What if a Car Accident Was Caused by Brake Malfunction?

mechanic repairing brakes
Posted: September 21, 2022

After a car crash that causes injury, it is normal to try to determine who, or what, caused the crash. In many cases, this determination is not too difficult. New York courts have held that rules of the road contained in the Vehicle & Traffic Law provide a standard of care, and that violation of those rules is negligence per se. That means, in most cases, where the violation of a rule of the road caused or contributed to the accident and injury, that is negligence. Examples are failing to yield the right of way, running  a stop sign, and failing to maintain the appropriate lane.  

But what if the motorist who appears to have violated the rules of the road claims that the vehicle’s operation was not a failure of the driver to follow the rules of the road, but instead a failure of the vehicle itself? Assume, for instance, that a motorist is rear-ended while stopped at a red light and the rear-ending motorist claims that the brakes failed. That is, the car would have stopped but for the failed brakes.  

This might seem disorienting for the person stopped at the red light, who was simply stopped, waiting. In assessing liability in this sort of situation, an experienced personal injury attorney will likely analyze the “emergency doctrine” and whether the rear-ending motorist can establish an “unavoidable accident.” These are affirmative defenses, meaning that the party invoking the argument must submit evidence to substantiate or confirm the validity of the defenses.  An experienced attorney will likely seek to obtain physical evidence pertaining to the vehicle as well as information concerning its maintenance.  

It’s very possible that the claimed brake failure is just that: a claim that is not supported by other evidence. If the brakes function properly, the defense will likely lack merit. If, however, brakes truly did fail, the foreseeability of the brake failure will likely be at issue. If the owner or driver knew or should have known that the brakes either failed or were in the process of failing, it may be difficult to establish that the “emergency” was not of their own making – an important element of the emergency doctrine affirmative defense.  

Claims for Pain and Suffering after a Car Crash 

If you are injured in a New York car accident, the attorneys at William Mattar, P.C., can help you obtain maximum compensation for pain and suffering. Call us on (716) 444-4444, or visit our website to learn more about our services or call (844) 444-4444.

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