Most drivers who experience the misfortune of being struck from behind by another vehicle operate on the assumption that the other driver is likely to bear full responsibility for the injuries and damage that result. This assumption has generally been borne out in Florida rear-end collision cases. However, but a Florida Supreme Court ruling issued just last month has increased the possibility that even where a rear driver is overwhelmingly at fault, that driver may not have to compensate the front driver for all accident-related expenses. This development makes it more important than ever for Florida accident victims involved in rear-end collisions to be represented by experienced Miami personal injury attorneyslike the ones at Gerson & Schwartz, PA who know exactly how to analyze the many factors now deemed relevant to establish legal liability in these types of cases.
The Rear Driver Is No Longer Presumed Solely Responsible
Until the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling, last month, the prevailing principle, in rear-end collision cases, was that the rear driver’s conduct would almost always be presumed to be the sole (and most immediate) cause of injuries caused to individuals in the forward vehicle. This presumption could be lifted in only three scenarios: 1) Where the rear driver’s vehicle experienced an unpreventable brake failure, 2) where the forward driver stopped or changed lanes suddenly, and 3) where the forward vehicle was illegally stopped in the path of traffic. In 2010, a Florida appeals court challenged this prevailing analysis, holding that if the forward driver in a rear-end collision case was negligent in any manner, that negligence could be used to reduce the rear driver’s liability for damages. This, said the appeals court, was consistent with Florida’s ‘comparative fault doctrine’ , in which financial responsibility in personal injury cases is generally not assigned on an all-or-nothing basis, and is, instead, distributed among the parties according to the percentage of fault in relation to the extent of fault to which their conduct contributed to accident and resulting injuries.
The case decided by Florida’s Supreme Court, last month, was actually brought by the rear driver in a rear-end collision case, who hoped to benefit from the 2010 appeals ruling that recognized potential liability on the part of forward drivers in such collisions. The forward driver in that case had been using her cell phone while driving downhill at 45 mph, just before she collided with a vehicle and then got struck by the plaintiff from behind. The rear-driving plaintiff initially lost at the trial and appeal levels, but the Supreme Court sided with her in the end, granting her a chance to present her case to a jury. In the process, the Florida Supreme Court essentially confirmed that there is no longer a very firm presumption, in Florida, that the conduct of the rear driver in rear-end collisions is solely responsible for the forward driver’s injuries.
What to Do In the Aftermath of a Rear-End Collision
In light of these developments, if you are the forward driver in a rear-end collision, you can no longer assume that it will be easy or straightforward to recover compensation for injuries. The moments and days right after the collision are now a particularly critical period for documenting accident details.
Keeping in mind that injuries from rear-end collisions may be subtle at first, be sure to seek a medical evaluation and pursue all diagnostic and treatment recommendations, even if you have not requested emergency care at the scene. Then, as soon as practicable, seek the advice of highly competent rear-end collision law experts, such as the Miami, Florida personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, PA. To learn how we may be able to assist you in this connection, contact us toll free at (877) 475-2905 or if in Miami Dade County Florida (305) 371-6000