In a Rear-End Accident? You May Not be At Fault

November 26, 2012

For all of you that hit the roads this busy Thanksgiving Weekend, here’s something to keep in mind next time you are involved in a rear-end auto accident. The Florida’s Supreme Court issued an opinion on Nov. 21, 2012 affecting the longstanding presumption of negligence rule involving rear-end motor vehicle accidents, which means the rear driver is presumed to be negligent. The Court reversed certain authority and ruled that a rear vehicle may present evidence to a jury that the driver in front was negligent and therefore caused his/her own injuries.  This is also known as the defense of comparative negligence or fault.  The full opinion can be read here.    The  ruling, which examined case law back to the 1950s, reversed a decision  in a negligence suit by Maria Cevallos against Kerri Anne Rideout after a  collision in Wellington.  Rideout, who was ahead, was talking on a  cell phone when she drove over the crest of a hill Jan. 27, 2005,  according to Labarga’s decision. Unfortunately, another car had stalled  ahead of her. The end result was a four-car, chain-reaction collision,  with Cevallos in third place.

Labarga said Rideout “slammed” her  car into the rear of the stalled vehicle, and a jury reasonably could  have concluded Cevallos, travelling four car lengths behind and slowing  at the top of the hill, could not avoid the collision. He said it was  wrong for a judge to issue a directed verdict in Rideout’s favor.  Labarga  said a jury could have concluded Rideout was at fault for talking on a  cell phone while driving 45 mph in moderate to heavy traffic.

In  the Fifth DCA case, Labarga concluded, “The presumption that a rear  driver’s negligence is the sole cause of a rear-end automobile collision  can be rebutted and its legal effect dissipated by the production of  evidence from which a jury could conclude that the front driver was  negligent in the operation of his or her vehicle.”  The presumption  “is not a substantive rule of law that supersedes Florida’s comparative  negligence system of tort recovery,” he wrote. “Rather, it is an  evidentiary tool imposed by decisional law to facilitate a particular  type of negligence case, one that is applicable where the evidence is  insufficient to create a jury question on the relevant issues of fault.”

Ruben E. Socarras, Esq., managing member and one of the founders of the firm that is based in Boca Raton, Florida, is an AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney focusing his practice in the areas civil litigation, wrongful death, catastrophic and personal injury law, among other areas of law. The AV® Preeminent™ designation is Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer review rating based on a legal professional’s skills and ethics. Please contact our firm today for more information about how we can assist you with your accident or injury case at 561-361-1000, or via email at   We offer a free consultation and there is no obligation to pay for legal fees or costs unless we successfully recover against the at-fault party. Please visit our website at for more information.

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