If a Driver Rear Ended Me, Are They Automatically Responsible for My Injuries?

If a Driver Rear Ended Me, Are They Automatically Responsible for My Injuries?

Car accidents are all too common in Florida! According to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2023, there were 394,206 car crashes across the state, with 251,827 involving injury and 3,408 fatalities.[1] In 2024 so far, 80,092 car crashes have been reported, with 51,171 injuries, and 619 fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear ended accidents are one of the leading causes of car accidents. 

The question is, who is at fault in a rear-end collision, and what should you do when you’ve been rear ended?

Rear end accidents

Rear end accidents occur when drivers do not have enough time to perceive and react safely to slowing or stopping traffic. Increasing your following/stopping distance can help give you time to react when someone breaks in front of you. Most rear-end accidents occur when a driver is stopped at a traffic light or stop sign.

Florida Statutes 316.0895 [2] specifically states “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the highway.” In other words, it is necessary to maintain a safe stopping distance between vehicles to avoid being at fault in a rear-end collision!

Your specific stopping distance depends on factors such as driving speed, weight of the car (the vehicle itself as well as whether it is loaded with passengers and/or cargo), the maintenance of brakes, tires, etc. Pay close attention to upcoming hazards, such as lane closures, objects in the road, or slowed/stopped vehicles that may require you to stop or shift lanes abruptly to avoid causing an accident.

Understanding Negligence in Florida Car Accidents and Florida’s Approach to Rear-End Collision Liability

Generally, in a Florida negligence case, it is the Plaintiff’s burden to prove the Defendant is at fault. To recover compensation, you’ll need to prove the essential elements of a negligence-based case, which are:

  1. The other motorist had a duty to exercise reasonable care when driving;
  2. That person breached this duty;
  3. The breach of duty was the cause of the accident in which you were hurt; and,
  4. You suffered damages as a result of the accident, such as property damage, injuries requiring medical care (past, current, and future expenses), loss of wages, and more.

Under Florida law, there is a presumption that the rear driver is at fault when you’ve been rear ended. [3]

Exceptions to the presumption that a rear driver is at fault

In rear-end accidents, the burden of proof shifts to the Defendant to prove that they are not at fault, either partially or completely. Because tort recovery in Florida follows comparative negligence, the presumption that a rear driver is at fault can be rebutted by the evidence from which a jury could conclude that the front driver was negligent. 

In other words, under comparative negligence, if the Plaintiff and Defendant (front and rear driver) are both at fault, the front driver may still recover. However, the amount of money the defendant has to pay for your damages (like injuries or property damage) is only a part of the total cost.[4] The amount depends on how much the accident was the rear driver’s fault compared to how much it was the front driver’s. If the rear driver is mostly to blame, they pay more. If the front driver is also partly to blame, the rear driver will pay less. The idea is to make the payment fair based on each person’s share of the blame for what happened.

Challenging the Presumption of Fault in Rear End Collisions

Evidence showing that the rear driver was not solely at fault may be in the form of witness testimony, video footage, photographs, vehicle data, or other related evidence. Typically, a mere allegation by the rear driver without more evidence is not enough to overcome the presumption of fault in a rear-end collision.

Florida courts generally recognize four situations that can rebut the rear-end presumption: (1) a mechanical failure in the rear driver’s vehicle; (2) the lead driver’s sudden stop; (3) the lead driver’s sudden lane change; and (4) the lead driver’s illegal or improper stop.[5]

Being rear ended may cause a domino effect of multiple rear-end collisions. You may not always be at fault if you hit another vehicle as a result of being rear-ended. However, it is your responsibility to maintain a safe stopping distance! We cannot control other drivers, but we can do our part to maintain safety on the road.

What to Do After Being Rear Ended

If you’re a rear-end car accident victim, it’s essential to know what steps to take to protect your rights. This includes gathering evidence at the scene, seeking medical attention, and keeping detailed records. Knowing these steps can help safeguard your claim and ensure that your legal rights are preserved. See What to Do if Someone Hits Your Car: 5 Key Steps to Take.[6]

Beyond gathering essential evidence, obtaining expert legal advice can be the key to ensuring your rights are protected. If you’ve been in a rear-end collision or other car accident, contact the qualified car accident attorneys at Lipinski Law. We can provide you with tailored advice based on the specifics of your case![7]

[1] The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Crash Dashboard https://www.flhsmv.gov/traffic-crash-reports/crash-dashboard/

[2] Florida Statutes, 316.0895 Following too Closely http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0300-0399/0316/Sections/0316.0895.html

[3] Eppler v. Tarmac America, Inc., 752 So.2d 592, 594 (Fla.2000)

[4] Birge v. Charron, 107 So. 3d 350, 356 (Fla. 2012)

[5] see Fonger v. Nall, 286 So. 3d 332, 333 (Fla. 5th DCA 2019)

[6] Lipinski Law, What to Do if Someone Hits Your Car: 5 Key Steps to Take https://lipinskilaw.com/blog/what-to-do-if-someone-hits-your-car/

[7] Lipinski Law Practice Areas: Auto Accidents https://lipinskilaw.com/auto-accidents/

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