In rear-end car accidents, the rear driver is presumed to be at fault. However, this is not always the case, and depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may or may not be at fault. If you were the rear driver and you were not at fault for the accident, then this is often much more difficult to prove, and you should seek help from an attorney.
Florida also operates under comparative fault laws, which means that you could be penalized if the other driver, or their attorney, claims that you were in any way at-fault for the accident, even if liability appears clear.
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Is the Rear Driver Always at Fault for a Rear-End Collision?
The rear driver is not always at fault for a rear-end collision, and liability is not automatic. The lead driver might be at fault if they were driving recklessly. For example, they may have:
- Reversed into the rear car.
- Been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Intentionally trying to get hit in order to make a claim.
- Applied the brakes suddenly.
- Drove with broken brake lights.
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Who Is Usually at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?
Most incidences of rear-end car accidents are a result of the back driver following too closely and not leaving enough room to stop safely, especially when road conditions are hazardous.
However, this is not always the case. The front driver could be at fault or another driver on the road. There are also situations where a car fault or road hazard can be the main cause of the accident, which could place the liability onto car manufacturers, mechanics, or local authorities responsible for road maintenance.
Determining the at-fault party following a car accident is an important step, as it places liability for damages on that party. To prove liability, negligence must be proven, and the degree to which that negligence contributed to the accident.
Common examples of negligent driving include:
- Distracted driving, such as looking at a phone.
- Running a red light.
What Damages Can Be Recovered Following a Rear-End Collision?
If you have been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, then you can claim damages through a personal injury lawsuit.
- Medical bills, both past and future.
- Lost wages and lost earning potential.
- Property damages.
- Wrongful death damages if you have lost a loved one in an accident.
- Pain and suffering damage your emotional suffering. These types of damages can be highly subjective, but an attorney can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
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How Is Fault Determined Following a Rear-End Collision?
Following most car accidents, fault is determined by negligence. Under Florida’s negligence laws, the party that is found negligent is liable to pay damages to injured parties.
In order to prove that someone was negligent, it must be demonstrated that:
- The defendant owed the injured party a duty of care. All drivers owe other road users a duty of care.
- The duty of care was breached, which means they acted in an unreasonable way. Common ways that individuals breach their duty of care on the road is by driving while distracted, breaking the rules of the road, or failing to react appropriately to a hazard.
- The breach caused the plaintiffs injuries.
- The injuries led to damages such as medical bills.
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What If the Driver in Front Brakes Suddenly?
When the driver in front brakes suddenly, it can often cause the rear driver to hit the vehicle in front. In this situation, either driver can be at fault, and liability is based on a case-by-case basis.
The front driver could be at-fault if they applied the brakes for no obvious reason. However, the rear driver is expected to leave enough room between the cars in front so that they can brake in time if necessary.
There is no specific safe distance to leave between vehicles. A safe distance depends on many things, such as weather, speed, and road conditions. As a driver, you are expected to use your common sense and adjust the distance you leave between yourself and the car in front based on things like:
- Night driving.
- Soft brakes.
- Loose gravel.
- Stop-and-go traffic.
- Heavier vehicle weight.
- Wet road conditions.
Distracted Driving and Sudden Braking
If the front driver brakes suddenly and the rear driver is distracted, then a collision is also likely. In this situation, the rear driver could be blamed for not paying attention to the road.
One increasing cause of distracted driving is mobile phone use, even looking at a phone can be considered distracted driving. However, anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the surroundings is considered distracted driving.
- Eating while driving.
- Changing the radio.
- Distracted by passengers.
- Adjusting the seat or steering wheel.
- Lighting a cigarette.
- Watching a video.
- Reading the newspaper.
- Putting on makeup or shaving.
- Looking at maps.
- Mapping directions.
Although distracted driving could result in the rear driver being found at fault, the front driver may also have contributed to the accident. For example, if they slammed the brakes recklessly because of road rage or had broken brake lights. It is, therefore, possible that both parties share liability.
Who Is at Fault If a Driver Suddenly Pulls Out in Front?
When a driver suddenly pulls out in front of a car and gets hit, then liability can be complicated. It depends on things such as:
- Traffic signals.
- Road conditions.
- Vehicle speed.
- Lane markings.
- Failing to signal for turns and lane changes.
If the rear driver is driving recklessly, such as speeding, then they could be liable. However, if the other driver pulls into traffic without signaling, across multiple lanes, or across a solid yellow line, then they could be liable for the accident.
Left Turns, U-Turns, and Right-of-Way
Another common cause of rear-end collisions is when a driver turns left in front of oncoming traffic or an illegal U-turn. Drivers making a U-turn or turning left must yield right of way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction until the turn can be made safely.
When attempting to make a left turn, it is essential that drivers make sure there are no oncoming vehicles close enough to cause an accident.
Multiple Vehicle Rear-End Collision
Sometimes a rear-end accident can involve multiple vehicles. When a car collides with another, it can cause a chain reaction, where the vehicle in the rear hits a car, which then hits the car in front, and so on. Often, the drivers that initially collided are liable. However, it is possible for multiple drivers to be at-fault to some degree.
In some situations, the two cars that initially collided are not wholly to blame. Instead, liable parties could include:
- Another reckless driver.
- Hazardous road conditions.
- Vehicle brake manufacturer.
- Cyclist or pedestrian.
- Off-leash dog running out into the street.
- Sandra had a broken brake light and needed to get it fixed. However, she was having a hard time finding the car repair shop and needed to look at maps on her phone.
- Peter went for a few pints after work, he felt a little buzzed, but he believes he drives ok after just a few beers.
- Sandra almost misses her turn for the car repair shop and has to slam the brakes on to make the turn.
- Peter had no warning that Sandra was going to break and hit her car.
- Maxwell was driving a used car that he had recently purchased from a dealer. He saw Peter stop, but his brakes didn’t work, and he hit Peter’s car.
Liability, in this case, is complex, and it should be shared by Sandra, Peter, and the used car salesman. Sandra had broken lights, was driving distracted, and used her brakes suddenly and without due care. Peter broke the law by driving under the influence of alcohol. Finally, Maxwell’s used car salesman should have taken care to ensure that the vehicle he sold was safe.
As you can see, fault in a rear-end collision is not always clear, especially when multiple cars are involved. Each driver may have conflicting ideas of what occurred and who was to blame.
What to Do After a Rear-End Accident?
Taking the right steps after a rear-end collision can massively help your claim.
- Dial 911 – Following a rear-end accident, you will probably be in a state of shock. However, you must call the police to the scene of any accident that involves personal injury or serious property damage, as outlined in Florida Statute 316.062. Whether you were at fault or not, calling emergency services is essential. Quick medical care can make a big difference to anyone with a serious injury, and the police report and medical records will be an essential aspect of your claim.
- File an accident report – If the accident was minor and emergency services are not called to the scene, then you will have 10 days to report the accident, as per Florida Statute 316.066.
- Gather evidence – If you are able to then gather as much evidence as you can, including the name, car, and insurance information of any other drivers involved. If there are any witnesses, then get their name and contact details too. Take photos of all vehicles, your injuries, and anything else that could be relevant such as skid marks, potholes, or anything else related to the rear-end accident. You should also ask the police officer for their information, as it will make it easier to get a copy of the police report later. If you are unable to do any of this, then see if you can get someone to do it for you.
- Seek medical attention – Rear-end accidents usually result in a lot of adrenaline, which can mask injuries. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as you can and follow any advice you are given. As per Florida Statute 627.736, you must seek medical attention within 14 days of an accident to make a personal injury claim. However, the sooner, the better, as it will be easier to prove that your injuries occurred as a result of the accident.
- Make a detailed list of what happened – As soon as possible, make as many notes as you can about what occurred. Memories of what happened can quickly distort, especially when emotions are high.
- Speak to a car accident lawyer – As soon as you can speak to a car accident lawyer so that they can advise you on your next steps. At The Law Place, we offer a free consultation so that you can seek advice when you need it, without committing to representation until you have more clarity.
- Call your insurance company – You need to let your insurance company know about any car accident in order to make a claim, each policy is different, but you usually have 24 hours. It is a good idea to speak to a lawyer before you speak to your insurance company so that you don’t say anything that might harm your case. But general advice is to stick to the broad facts, and don’t admit fault, even if you think you could be at fault. You might believe you are at fault, but you may not have all the facts right away. The other driver could have been driving under the influence or looking at their phone.
Losing a Loved One in a Rear-End Collision
If you have lost a family member in a rear-end collision, then under Florida Statute 768.21, you can claim compensation.
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit can include funeral expenses, lost wages the victim would have earned, and compensation for your emotional suffering. While no amount of money can make up for your loss, it can ease the financial stress of losing someone close to you.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, a representative of the deceased estate must make a claim on behalf of family members.
Can I File a Lawsuit If I Was Partly to Blame the Rear-End Accident?
Florida’s comparative fault law, as stated in Florida Statute 768.81, allows you to claim damages even if you were partially at fault for a rear-end collision.
In Florida, you can claim damages for the degree other parties were at fault, even if you hold the majority of the liability. For example, if you are found to be 60% at fault for the accident, and the other party is 40% at fault, then you could still claim 40% of your damages. A car accident attorney will work to limit your liability and therefore maximize your damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer After a Rear-End Collision That Was Not My Fault?
Many people believe that they can handle a rear-end collision accident claim by themselves or that their insurance company can deal with it. It is important to consider the role of the insurance adjuster and who they work for. Insurance companies look to pay out as little money as possible, and it is the adjuster’s job to get you to accept a low settlement or even to deny the claim.
Speak to a Florida car accident lawyer and protect your rights to fair compensation. An experienced attorney will know how to handle insurance companies, and they will investigate your case to present evidence about what your case is worth.
Most personal injury claims settle outside of court, which is a good thing as court cases can take a long time. However, when you put your faith in The Law Place, our attorneys will be prepared to present your case in court if necessary.
What Should I Do If I Was Rear-Ended by an Uninsured Driver?
When you take out insurance in Florida, you can opt for uninsured and underinsured motorist (UMC/UIM) coverage for where the other driver has no insurance or insufficient insurance to cover your damages.
If you don’t have either of these and you are hit by an uninsured driver, then you can still try and make a claim against the at-fault party. However, if they don’t have insurance, it’s unlikely that they have the assets necessary to compensate you.
It is still a good idea to seek advice from a lawyer who can explore your options with you.
Statute of Limitations Following a Rear-End Collision
Florida Statute 95.11 details the statute of limitations, which is how long you have to make a claim following an accident.
In Florida, you have four years from the date of a car accident to make a claim. If you have lost a loved one, then you have two years from the date of their death.
While this may sound like a long time, a rear-end collision lawsuit can be complex, and each step can take a long time. The sooner you speak to personal injury lawyers, the better. They can get right to work on your case, and they will make sure that vital evidence is preserved.
Call The Law Place Today
If you have been in a rear-end collision in Florida, then The Law Place is here to help. We have over 75 years of combined experience dealing with car accident claims in Florida, and we are committed to helping our clients in any way we can. Many of our attorneys have the highest AVVO rating of 10.0, based on things like client reviews, awards, and years in service.
What really sets us apart is that we will review your case as a team so that you can benefit from our combined knowledge and experience. At the same time, one of our car accident lawyers will be assigned to your case so that you have someone you can ask questions and that will guide you through the process.
Don’t hesitate to call us today. We offer a free consultation, and you have no obligation to continue representation. At the very least, you will leave armed with more knowledge about what to do next.
Contact us now at (941) 444-4444.
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