I was in Court the other day on a Central New York motorcycle accident lawsuit we filed some time ago. The motorcycle accident happened when a car, which was parked on the side of a highway in Lansing, New York, suddenly pulled out across the highway to make a u-turn, and in so doing, forced our motorcyclist client to drop his bike to avoid a collision. Our client was blameless — he had only a second to avoid a collision and did he best he could.
What position does the car driver’s insurance company take? A typical insurance defense position: “It was your client’s fault. He shouldn’t have dropped his bike. He should have steered around the car. He should have done this, he should have done that, Yadayadayada.” We tried to settle with them early on, but they stuck to their position that our guy was “at least 70% at-fault”. Our position never wavered: Our client was 0% at fault and the car driver was 100% at fault.
The defense was completely frivolous. All the case law in New York says that when a motorist is confronted with an emergency situation caused by another driver’s negligence, and has only a few seconds to react, he can’t be found at fault for having failed to react better. This is called the “emergency doctrine”. And it makes sense, right? How can you hold an innocent driver liable for reacting as best he can in a split second to avoid crashing into a car driven by some crazy fool who cuts him off?
Insurance companies must have a special course they put their lawyers through to teach them how to make groundless, even ridiculous arguments, with a straight face. This insurance company lawyer had the nerve to stand there in open Court and argue, against all known law, that our client should have done things better in that one second he had to react. She never even mentioned the “emergency doctrine”, but rather, deliberately ignored it.
The insurance industry has popularized the term “frivolous lawsuit” but what they never tell the public about is their own frivolous defenses. And believe me, they are all too common.
I am happy to report that the judge did not buy this insurance company’s frivolous argument. The judge granted “summary judgment” to our motorcyclist, which means that the driver of the car has been held completely, 100% liable for the accident, and our client 0% liable, without even having to go to a jury. Now all we have to do is get in front of the jury to prove the amount of compensation our client is entitled to for his serous injury. We’ll have to wait and see what frivolous defenses the insurance company lawyer will cook up to try to minimize our client’s serious injuries. But we’ll be ready for them …. as always.