Last Update: 01/13/16
In Florida, rear end collision accidents happen every day. Especially here in South Florida, where we have lots of heavy traffic traveling through Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. Unfortunately, making an insurance claim to recover your damages for this type of accident can be difficult.
In any rear end collision, one vehicle hits the rear end of another vehicle that is positioned directly in front of it. Sometimes, particularly in heavy traffic situations, there can be a domino effect: a chain reaction where multiple vehicles are involved in rear-end collisions, one car slamming into the back of another, and that car rear-ending another, etc., to form a multiple car vehicular accident.
Who is Liable in a Chain Reaction Rear End Collision?: The Case of the Truck and the Three Cars
In the case of Boggs v. Gulle, 162 So. 2d 286 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1964), Mr. Boggs was riding in a car that had come to a full stop at a traffic light. That car was hit from behind by another vehicle in a chain reaction accident that ended up with four cars being involved in the crash.
The first, second, and third cars were all stopped at the intersection. It was the fourth vehicle, a truck driven by a man named Winston Warner, Jr., and owned by Jack J. Gulle, that rear-ended the third car in the line up. That crash had enough force to slam the third car into the rear of the car in front of it (the second car), and in turn forcing that car into the rear end of the first car, where Mr. Boggs sat.
Warner and Gulle defended themselves against Bogg’s damage claims, arguing that it was brake failure of the truck: the driver couldn’t stop his truck.
The accident was unavoidable. It wasn’t driver error or driver negligence, this was a malfunction of the braking system. Product failure.
Is There a Presumption of Negligence in a Florida Rear End Collision?
In Florida, the courts assume that the driver that rear-ended the vehicle is guilty of making a mistake and causing the crash. This is called a “presumption of negligence” in legal terms. In a rear-end accident, the burden of proof falls on the driver to provide evidence to rebut this presumption of negligence. See, Kimenker v. Greater Miami Car Rental, Inc., 115 So. 2d 191 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1959).
In this case, the truck driver and the owner of the truck were trying to jump that hurdle of the “presumption of negligence” by arguing that there was a failure of the brakes at the time of the crash.
They cited an earlier case, Pensacola Transit Co. v. Denton, to support their argument. In that case, a bus failed to stop because its air brakes did not function and the jury held that the bus driver was not negligent in that rear-end crash. They argued that their situation was like the bus driver in the earlier case. They lost.
Did The Evidence Overcome The Presumption of Negligence?
The courts held that the truck driver and the owner of the truck were liable for the accident and their “brake failure” defense would not be enough to overcome the presumption of negligence.
Why? Because of the evidence provided by the plaintiff to support his claim for damages, including;
1. Speed of the Truck
Key evidence in the case involved the speed the truck was going at the time of the accident. The truck driver testified that he was driving at 15 MPH when he was around 15 feet from the rear of the car in front of him, setting there at the light. Calculating speed and distance factors, the evidence showed that there was no way that the truck could have avoiding hitting the vehicle in front of it — it was going too fast to stop. This was true regardless of the condition of the brakes.
2. Skid Marks on the Roadway
Another key piece of evidence: skid marks on the roadway. The truck left skid marks on the road, showing that the brakes were engaged. Also, there was evidence that the truck’s brakes worked right after the accident.
Result: the trial court judge entered a judgment that the defendants truck driver and owner of the truck were liable for the chain-reaction multi-car accident. The only issue to decide was the amount of damages to be paid.
What Kind Of Help Will You Need With A Rear End Collision Claim?
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a rear-end collision, then you may need help to prove the negligence of the other driver, with admissible evidence, in order to establish the right to recover damages for your car accident claim.
Rear-end collisions are difficult cases to prove up in many situations, and it’s especially true for all the drivers involved in a chain-reaction crash. Equally as difficult is being able to recover damages. Insurance companies serving Florida look upon soft tissue claims caused by rear-end collisions with great suspicion (neck and back injuries involving bulging and herniated disc claims are especially difficult to prove and insurance companies rarely make a fair settlement offer for these claims).
Evidence that is authenticated and admissible is key here. This proof may be easy to locate but it may be difficult to get an insurance adjuster to respect the evidence. Experts in automobile accident reconstruction may be needed along with professional medical testimony.
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in a rear-end accident, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.