New York court rules sunset glare not driving emergency in fatal car accident

The causes of car accidents are many. Many drivers on their way home during rush hour encounter the stubborn glare of the sun and sometimes the glare of the sun can interfere with driving. One driver from New York who was involved in a fatal car accident claimed that a part of the cause of the accident was the glare from the setting sun. The New York Court of Appeals, based in Albany, recently ruled that it is well known that the sun’s glare can interfere with driving and therefore did not contribute to the cause of the fatal accident in this particular case.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in February 2000 the driver fatally struck a pedestrian while the driver was exiting a parking garage he used for work. As with many workplaces, there was a heavy amount of pedestrian traffic crossing the street between the parking garage and an office complex across the street. The driver claimed that the glare from the sunset caused a “sudden and unexpected circumstance” that temporarily blinded him when he struck and killed the pedestrian.

A wrongful death suit was filed on the behalf of the pedestrian and asserted negligence against the driver and the city. The trial court instructed the jury to determine whether the glare of the sun created an emergency situation and if so, whether the driver’s reaction was one of a reasonable person. The jury returned a verdict assessing 15 percent negligence against the city and 85 percent negligence against the pedestrian. The suit was dismissed against the driver.

The case eventually went up to the New York Court of Appeals and New York’s highest court ruled differently. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that the driver was familiar with the area and that it is “well known” that the sun can interfere with a driver’s vision and therefore the glare of the sun was not an emergency situation in that specific case.

Source: legalnewsline.com, “Jury instruction improper, N.Y. high court rules,” Jessica M. Karmasek, Oct. 19, 2011

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