I was driving on the parkway with my twin toddlers. A car then cut me off and then came to a complete stop in front of me. Because she first cut me off, I had time to slow down and didn’t hit her hard. She had scratches on her car and my license plate was scratched. But she came to a complete stop for no reason. I pulled over and she continued to drive for a few feet. She then came to another complete stop, causing a second accident. All the people involved in the second accident (two other cars hit) saw my accident and that she cut off and then stopped and I saw their accident. Is it my fault because I hit her from behind??
Sounds to me like a scam artist trying to get hit in the rear. The law is pretty clear that a driver has an obligation to maintain a safe distance form the vehicle ahead and 90+% of the time when you hit someone in the rear you will be held 100% responsible. However, a sudden, unexpected, unreasonable stop that one would have zero chance of expecting such as being cut off and coming to a dead stop on a freeway would probably at least exonerate a good portion of your responsibility if not completely absolve you. Your insurance company will defend you - be sure to clearly state the facts to them. .
Although the law has a strong presumption of fault against the rear-ending car (you), that can be overcome under certain circumstances. From what you describe, you have some strong circumstances in your favor. When reporting the accident to your insurance, be sure to emphasize these details. You did not specify, but if you or the kids were injured, it is important to file No Fault applications with your own insurance carrier immediately so that medical treatment will be covered.
This is a difficult case because the general rule is that the person doing the rear-ending will retain what is called a rebuttable presumption of liability.
However, in your case, if you have independent witnesses who can provide testimony of the other person cutting you off and then stopping in a sudden and arbitrary manner, you may not be at fault, or at least not totally at fault.
New York is what is called a “pure comparative negligence” state, which means that a driver can be assessed anywhere from 0% liability to 100% liability.
I would report the accident to your insurance company and give the adjuster the names of the witnesses and let your insurance company handle this, as that is why you are paying insurance premiums.
In addition, if either you or either of your children were injured, your best bet is to complete whatever treatment is necessary and also to consult right away with an attorney in your area to obtain a more specific answer and get all of your legal options before deciding what to do. The attorney will also investigate all available coverages to ensure you have the maximum amount of coverages available to you (you may have some coverages on your policy that deal with injuries, such as medical payments coverage or Uninsured Motorist coverage). You can use the "Find a Lawyer" link at the top of this page for names of attorneys in your area. Most offer a free consultation and work on a contingency fee basis, so you won’t have to pay anything up front.
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