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Driver liable in accident involving rearview mirror toy

Many New Jersey residents hang air fresheners and other trinkets from their rearview mirrors, but doing so can be dangerous as well as against the law, a recent lawsuit illustrates.

In 2006, a 52-year-old Hamilton, New Jersey, woman was crossing the street when she was struck by a car on Nottingham Way. The car was making a lane change at the time of the pedestrian accident.

The 1998 black Ford Mustang was driven by a Hamilton man who claimed to have looked in his rearview mirror, his side mirror and over his shoulder but did not see the woman soon enough to stop before striking her.

The woman required several surgeries after the accident and ended up disabled as a result of her injuries. She then died of unrelated causes four years later. Her husband cared for her until her death.

The husband as well as the woman’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver of the Mustang, alleging that he was negligent at the time of the March 2006 crash.

Specifically, attorneys for the plaintiff argued that the Mustang had a stuffed animal hanging from its rearview mirror, which obstructed the driver’s vision. Further, the attorneys said the stuffed Garfield toy violated state law requiring an unobstructed windshield.

This week, a jury agreed that the driver of the Mustang had been negligent, in part because of the stuffed animal. The accident victim’s estate was awarded $378,000 in damages and her husband was awarded an additional $95,000 in damages.

This tragic case serves as an example of how important it is to keep stuffed animals, air fresheners and other trinkets off of rearview mirrors. Not only could the items contribute to a serious accident, they could also lead to civil or criminal liability.

Source: Times of Trenton, “Garfield stuffed animal hanging from rearview mirror in N.J. pedestrian crash leads to $473K jury verdict,” Matt Dowling, March 17, 2014

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