Personal injury attorney, Jeffrey Meldon, discusses recovery of damages in rear-enders in Florida. Many people assume that they can recover all their damages when someone rear-ends their car. While it is true that in Florida there is a presumption that the driver who rear-ended another vehicle was the sole cause of the accident, the rear-ending driver can rebut that presumption by producing evidence that shows that the accident was not caused solely by his or her negligence (fault).
The rear driver can do so by showing that the front driver had some fault in it as well, such as; suddenly or unexpectedly stopping, unexpectedly changing lanes or that the vehicle had a mechanical failure. If the rear driver fairly and reasonably shows or rebuts the presumption of negligence, the jury then determines the issue of the rear driver’s negligence and determines the damages.
Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. According to a pure comparative negligence approach, any party to a lawsuit may have a claim for damages unless that party was 100% at fault.
For example, if X and Y were in an accident, where X unexpectedly changed lanes and stopped and Y then rear-ended him because he was following too closely, and a lawsuit ensues:
- If….The jury finds that X was negligent in operating a vehicle and was 40% at fault for the accident.
- And… Y was also found negligent in rear-ending X’s car, by following too closely, and is found to be 60% at fault for the accident.
- And….The jury finds that X has suffered $10,000 in damages (and was 40% negligent in his operation of the vehicle)
- While….. Y also suffered $10,000 in damages (and was 60% negligent)
- Because of this apportionment (comparative negligence) of fault:
A. X will recover only a portion of his damages – $6,000 ($10,000 reduced by 40% (X’s percentage of fault)) and
B. Y will recover $4,000 ($10,000 reduced by 60% (Y’s percentage of fault).
C. However, the judge then offsets the amounts against each other: $6,000 – $4,000 = $2,000.
D. This means that X’s damages were larger than Y’s by $2,000, thus Y will have to pay X $2,000 in damages.
If, however, the accident was due solely to the Y’s negligence when he rear-ended X, then the X’s damages will not be reduced, since X was not negligent at all. In this case, X is entitled to receive the full amount of his claim, which is $10,000 in damages.
NOTE: The pure comparative negligence doctrine does not apply to cases where a party is drunk at the time of the accident. In that case if the jury finds that that an intoxicated party was more than 50% at fault, he or she will not recover any damages. Being drunk is an absolute bar to recovery in Florida if the party was more than 50% at fault!
Because of the doctrine of pure comparative negligence in Florida, the importance of gathering evidence early in any rear-end collision cannot be emphasized enough. I know this is confusing information, which makes it all the more important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after the accident.
We at Meldon Law strongly believe that public education is the first step in the prevention of an accident or in the recovery from one.
We are experienced personal injury attorneys, trial lawyers, negotiators, litigators, paralegals, and staff that have been proudly working to get accident victims the justice they deserve for over 40 years in Gainesville, Ocala, Lake City, Inverness, and the rest of North Central Florida and North Florida. Accidents involving a car crash, truck wreck, and motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and criminal defense are all included in our practice.
Based on Jeffrey Meldon’s, founder of Meldon Law, over 40 years of helping accident victims get justice and a fair shake from the insurance companies, he has written the consumer guide book, Seven Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Florida Accident Case. You can request your free, no obligation copy right now, or contact our office for your complimentary copy sent to you today.
Contact Meldon Law at (800) 373-8000 or (352) 373-8000 immediately if you have been involved in a serious auto, truck, or motorcycle accident. We are in your community, have the experience and resources required to work towards obtaining a fair settlement for you – we are here to help you.