November 27th, 2012 - by DKRPA
It is a widely held belief that when a rear-end collision occurs between two vehicles, it is the “second” driver — or, the person driving the vehicle that initiates contact with the back of the other vehicle — is at fault. This reasoning has always been supported by the Florida court system, which puts the burden of proof on that “second” driver if civil litigation were to come about.
Since the first car is in their view and they have the ability to stop before the accident occurs, it is the “second” driver that is (basically) always at fault — or so the logic goes.
However, a slow change from that line of thinking has been underway for the past decade; and a recent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court will further propel the change.
A seven-year-old accident in Palm Beach County occurred when one driver crested over a hill. She was talking on her cell phone, and hit another car. Shortly after, another woman hit the two vehicles. This woman (essentially the “third” driver, in this incident) sued the other woman for damages.
Now, given past rulings and the standard held by the courts, the plaintiff should have prevented the accident. But a Florida Supreme Court ruled in her favor, citing that the “third” driver should not be presumed negligent and was not the sole proximate cause of the wreck. The first woman’s initial negligence made it impossible for the second woman to prevent the accident from happening.
Determining liability after an accident can be messy. Proximate cause says that everyone involved in the wreck carries some portion of liability — even the victims (though that percentage is usually quite small). Recent rulings will help the “second” (or “third” or “fourth”) driver earn some justice in accidents that were not entirely their fault.
Source: Sun Sentinel, “Florida Supreme Court: Drivers in rear-end crash may not be at fault,” Ben Wolford, Nov. 23, 2012
To learn more about this topic and other car crash matters, please visit our Florida auto accident page.