In Bodiford v. Rollins, the plaintiff was waiting to make a left turn at an intersection when he was struck by the defendant’s car from the back. The plaintiff’s left turn signal was on, and he was lawfully stopped in order to turn into a local gas station.
The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the crash.
The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant. Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care while driving. Reasonable care is defined as how a prudent or sensible driver would act in the same or similar circumstances. Under Florida law, establishing negligence requires showing the following elements: i) the defendant owed plaintiff a duty of care; ii) the defendant breached the duty of care; iii) the plaintiff’s harm was a direct result of the defendant’s breach; and iv) the plaintiff sustained actual damages.
At trial, the plaintiff was awarded more than one million dollars in damages. However, the jury also determined that the plaintiff was 30 percent at fault. Florida is a comparative negligence state, which means that liability can be apportioned between parties, and the plaintiff’s recovery can be limited accordingly. Here, since the jury found that the plaintiff was 30 percent at fault, his total recovery was reduced by 30 percent.
Both sides appealed.
The defendant claimed the damages were excessive.
The plaintiff argued that there was no basis for the jury’s finding that he was 30 percent at fault for the accident. The plaintiff introduced evidence that demonstrated that he was stopped at the time of the accident, and there was no indication that he was violating any law while waiting to make the left turn.
The appeals court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court concluded that the damages were not excessive. The court also held that there was no evidence that he breached any legal duty or failed to exercise reasonable care. Thus, the finding that the plaintiff was comparatively at fault was incorrect, and he should be able to obtain the full extent of the damages awarded to him.
There is a presumption that a driver who rear-ended another vehicle was negligent because each driver is expected to maintain a safe braking distance to avoid a collision. Defendants in rear-end crashes who challenge this presumption have the burden of proof to show the other driver was at fault or partially at fault. Here, the defendant failed to meet that burden, which is why the appeals court sided with the plaintiff.
At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we have handled many auto accident cases. Our skilled Miami car crash attorneys understand the nuances of this area of law and will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve for your harm. No matter the facts of your case, we can help. While we aim to settle every case, we are not afraid to zealously advocate for you in the courtroom if necessary. We proudly represent clients from throughout South Florida. For more information, call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.
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