Proving Liability in Rear End Collision Accidents
When an action arises from a rear-end collision, there is usually a presumption that the rear driver is negligent. The general rule is that a rear-end collision with a vehicle that is stopped or is in process of stopping creates a prima facie case of liability with respect to the driver.
Proving LiabilityIn order to prove liability in a personal injury case, a victim must prove that the at-fault individual acted negligently. Negligence is any behavior that falls below the standard of care expected of a reasonable person and causes harm to another person. Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances. When an action arises from a rear-end collision, there is usually a presumption that the rear driver is negligent. The general rule is that a rear-end collision with a vehicle that is stopped or is in process of stopping creates a prima facie case of liability with respect to the driver of the following vehicle. The following driver is required to rebut the inference of negligence by giving a non-negligent excuse for the accident.
In order to establish negligence in a rear-end collision case, there must be a breach of the duty of care. Generally, where other vehicles are able to stop behind the lead vehicle, the driver of the last vehicle that precipitates the chain reaction collision has breached the duty of care and is negligent. In a rear- end collision case, it must be established that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident. Causation is often disputed. In cases where the rear-end collision involves more than two vehicles, causation is an issue that can become complicated. The final element to be established in a rear-end collision action is damages. In many cases, the defendant will admit to liability but will claim that he or she did not cause the plaintiff’s damages. The defendant may also assert that the plaintiff’s injuries are not of the nature or extent claimed.
Location of AccidentRear-end car accidents collisions are extremely common in Florida. Some occur at intersections and any more occur on the highways. Some of the worst types of accidents involve sometimes tens of vehicles at a time. And, of course, there are rear-end collisions in parking lots of shopping centers. The site of the accident can play a major role in the way in which we approach and prepare for the case. If the collision occurred at an intersection, the presence or absence of traffic signs and signals, or their malfunctioning if present, may present special problems of proof. The lead driver’s conduct at the intersection may also affect the handling of the case: Was he making a right or left turn? Did he make a sudden stop upon realizing belatedly that he had reached an intersection? Did he make one or more false starts after coming to a stop? Among the factors distinguishing the collision on the city street from that of the open road is the pivotal one of tighter speed restrictions in the former. The issues of whether the following driver was keeping a proper lookout, or whether he was following too closely, take on a different complexion in the context of a congested city street.
Circumstances Under Which Accident OccurredThe location of the collision is only part of the total picture. Also, of great importance are the circumstances under which the accident occurred. Rear-end collisions can take place even though the struck vehicle was traveling at normal speed. They can occur when the struck vehicle has slowed or come to a stop, or when it is merely parked in a private lot. They can also occur as a result of an overtaking maneuver. This might happen where the striking vehicle moves into the left lane and, being forced by on-coming traffic to retreat before completing the attempted passing, hits the rear of the preceding vehicle. Or it may happen after the overtaking operation has been successfully carried out, when the passing vehicle cuts back in with too little clearance and thereby becomes the struck vehicle. Similar to this last example is the simple lane change made with poor judgment as to the available clearance. If the struck vehicle was hit after slowing or stopping, the attorney would want to know whether the change in speed was or was not accompanied by a proper signal. If the change was unsignaled, it can be important to know whether an emergency situation existed to compel the otherwise negligent move. If a passing or an attempted passing was involved in the accident, counsel should ascertain whether the overtaken vehicle remained at a constant rate of speed or whether it accelerated during the time in which the overtaking vehicle was in the lane for oncoming traffic. And, of course, one would be interested in knowing what sort of view the overtaking motorist had of the roadway ahead, and how close the oncoming vehicles were, at the time the pass or attempted pass was begun.