The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 1 in 3 car accidents involves a rear-end collision. Quite simply, a Florida rear-end collision occurs when a driver slams into the vehicle in front of them for any reason. In many cases, these Florida accidents are the result of distracted driving, unsafe following, and weather conditions.
Many Florida drivers assume that they can recover all of their damages if someone rear-ends their vehicle. Although Florida law creates a presumption of fault on the rear-end driver, this presumption is rebuttable. The rebuttable presumption allows rear-ending drivers to avoid paying a portion or all of the other driver’s damages if they can establish that the lead driver was partially at fault for the accident.
In a recent case, a Florida appellate court addressed the four situations when a rear-end accident defendant may rebut their presumption of negligence. In that case, a woman appealed after a trial court denied the woman’s motion for a directed verdict and a jury found in favor of the rear-end driver. Under Florida law, a defendant can successfully rebut a presumption of negligence if they prove that:
- The defendant’s car suffered a mechanical failure,
- The lead driver suddenly stopped,
- The lead driver made a sudden lane change, and
- The lead driver made a sudden and illegal stop.
However, the court continued to explain that a sudden or abrupt stop, without additional evidence, cannot rebut a rear-end driver’s negligence. To meet this requirement, courts maintain that rear-end drivers have a duty to keep a safe distance between their vehicle and the lead car, and they should remain alert. Additionally, presumptions cannot be rebutted if the stop occurs in a location where stops are expected.
In this case, the defendant rear-ended the plaintiff after she suddenly stopped her vehicle at an intersection. The plaintiff abruptly stopped to avoid colliding with a driver who suddenly stopped in front of her. The plaintiff avoided colliding with the driver in front of her. To rebut his presumption of negligence, the defendant only presented evidence that the plaintiff suddenly stopped at an intersection. The court reasoned that the plaintiff’s stop occurred at an anticipatable time and location. Therefore, without more evidence, the defendant could not successfully use the sudden stop as a basis to rebut his negligence.
Even if a plaintiff can establish the rear-end driver’s fault, the defendant’s insurance company may try to limit liability and thwart a plaintiff’s recovery. Rear-end accidents are not as straight forward as they may appear, and injury victims should retain an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Rear-End Collision?
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or death in a Florida rear-end accident, you should contact the experienced accident attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. Our accident attorneys have extensive experience handling Florida rear-end collisions. We are knowledgeable in the tactics and legal theories that defendants put forth to limit liability and have successfully overcome these challenges. The attorneys at our firm have recovered significant settlements and jury awards on behalf of Florida car accident victims. These settlements and awards typically cover losses related to medical bills, pain and suffering, and property damage. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.