Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued a decision in the case of Worley v. State Farm that addressed two incredibly important legal concepts in car accident cases. The first of these two concepts was the presumption of negligence that applies in rear end car collisions, and the second is the principle of comparative negligence. Our Miami car accident attorneys are following the effects closely.
In Worley, the plaintiff was injured in a 2010 car accident when a vehicle driven by the uninsured defendant rear ended her. The plaintiff claimed that she was stopped at a yield sign when the other driver struck her. The defendant testified, however, that the plaintiff had begun to drive through the intersection when she suddenly stopped, thereby causing the collision.
The plaintiff’s auto insurance provider, State Farm, declined her coverage after determining that the plaintiff was at least partly responsible for the accident. The plaintiff sued in federal district court and moved for summary judgment, arguing that, under Florida law, she was entitled to a presumption that the defendant driver was negligent in rear-ending her. Florida has adopted a rebuttable presumption that a rear driver’s actions are the sole proximate cause of an accident and any resulting injuries.
The District Court acknowledged that the plaintiff was entitled to the presumption of negligence, and it also pointed out that the presumption is “rebuttable.” The Court opined that, because the defendant testified that the plaintiff was at least partly responsible for the accident, there was a factual issue precluding summary judgment.
The Court further recognized that, because Florida uses a comparative negligence doctrine, the extent which the plaintiff was responsible for the accident was an issue to be decided by a jury. Under the comparative negligence doctrine, an injured party may recover damages to the extent for which the other party was to blame. For example, a plaintiff who was 90 percent to blame for an accident could recover 10 percent of his losses.
In reaching its conclusions, the Court relied on the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Eppler v. Tarmac America. In Eppler, the rear driver testified that the front driver had caused the accident by stopping suddenly. The Florida Supreme Court held that the dispute was sufficient to rebut the presumption of the rear driver’s negligence, therefore making it necessary for a jury to decide each party’s amount of liability.
Unfortunately, rear-end collisions are some of the most common types car accidents that occur on Florida’s roadways and can result in serious injuries, even at low rates of speed. Further, as demonstrated by the Arce case, liability is not always as clear cut as it might initially appear.
Liability if often one of the most contentious issues that can arise with regard to a motor vehicle accident. The attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured in car accidents. If you or someone you know has been injured by the negligence of another, contact the Miami personal injury lawyers of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today.