut this inference of negligence.  In other words, when a rear-end collision occurs and a defendant cannot offer a non-negligent explanation for the accident, such as some sort of intervening emergency, then the defendant’s failure to maintain a safe distance between vehicles constitutes negligence as a matter of law.

Therefore, in New York, nearly all rear-end car accidents are presumed to the the fault of the approaching driver. Whether that person is tailgating the victim’s car, speeding, misjudging distance between vehicles, distracted, or not leaving appropriate braking space to react, rear-end collisions are nearly always caused by another driver's negligence. If another driver's negligent actions are the cause of a car accident, then they are held responsible and liable for any damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Even low and moderate speed rear-end car accidents can result in serious, debilitating and long-term injuries. Many factors other than the speed of the vehicles comes into play here, including the weight and type of the vehicles involved, the location of, the height and type of head restraint, the dynamics of the seat, and many other physical factors.

It is important to consult with a personal injury attorney shortly after any accident to review issues of liability, gather evidence and review damages.  If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a car accident, please contact us to learn more.

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About the author:  Peter J. Gregory is a partner with the firm.  He is a trial lawyer with extensive experience resolving disputes in state and federal trial courts. His personal injury practice focuses on advising clients who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by the carelessness or recklessness of others. Please feel free to contact him directly at or (585) 512-3506.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.