There are a number of reasons a driver might slam their brakes – a child running or darting suddenly in the road, a squirrel running out in the road or a bee buzzing in the driver’s ear. Given each drivers’ unique sensitivities, it is safer to establish rules preventing drivers from following too closely and to hold those who break those rules accountable. In most cases when one driver rear-ends another driver, the rear driver is presumed to be at fault. An advantage of this presumption is that it makes it easy to determine fault in a rear-end collision. It also promotes safety.
A Rebuttable Presumption
While historically Florida law follows the "Rear End Collision Rule", and presumes that the rear driver is at fault in a rear end accident, courts will now assign some blame to the front driver if comparative negligence is proven. This is how Florida’s Supreme Court stated it in a 2012 ruling:
"…the presumption of negligence that attaches to a rear driver in a rear-end motor vehicle collision case can be rebutted or avoided by the production of evidence from which a jury could find negligence on the part of the front driver that contributed to bring about the injury-producing collision."
The court reasoned that because Florida follows comparative negligence in injury cases, it is only fair to allow a negligent rear driver in a rear end wreck to defend himself by showing that the front driver was also negligent. This may not get him or her off the hook entirely from liability, but it will reduce the amount of damages he is required to pay.
A Common Situation
The specific incident the court was talking about involved a three-car pile up where one car rear-ended another car, which had just rear-ended a first car. The driver of the middle car had been on her cell phone and not paying attention when she rear-ended the first car, which was stopped. Had she been paying closer attention she would have not stopped so abruptly and the driver of the third car would have had a better opportunity to avoid the collision.
Thus, her negligence was at least some of the cause for the second rear end collision. She would likely pursue damages against the driver of the third car and expect to prevail because of the rear-end collision rule. But here, the third driver could rebut the presumption of fault and defend himself by showing that she was negligent too.
It is then up to a judge or jury to apportion each party’s amount of fault in rear-end accident. For example, in this case the court might decide the middle driver was 25% at fault for the collision where she was rear-ended, and the third driver 75% at fault. If her car repairs and medical bills total $20,000, then the third driver would be responsible for $15,000.
Before Florida applied comparative negligence to car accidents, the third driver would have been on the hook for the full $20,000. Whether you have been rear-ended by a negligent driver, or you believe the person suing you shares a portion of blame, an attorney familiar with rear-end accident cases and comparative negligence calculations can help you reach a fair outcome.
If you or a loved one were involved in a read-end accident in Florida, do not hesitate to seek the help and counsel of an experienced personal injury lawyer. We are dedicated to helping injury victims hold negligent parties legally responsible and get the compensation that they need for damages associated with an accident. To make an informed decision about your pedestrian accident, it’s important to be fully aware of your rights and options. Contact us and we will help you immediately.
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