I have heard a good number of people proclaim that in a rear end collision, Florida law says it is the the rear driver’s fault. That statement contains seeds of the truth but is not entirely accurate.
In a rear end car accident, Florida law imposes a presumption that the rear driver is at fault. This presumption can be overcome with sufficient evidence. If the rear driver can show that the lead driver stopped or changed lanes abruptly or arbitrarily in a place that a reasonable person would not expect them to, then Florida law no longer presumes the rear driver to be negligent.
If the lead driver’s vehicle is stopped illegally, then Florida law no longer presumes the rear driver to be negligent.
Lastly, if the rear driver in the wreck can show that his or her car suffered from a mechanical failure like sudden brake failure (and the mechanical failure is not the fault of the rear driver) then Florida law no longer presumes the rear driver to be negligent.
These exceptions to the rear driver negligence presumption played an important role in a recent Florida wrongful death lawsuit involving a highway wreck. The case almost got thrown out of court until a judge ruled that the plaintiff (who represented the rear driver) presented enough evidence of the first exception.
Without evidence that the lead driver of a tractor trailer abruptly changed lanes and decelerated, the rear driver would have been presumed to be the negligent party and the case would likely have been thrown out of court.
The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Daytona Beach, Florida recently ruled that auto accident victims who are injured in the crash can not pursue their claim for property damage to the car separately from their claim for personal injury that were both the result of a single crash.
Alice Bryant did just that after her auto accident caused damage to her vehicle and personal injury. However, the trial judge threw out her personal injury lawsuit because she had first obtained a judgment for the property damage incurred in the wreck that caused the personal injury.
Other Florida courts have noted that bringing a suit for both property and personal injury damages is more difficult than bringing them separately, but nevertheless, Florida law requires all damages resulting from a single incident to be litigated in a single lawsuit, even when it involves a car accident.