Florida Court of Appeals Rules That Rear-End Accident Liability Requires Factual Support

The Sunshine State

Under certain circumstances, Florida law affords the victim of a rear-end car accident the presumption that the other driver is at fault for the crash.  Specifically, Florida has adopted a rebuttable presumption that a rear driver’s actions are the sole proximate cause of an accident and any resulting in injuries in the case  Clampitt v. D.J. Spencer Sales.

To rebut the presumption of negligence, the rear driver must present evidence that “fairly and reasonably tends to show” that the presumption is misplaced.  Evidence that the lead driver stopped suddenly would not be sufficient to rebut the presumption, however, evidence that the lead driver stopped “at a time and place where it could not reasonably be expected by the following driver” would be.

The Florida rear-end presumption recently became an issue in the case of Arce v. Mullane, decided by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.  In Arce, the plaintiff was injured in a rear-end collision and sued the defendant for negligence.  The plaintiff filed for summary judgment, relying on the Florida presumption to establish that the defendant had been negligent.

The District Court denied the motion for summary judgment, concluding that the plaintiff could not merely assert that she had been rear-ended and rely upon the presumption to prevail.  Specifically, the Court held that the plaintiff was required to produce some factual evidence supporting a claim that the accident had occurred under circumstances entitling her to the presumption.

Apparently, the plaintiff failed to attach any affidavits to or reference any deposition testimony in her motion for summary judgment, a fact which the defendant seized upon in his response.  The defendant argued that, because the plaintiff failed to support the motion with any factual evidence, she had failed to carry her burden of proof.  The plaintiff later responded by filing an affidavit restating her earlier arguments which the Court declined to consider.

According to the Court, there was “essentially no evidence…on which to consider the motion – only the parties’ dueling arguments” and based on the “meager record, lacking in any evidence describing the circumstances of the accident” the Court concluded that there were material facts in dispute.  The Court criticized that the plaintiff’s “motion, citations of authority, and efforts to provide evidentiary support [were] woefully insufficient to a consideration of the requested relief under the most liberal view of Rule 56.”

Unfortunately, rear-end collisions are some of the most  common types car accidents that occur on Florida’s roadways and can result in serious injuries, even at low rates of speed.  Further, as demonstrated by the Arce case, liability is not always as clear cut as it might initially appear.

Liability if often one of the most contentious issues that can arise with regard to a motor vehicle accident.  The Miami car accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, PA have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured in car accidents.  If you or someone you know has been injured in a rear end collision, or by the negligence of another, contact a Miami, Florida personal injury attorney at Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. toll free at 1-877-475-2905.

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