Rear-End Auto Accidents in Florida – Elements of Negligence
Rear-end auto accidents can produce serious injuries. A claim for personal injury is governed by Tort Law under negligence. It is important to understand that there are four specific elements needed to prove a claim of negligence. Without proving the existence of all of these elements, there can be no recovery in your claim for compensation.
Theory of Comparative Negligence
In Florida, a theory of comparative negligence is used in determining the amount of fault, or liability, that a person is responsible for in a rear-end auto accident. Under comparative negligence, there can multiple people held responsible for causing the collision. In fact, there are many situations when more than just one person created a hazardous condition which contributed to the accident. What is commonly done in these shared liability situations is that there is a percentage of fault assigned to each party based on their particular actions. This has proven to be a much more fair way to approach negligence claims, as a defendant can provide evidence to reduce the amount of a potential award against them.
Duty of Care
For a person to successfully argue that someone was negligent in causing them an injury in a rear-end auto accident, the accused must have owed that person a duty of care. What this means is there was an obligation on the part of the accused to act as a reasonable driver would in attempting to avoid unreasonable risks that are foreseeable. A person is providing a duty of care by following a specific standard of care given to them. Florida drivers have a standard of care that can be objectively viewed as how reasonably prudent driver would act under similar circumstances.
Breach of Duty
The second element that must be proven in a negligence claim in a rear-end auto accident is that the established legal duty of an at-fault party was breached. A person breaches their duty of care when the fall below the standard of care that is specified. An example of a breach of duty in a rear-end auto accident is when a person speeds towards stopped traffic and fails to stop in time. A reasonably prudent driver under similar circumstances would recognize the danger that speeding could cause.
The third element needed to prove a negligence claim in a rear-end auto accident is that the accident itself was the cause of the alleged injury. Florida requires that the injury was the proximate cause of the collision. This simply means that based on the facts, the causation of the injury related to the accident must not be remote. The link between the collision and the injury cannot be seen as something unforeseeable, or caused by something else independently. Proximate causation will be proven where a person should have reasonably been able to know that their actions would enhance the possibility of injuries.
Lastly, there must be actual damages that result from the rear-end auto accident in order to bring a claim of negligence. There is a requirement that Florida Courts have forcing a plaintiff to demonstrate a monetary loss. There are additional damages that can be sought in addition to an actual monetary loss, including lost wages, property damage, loss of future earning, and pain and suffering. As indicated above, Florida follows a comparative negligence theory, which means that a defendant can present evidence of a plaintiff’s negligent contribution in the accident and have a reduced award against based on the plaintiff’s actions.
In 2012, Florida’s Supreme Court decided on extremely critical issue. The court took a look at a problem dealing with rear-end collisions here in the state. Their ruling made a significant change to laws that govern automobile accidents involving rear-endings. Historically, such accidents were presumed the fault of the driver to the rear of the collision. The presumption has existed for as long as it has because the driver of the vehicle that was rear-ended, for the most part, could not see what the cause of the accident was. The seemingly obvious fix to determining fault was to place it with the rear vehicle as they were in the best position to avoid causing the collision. In essence, what the Florida Supreme Court has done in their decision, is allowed an opportunity for rear-end drivers involved in rear-end auto accidents to challenge the long-standing presumption.