Understanding The Rear End Presumption In Florida Car Accident Cases
In the law, a presumption is something that you don’t have to prove—it’s assumed from day 1, the minute you walk into court. Think of a presumption as a “free pass,” allowing you to bypass what may otherwise be a difficult part of your case.
The Rear End Presumption
One major presumption in the law that helps car accident victims, is what is known as the rear end presumption. The rear end presumption says that when there is a rear end car accident, the car that hit the car in front, is assumed to be responsible for the accident. You, as the victim who was hit from behind, get to bypass having to prove the Defendant did something wrong.
That means that all you need to focus on as the victim in most rear end car accidents is whether you were injured, and what your injuries and damages are.
Refuting the Presumption
However, this is not to say that rear end car accident cases are easy, or that they are an automatic win for victims. That’s because Defendants can always try to rebut, or refute, the presumption, by showing that you, as the car that was hit from behind, did something wrong.
That’s hard to show, but it can be done. For example, the Defendant may argue that you suddenly and unexpectedly applied your brakes somewhere that it would be responsible to do so, such as if you slammed on the brakes on the highway in the middle of free flowing traffic.
Sudden and unexpected lane changes, which cause another driver to rear end you, could also be enough to overcome the presumption. Likewise, the presumption can be overcome by showing a mechanical problem with the vehicle caused the accident. Or that the driver had some medical problem, like a loss of consciousness, that caused the accident to happen.
However, simply putting on your brakes too soon, or waiting too long, or an argument that the car in front “stopped short” by itself, will not always be enough to refute the presumption.
Defendant Has the Burden of Proof
Remember that because there is a presumption, if a Defendant wants to rebut the presumption, and say that you did something to cause the accident, the Defendant has to prove that. This is rare; normally in a personal injury case, a Defendant doesn’t need to actually prove anything at all. This means that if the Defendant wants to disprove the presumption, the Defendant, and not you as the victim needs to find and produce evidence.
Remember that Florida, as a comparative negligence state, allows jurors to decide how much each party—including the victim—may be liable for injuries or an accident. If the Defendant can overcome the presumption, the victim can face the possibility of getting only a part of the total award, if the jury finds the victim partly responsible for the accident.
Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig if you have been injured in a rear end car accident.