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The Rebuttable Presumption of Negligence in Florida Rear-End Accidents

Recently, a news report described a harrowing Florida rear-end car accident that took the life of a 19-year-old woman. The woman was driving south on the Florida Turnpike when an SUV driver failed to slow his vehicle and slammed into the woman’s car. The woman’s vehicle veered into the barrier wall, and she was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

After a Florida rear-end accident, those who suffer injuries or damages are entitled to pursue a claim for compensation for their losses and damages. Under state law, there is a “rebuttable presumption” of negligence doctrine in rear-end accidents. The presumption serves as a valuable tool for plaintiffs wishing to recover damages; however, it is important to note that, as the name suggests, defendants can rebut the presumption.

In typical Florida car accident lawsuits, plaintiffs maintain the burden of establishing all four elements of a negligence claim: duty, breach of the duty, causation, and damages. A rebuttable presumption is an evidentiary tool that provides that the rear vehicle driver bears the burden of providing evidence to refute their presumed negligence, or explain their failure to avoid the crash.

The doctrine is important for both practical and public policy reasons. Practically speaking, the rear driver is in the best position to know what is going on in front of them, as the driver in front cannot easily know what is happening behind them. In terms of public policy, this presumption promotes safe driving, as it requires rear drivers to operate their vehicles safely and avoid accidents with cars in front of them.

Defendants may refute the presumption if they provide compelling evidence that suggests that they were not entirely at fault for the collision. The three typical explanations rear-end drivers put forth are that, the driver in front abruptly stopped in a place where the rear- end driver could not reasonably expect, the rear driver experienced a mechanical failure, and the front vehicle was illegally and unexpectedly stopped. However, this is only relevant if the rear motorist presents evidence that the fact the presumption relies upon is not accurate.

Car accident victims must understand that, despite the presumption, Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means that juries can apportion liability and fault amongst the parties, even in rear-end accidents. Essentially, the presumption dissipates into an inference if a rear-end driver presents evidence that they acted with due care. Rear-end accidents are rarely as straightforward as they may seem, and it is important that victims contact an attorney.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Rear-End Accident?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died in a Florida rear-end collision, the attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A. may be able to help you recover damages. The personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at our office have extensive experience successfully resolving all types of accident claims, including those arising from car accidents, slip and falls, defective products, and medical malpractice. The dedicated attorneys at our firm provide clients with compassionate representation while fiercely advocating on their behalf. Contact our law firm at 877-448-8585, to schedule a free initial consultation with someone on our team.

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