WHO IS AT FAULT IN A REAR END ACCIDENT?

The answer might surprise you. If you think the driver of the vehicle that crashes into a car in front of them is always at fault, think again. Although the vehicle that is rear ended is not commonly found as being at fault, it is possible. Florida law regarding fault in rear end automobile accidents provides that:

“there is a rebuttable presumption of negligence that attaches to the rear driver in a rear-end motor vehicle collision.”

(Birge v. Charron)

This presumption is there because those who have been struck from behind do not typically know what caused the rear-end driver to hit his or her vehicle (Jefferies v. Amery Leasing, Inc.).

However, this is only a presumption, so there are times when the driver that was rear-ended may be at fault. The driver that rear ended someone is allowed the opportunity to present evidence of sufficient value to overcome the presumption that the driver that was rear ended was the cause of his own injuries.

For example, if a driver suddenly swerved into your lane and slammed the brakes, the car accident lawyer they hire could be argued that the injuries suffered by the driver that was rear ended are his own fault because he swerved into a lane when it was not safe. In this instance there is a good chance that the presumption would not apply. If the presumption applies, the driver that was rear ended is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Birge v. Charron, 107 So.3d 350 (Fla. 2012)

Circumstantial Examples that may place the driver of the car that was rear ended at fault:

  1. Dangerous weather conditions like rain, flooding, snow, ice, hail, etc.
  2. Whether the front vehicle changed lanes unexpectedly or slammed on the brakes for no reason
  3. Whether there was a mechanical failure with the rear vehicle

Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles v. Saleme

What happens when both drivers are at fault in a crash?

The short Answer is a jury decides fault between the parties. The Florida Supreme Court has held that

“where evidence is produced from which a jury could conclude that the front driver in a rear-end collision was negligent and comparatively at fault in bringing about the collision, the presumption is rebutted and the issues of disputed fact regarding negligence and causation should be submitted to the jury.”

Florida is comparative fault state which means fault can be divided by a jury to all parties identified on a verdict form. In most cases, the financial liability will be divided between the parties by the percent of fault the jury finds them responsible for.

How common are rear-end accidents?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 40% of the six million car accidents that take place each year in the U.S. are rear-end crashes. In fact, it’s noted that a rear-end collision happens every eight seconds.

What is a rear end accident?

A rear end accident or collision is when the front of one car hits the rear of another vehicle. The impact can occur straight on, or the rear vehicle may strike the lead vehicle at an angle flanking the corner of one side. Rear-end crashes can also turn into pile-ups if multiple vehicles fail to stop in time that are following each other in close proximity.

What are the most common causes of rear end crashes?

Rear end car accidents happen one of two ways. Either the rear end accident happens when the rear car person is not paying attention due to being on a cell phone, playing with the radio or distracted by children in the car or looking down for some other reason. Another way a rear end accident happens is when the front vehicle suddenly slams on the brakes due to an emergency and rear vehicle can’t avoid the accident or stop in time.

Sources

  1. Birge v. Charron, 107 So. 3d 350 – Fla: Supreme Court 2012. URL: https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=4444179763198569373&q=bodiford+v+rollins&hl=en&as_sdt=40006&as_vis=1#r%5B8%5D
  2. Jeffries v. Amery Leasing, Inc. 698 Sp/ 2d 368 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997). URL:http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2012/sc09-2238.pdf
  3. Birge v. Charron, 107 So.3d 350 (Fla. 2012). URL: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/civ_jury_instructions/products%20decision%20SC13-683.pdf
  4. Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles v. Saleme, 963 So. 2d 969 (Fla. 3d DCA 2007).   URL: http://search.flcourts.org/texis/search/context.html?query=v&pr=2DCA&prox=page&rorder=1000&rprox=1000&rdfreq=500&rwfreq=500&rlead=1000&rdepth=0&sufs=2&order=dd&cmd=context&id=531f458b58
  5. The Road Can Be a Hazardous Place: Common Types of Traffic Accidents, National Safety Commission (October 4, 2013). URL: https://www.nationalsafetycommission.com/traffic-safety/news/77

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