Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion addressing the presumption of negligence in a Florida rear-end accident. At issue was whether a defendant appropriately rebutted the presumption of negligence when he rear-ended the plaintiff’s car. The accident occurred when a driver in front of the plaintiff suddenly braked their vehicle at a green light. The plaintiff and defendant both applied their brakes. The plaintiff avoided colliding with the car in front of her, but the defendant did not stop in time and subsequently rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant based on the damages she suffered as a result of the rear-ending. A jury ruled in the defendant’s favor finding that he was not negligent. The plaintiff appealed the court’s denial of her motion for a directed verdict.
Parties in a civil personal injury lawsuit can make a motion for a directed verdict after the close of evidence before a jury renders their ruling. This occurs when one party believes that the opposing party did not prove their case as a matter of law. Under Florida law, rear-end accidents create a rebuttable presumption that the at-fault driver was negligent.
To rebut the presumption of negligence, the rear-end driver must present evidence or explanation that refutes a fact in the case. Typically, in Florida rear-end accident cases, a defendant can rebut a presumption under four circumstances. These situations include, if the rear-end driver’s car had a mechanical failure; if the in-front driver suddenly stopped; if the in-front driver suddenly changed lanes; and if the in-front driver illegally or improperly stopped. However, presumptions based on sudden stops require additional factors because drivers have a duty to remain alert. If the defendant does not appropriately rebut the presumption, a plaintiff is entitled to a directed verdict in their favor.