On a typical commute, it’s easy to become distracted with thoughts about the day, items on your to-do list, billboards, something you heard on the radio… The possibilities are endless. When this happens, you may end up rear-ending the car in front of you. But what if you were actually paying attention, yet the driver in front of you suddenly stops without warning? Who’s at fault?
Rear-Ending Someone Who Suddenly Stopped Their Car
Florida Statutes Section 316.0895 establishes that all drivers of motor vehicles must leave a reasonable distance between their vehicle and the car in front of them. What’s considered as “reasonable” is not specifically defined in the law. However, it should be a distance that gives you enough time to react should you have to decrease your speed and eventually stop.
Since you are required to leave enough space to provide appropriate reaction time, if you rear-end someone, there is a rebuttable presumption that you were at fault for the accident.
What If I Wasn’t At Fault?
You can present evidence that the accident wasn’t your fault. You can do this by providing witness testimony, expert testimony, surveillance video, evidence that the vehicle in front of you had faulty brake lights, or any additional factor that may show that the collision was the other driver’s fault. Another possibility would be to consult the police report after the accident to determine whether the other driver committed a traffic violation that may have caused the accident. Do keep in mind that if such is the case, you’ll have to call the police officer to testify in person, since the police report could be excluded as admissible evidence as hearsay.
What If We Were Both At Fault?
It’s also possible that both you and the driver in front of you were somewhat negligent. This is an important angle to consider, since Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. In layman’s terms, this means that if a person is partially at fault for the accident, any amount of money recovered will be reduced by their own level of negligence. For example, let’s say that you were distracted while driving, but the car in front of you also suddenly stopped their car without warning because they were also distracted and realized at the last minute that the traffic light is red. Let’s also say that in that accident, they ended up with $20,000 in damages to their car and $20,000 in medical bills for their whiplash – for a total of $40,000 in damages. Under Florida law, if a court finds that the liability can be split 50/50, the driver in front of you would only be able to recover $20,000 of damages.
What If Damages Were Minor?
While some accidents are only fender benders, don’t make that determination on your own. Sometimes, symptoms of injury appear later on, and there are time limitations you have to keep in mind to file your claim. For example, while the statute of limitations to file a claim for negligence is four years, Florida law also is clear that if you’re filing a claim for Personal Injury Protection (PIP), you have to do so within 14 days from the date of the accident. Also, the longer you wait to file a claim, the higher the probability that the other person’s attorney will try to blame any of your damages on something else – a subsequent accident, pre-existing health issues, or subsequent injuries.
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Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.