The Responsibility of a Driver to see “What There is to be Seen”


New York State Law requires that motorists see “what there is to be seen”. The New York Pattern Jury Instructions states that each driver is under a duty “to keep a proper lookout under the circumstances then existing, to see and be aware of what was in his or her view; and to use reasonable care to avoid an accident.” In non-legalese, this means that it is the responsibility of a driver to be aware of all viewable surroundings on the road. The obligation to see what there is to be seen is not meant to put an onerous burden on the driver, but rather to reinforce the fact that it is the responsibility of the driver to always be vigilant on roadways.

An example of this obligated vigilance is in regards to the right of way at stop signs.If a driver comes to a halt at a stop sign, and proceeds be involved in a collision with an oncoming car he didn’t see, he will be found legally responsible. Such would be the case both because he failed to yield the right of way, and because he failed to see “what there is to be seen”.

Another common example of a driver failing to see “what there is to be seen” is in regards to lane changes. Let’s say that a driver attempts to change lanes, but in doing so collides with a vehicle he did not see in the lane he was moving into. In this situation, the responsibility falls on the driver changing lanes, both for making an unsafe lane change, and for failing to see that there was a car in his blind spot.

After being involved in a collision, a driver may claim that” the other driver came out of nowhere!” or “I never saw the other driver until it was too late!” Such are not legitimate excuses for being involved in an accident, unless the other driver was truly not visible such as if the other car exited from a hidden driveway.

The same is true for accidents between a vehicle and a pedestrian. A car driver is required to see a pedestrian whom is visible, whether that person has the right or way or not.

Of course every fact pattern is different, and there are many instances when more than one person may be at fault. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, or were injured due to a driver’s negligence, you should consult with a NY Lawyer experienced in handling motor vehicle accidents. For a free consultation with a New York Lawyer experienced in handling car accident cases, contact the law firm of Zalman Schnurman & Miner at 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463).

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