Florida Court Addresses Liability Presumption in Rear-End Car Accident Cases

Rear-end accidents are the most common type of accidents on the road. If you have sustained injuries in a rear-end crash, you may be entitled to compensation from the at-fault party. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our trusted Miami rear-end accident attorneys will analyze the circumstances surrounding your accident and help you determine a fair value for your injuries and harm.

In Restal v. Nocera, an accident took place in Brevard County in which the defendant’s vehicle rear-ended the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant alleging permanent bodily injury and various other related damages. During deposition, the plaintiff said she was going to make a U-turn, moved toward the median and slowed down to approximately thirty miles an hour. She claimed that she never used the brakes. She then realized that she couldn’t make a U-turn at which point the defendant struck her car from behind. The defendant told a different story. He stated that the plaintiff slammed on her brakes and was turning towards the center median when he hit her and admitted that he could have prevented the accident if he had left more space between his vehicle and the plaintiff’s vehicle.

The trial court granted summary judgment against the defendant based on his admission as well as the presumption of liability in rear-end accident cases. Thus, the trial was held only on how much the plaintiff was owed. The defendant appealed stating that his testimony was enough to raise an issue about whether the plaintiff’s comparative negligence was a contributing factor in the accident.

On appeal, the court pointed out that under the defendant’s version of events, the plaintiff slammed the brakes all of a sudden and started to turn to the center median. Even though the plaintiff refuted this version of events, the court explained that the defendant’s testimony brought up the issue of whether the plaintiff was partially at fault for the wreck. The court also acknowledged that the defendant had admitted he could have avoided the accident by leaving more space between the vehicles.

The court went on to further explain that when someone hits a car from behind, a rebuttable presumption of negligence is created against the driver of the rear vehicle. While the rear driver is presumed to be at fault, the rear driver can also rebut this presumption. Here, the court held that the defendant was properly presumed to be at fault but the defendant should have been able to testify that he was only partly at fault for the accident and the jury should have been able to consider whether the plaintiff’s conduct was a contributing factor to the crash. The appellate court, therefore, affirmed the trial court’s decision to provide a jury instruction stating that the defendant was presumed to be at fault but reversed the trial court’s ruling regarding the defendant being the sole cause of the collision.

If you or someone close to you has been injured in a rear-end collision caused by someone else’s negligence, we can help you file a personal injury claim. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our seasoned Miami rear-end accident attorneys are dedicated to advocating for South Florida accident victims. You can rest assured that we will help you get the compensation you deserve. For more information, call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

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