Supreme Court: Injured Driver Can Rebut Florida’s Rear-End Presumption

We’ve previously explained the presumption of negligence in rear end accidents, under which Florida law essentially assumes that the rear driver caused the crash. In Cevallos v. Rideout, the Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that this presumption can be overcome, however, with evidence showing that the front driver was in fact negligent.

Maria Cevallos was injured in a car accident when the automobile she was driving rear-ended a vehicle driven by Kerri Anne Rideout. Cevallos later sued Rideout for negligence. As the Fourth District Court of Appeal explained:

The accident occurred when a non-party attempted to avoid a disabled vehicle on the downhill slope of an overpass. Two non-party vehicles were able to avoid colliding with the disabled vehicle and each other. The third vehicle driven by the defendant [Rideout], the fourth vehicle driven by the plaintiff [Cevallos], and the fifth vehicle driven by another non-party, were not that lucky.

Evidence was presented showing that Rideout was talking on a cell phone at the time of the accident, while Cevallos was four car lengths behind and had slowed at the crest of the hill.

Nevertheless, a trial court entered a directed verdict to Rideout when Cevallos sued her for negligence. The ruling was based on the well-settled presumption of negligence. The Fourth District affirmed the decision on appeal, ruling that the presumption could not be overcome with evidence of a front driver’s negligence and that a rear driver’s action for negligence is barred unless the driver can show that he or she was not negligent at all.

The state Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the presumption can be rebutted with evidence of the front driver’s negligence. “[T]he facts introduced into evidence at trial provided a sufficient basis for the jury to conclude that the defendant failed to use ordinary care in operating her vehicle, and that this failure was at least one of the proximate causes of the collision between the plaintiff’s vehicle and the defendant’s vehicle,” the Court ruled.

The Court also issued a ruling on a similar case, Birge v. Charron, in the same opinion. In that case, the Court explained that rear-end accident litigation is governed by the principles of comparative negligence, providing that a person who is injured partly due to his or her own negligence can hold another liable proportionately.

Representing drivers and passengers in Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale and beyond, the South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine have the experience and diligence necessary to assist clients who have been injured in any type of car accident, including rear end crashes. Our attorneys work closely with each and every client in order to help achieve the best legal result. Depending on the nature of your collision, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any permanent physical disability. At Anidjar & Levine, we offer a free consultation to those seeking legal advice after an accident. Call 800-747-3733 or submit an on-line “Contact Us” form today.

Related blog posts:

Causation In Florida Car Accident Litigation – Durse v. Henn

Court Upholds $150,000 Jury Award in Florida Rear-End Car Accident Case – Costa v. Aberle

Florida Court Limits Medical Examiner Testimony in Rear End Car Accident Case – Cascanet v. Allen