Florida Court Explains the Limits on Circumstantial Evidence in Recent Car Accident Lawsuit

In a recent state appellate decision, a Florida court upheld a jury’s verdict in favor of a plaintiff who was seriously injured after being rear-ended by a van while stopped in traffic on the Buckman Bridge. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case improperly relied upon the stacking of multiple inferences in light of the fact that the plaintiff’s evidence was circumstantial in nature. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s claim was not reliant upon the improper stacking of inferences and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

Circumstantial Evidence

There are two types of evidence: direct and circumstantial. Direct evidence is evidence that tends to prove a conclusion without the need for any inference. For example, eyewitness testimony that a driver made a lane change without signaling would be considered direct evidence that the driver changed lanes and did not signal.

On the other hand, circumstantial evidence requires at least one inference to be made before reaching a conclusion. Circumstantial evidence is also known as “smoking gun” evidence. For example, if a man is shot and turns around only to see a woman with a smoking gun in her hand, the man’s observations are circumstantial evidence that the woman shot him. It is not direct evidence because he did not see the woman pull the trigger. However, it can be inferred that the fact the gun was smoking means that it was recently fired.

Both direct and circumstantial evidence are permissible in Florida personal injury cases. However, if a plaintiff intends to use circumstantial evidence to prove their claim, Florida courts prohibit the stacking of inferences. Specifically, the court recently held that when a plaintiff’s case “depends upon the inferences to be drawn from circumstantial evidence … it cannot construct a further inference upon the initial inference in order to establish a further fact unless it can be found that the original, basic inference was established to the exclusion of all other reasonable inferences.”

Thus, a plaintiff who wishes to use circumstantial evidence to prove a claim of negligence must either only rely on a single inference or must establish the original inference “to the exclusion of all other reasonable inferences.” After a plaintiff establishes that the initial inference is permissible, then “any further inference based upon the initial inference is permissible if it is reasonable.”

Are You Seeking Compensation for Injuries You Have Sustained in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a Florida motor vehicle accident, you should contact the dedicated South Florida injury attorneys at Friedman Rodman & Frank as soon as possible to discuss your case. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we have decades of experience assisting injury victims and their families in pursuit of claims for compensation against the parties responsible for their injuries. We handle cases across Florida, including in Naples, Homestead, and Miami. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a consultation with an attorney today. Calling is risk-free, because we will not charge you for our time unless we can help you recover for the injuries you have sustained.

More Blog Posts:

Court Declines to Impose Duty on Landowner to Trim Trees Near Intersection, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 29, 2018.

Maintenance Company May Be Liable for Restaurant Employee’s Injuries Following Slip-and-Fall Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published December 13, 2018.

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