Florida Court Addresses Liability for Rear-End Accidents

Recently, an appellate court addressed an appeal in a Florida car accident case hinging on issues regarding the presumption of negligence in rear-end accidents. The plaintiff appealed a trial court’s ruling in favor of the defendant, who the plaintiff claimed rear-ended her vehicle. The accident allegedly occurred when the plaintiff was approaching an intersection, and the car in front of her suddenly stopped. The plaintiff and the defendant simultaneously applied their brakes; however, the plaintiff was able to avoid hitting the car in front of her, but the defendant slammed into the plaintiff. After the plaintiff’s case was dismissed by the trial court, the plaintiff appealed, arguing that the defendant did not provide enough evidence to rebut the presumption of negligence.

Under Florida law, rear-end accidents create a rebuttable presumption that the rear driver was negligent. Generally, the only way in which a rear driver can rebut this presumption is if they provide evidence that shows that the presumption is “not as presumed” or misplaced. If the rear driver can rebut the presumption, the jury will then make the typical comparative fault determination. Rear drivers will often claim that the lead driver engaged in some behavior that made it impossible for the rear driver to avoid an accident.

Typically, Florida courts permit rear drivers to rebut the presumption under only four circumstances. Defendants can rebut the presumption if 1.) their vehicle suffers a mechanical failure, 2.) the lead driver suddenly stopped, 3.) the lead driver suddenly changed lanes, or 4.) the lead driver made an illegal stop. However, an abrupt or sudden halt by itself is not enough to rebut the presumption. Courts explain that drivers have a duty to remain alert and to keep a safe following distance at all times, especially at common stopping locations, such as intersections.

In this case, the defendant only provided evidence that the plaintiff suddenly stopped at the intersection. The court explained that, although the plaintiff abruptly stopped, it is not unusual for drivers passing through an intersection to suddenly stop. For example, drivers approaching an intersection may need to stop for pedestrians or other cars. Furthermore, the defendant had a duty to remain alert and leave enough room in front of his vehicle to safely stop. Ultimately, the court concluded that the rear driver did not sufficiently rebut the presumption of negligence and reversed the lower court’s ruling. As a result of the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s case will continue toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Involved in a Rear-End Accident?

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a Florida rear-end collision, you should contact the dedicated injury attorneys at Frankl Kominsky. The attorneys at our law firm have extensive experience handling various types of Florida accident lawsuits, including rear-end collisions. Rear-end accidents are not always as straightforward as they may seem at first glance. Often, there are several parties involved, and determining fault can be complicated. We understand that our clients deserve compensation for their injuries, and we never settle for less than what they deserve. Frankl Kominsky clients may receive compensation for their property damage, lost income, medical expenses, future medical bills, and pain and suffering. Contact our office today at 561-567-0214 to schedule your free initial consultation with an attorney on our legal team.