New Victims In Rear-End Accidents in Florida
A recent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court has made it possible for new victims to be identified in rear-end collisions. In a unanimous, 7-0 vote, the Florida Supreme Court justices declared that multiple victims could potentially shoulder the blame for an accident, and that juries should be permitted to compare the negligence of multiple drivers when deciding a case. That might not sound unreasonable, but it does have some pretty significant consequences.
The decision is based on a legal doctrine known as comparative negligence, which allows for degrees of negligence in a personal injury case. The justices took on a case that was appealed from the 4th District Court of Appeals. In this case, the third car in a three-car collision was deemed to be solely at fault after rear-ending the middle car, based on the fact that comparative negligence law doesn’t apply in rear-end collisions.
This third driver was a woman driving four car lengths behind, but still couldn’t stop in time to avoid an accident. Presumably, the middle driver had been on her cell phone when she crashed into the front car, but because she wasn’t the final one in the chain of accidents, all the blame fell on the third driver. It makes sense why this might seem unfair, because in this case, it’s obvious that the middle driver was either fully responsible for the accidents or at least partially culpable.
The intent behind this change might be good, but that doesn’t change the fact that it could lead to a lot more confusion in court. How many rear-end collision cases will be cut-and-dried now that individuals in a stopped car might be held liable for the actions of the driver in the car behind them? If there’s any evidence to indicate that someone stopped a car too abruptly or without justification, then the jury is now required to deliberate about whether the driver in the stopped car was negligent and liable.
On the positive side, the presumption of negligence will not fall on someone who is lawfully stopped at a red light or a stop sign when the accident occurs. This makes sense, because anyone behind the car at the light or stop sign would have needed to stop soon as well. As a general rule, an individual who isn’t maintaining a safe following distance should be held responsible if the car ahead has to stop for any reason, but this change opens up the chance for unnecessary litigation and proceedings dragging on without justification. Florida’s Supreme Court reversed more than a half-century of precedent with this decision.
What this means for you is, no matter what side of a rear-end collision you happen to be on, it’s a good idea to seek out a personal injury attorney in Tampa. Good lawyers can help make sure that you’re not held liable for someone else’s mistake.