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Who Is Liable In A Car v. Bicycle Accident

bicycle-car-accident

Trying to understand who is liable in a car v bicycle accident relies on a number of factors. Therefore, we should address each case individually. In November 2010, at evening, a woman was riding her bicycle northbound on a two-way street in Brooklyn. There was no separate bike lane. Suddenly, a car door struck her. The man opened that door from a car parked in the parking lane. The lane was to the right of the lane for traffic. When the door struck her, the woman and her bicycle fell toward her left. She fell onto the ground in the lane for traffic traveling northbound on the street. As the woman was lying on the ground, an additional car ran over right foot.

The injured woman sued both drivers to recover damages for personal injuries. The second defendant, the driver who ran over the plaintiff, moved for summary judgment. He tried to dismiss the complaint. It was on the basis that he had been presented with an emergency situation. He also felt he acted as a reasonably prudent person would have under the circumstances. The lower court, in attempting to figure out who is liable in a car v bicycle accident denied the motion.  Defendant appealed.

The Appeal

The appeal meant that a higher court would decide who is liable in a car v bicycle accident. The Second Department held that the lower court properly denied that the defendant’s motion. The Second Department reasoned that “the emergency doctrine holds that those faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance, not of their own making, that leaves them with little or no time for reflection or reasonably causes them to be so disturbed that they are compelled to make a quick decision without weighing alternate courses of conduct, may not be negligent if their actions are reasonable and prudent in the context of the emergency.” The court further explained that an emergency does not automatically release an actor from liability for its conduct. Therefore, the existence of an emergency and the reasonableness of a party’s response will ordinarily present questions of fact.

The Result Of The Who Is Liable In A Car v Bicycle Accident Case

As they continued to consider who is liable in a car v bicycle accident, the Second Department further held that the defendant failed to make a prima facie showing of his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. The evidence submitted in support of his motion included excerpts of the deposition testimony of defendant and plaintiff.  Plaintiff testified that defendant’s vehicle ran over her right foot and the back wheel of her bicycle two to three seconds after she had fallen to the ground.  Defendant testified that only approximately one second had elapsed from the time that there was contact between the door of the parked car and the bicyclist, to the time that there was contact between his vehicle and the bicycle.

As is often the case, when figuring out who is liable in a car v bicycle accident there are opposing stories. Thus, the Court held that this evidence was insufficient to eliminate all triable issues of fact as to whether defendant was negligent in failing to exercise due care to avoid the collision with the plaintiff.  In addition, the Court explained that defendant failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law pursuant to the emergency doctrine, given the existence of triable issues of fact as to whether his actions were reasonable and prudent under the circumstances. Accordingly, the Second Department affirmed decision of the lower court that denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

If you have been involved in an accident, please do not hesitate to call our law firm.