Rear End Car Accidents – Who’s at Fault?

The most common type of two-vehicle accident in Fort Lauderdale is the “rear-ender” – when a car is bumped or rammed from behind by a following vehicle. Today, the number of rear end car accidents is increasing, due to the many new driver distractions such as texts, cell phone calls, iPods, and in-dash navigation systems. Rear-end road rage incidents are also on the increase, with drivers in a hurry purposely tailgating and even tapping the bumper of a car they feel is moving too slowly. In most rear-ender incidents, it is assumed that the driver of the rear-ending car is at fault, and will be liable for any damages incurred in the collision – but there are some important exceptions to this rule.

No-Fault Insurance

In Florida, the most significant factor in getting compensation for damages caused in a rear end car accident is the state’s designation as a “no-fault state.” This means that in Florida, drivers must carry their own auto insurance, and will then collect compensation for their own damages and injuries from that insurance instead of suing the other driver for damages.

Although the no-fault exception limits your ability to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver for damages, drivers injured in a Florida rear-end collision can still take an at-fault driver to court to collect compensation for some things, such as pain and suffering or loss of services. This can only happen if the severity and amount of injuries and losses reach certain thresholds (usually the policy limits in your declarations page). This means that in Florida, determining fault in a rear end accident is usually not necessary unless the injuries caused in the accident are severe, requiring long-term medical care, causing permanent wage loss, or causing long-term debilitation. In any case, you must first file a claim with your own insurance company to recover compensation for your damages up to the designated thresholds.

If a determination of fault is required in a Florida rear end collision, the rear driver is usually considered at fault, with a couple of exceptions:

The Multi-Car Collision Exception – The reason fault is usually assigned to the rear driver in a “rear-ender” accident is that all drivers have a responsibility to drive safely and carefully enough to avoid causing accidents – and this includes not following another vehicle too closely. In multi-car accident situations, though, a rear driver may be unable to prevent colliding with the car in front of him if another vehicle crashes into and pushes his stopped car from behind. In this situation, the middle driver may not be considered at fault, and the driver of the car that was the original cause of the multiple collisions is at fault for all damages.

Comparative Negligence – In 2012, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled that a driver of a rear vehicle involved in a rear end accident may offer evidence that the front vehicle driver’s negligence caused his or her own injuries in part or entirely. For example, if the driver in front was distracted or under the influence of alcohol, and ran into something ahead of them or came to a sudden stop while traffic was moving at high speeds, then a jury may conclude that the rear driver was not solely at fault for the accident. In such a case, the jury may award a judgment based upon the degree of fault assigned to each party.

If you have been involved in a rear end collision that resulted in serious injury and damages, you may want to discuss your case with a car accident attorney to protect your rights and/or ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.