For the past 50 years, any Florida resident who rear-ended another driver was presumed to have been negligent. But a recent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court may allow these drivers a better chance at sharing blame then they previously had. Miami residents who are involved in car or motorcycle accident litigation should understand what this ruling and other Florida laws could mean for their case.
The court’s ruling in the case of a 2005 three-car pile up in West Palm Beach said that the third driver should have been allowed to present arguments to a jury. The court ruled that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that a jury might have found that the third driver’s negligence wasn’t the “sole proximate cause” of the accident. This ruling doesn’t change the law, but there are some experts who say it might allow attorneys more room to argue cases and insurance companies to scale back payouts on some claims.
Florida law allows juries to award judgments based on how much they believe each party is at fault; this is called comparative negligence. The new ruling from the state’s high court may now allow lawyers to argue that the blame in a rear-end collision should be split more appropriately between drivers.
While this ruling may help in some accident disputes, there doesn’t appear to be a groundswell of opinion that it will alter how most cases are handled. What it does mean, certainly, is that it is more important than ever to understand one’s legal rights in any given situation.
Source: Sun Sentinel, “Florida Supreme Court: Drivers in rear-end crash may not be at fault,” Ben Wolford, Nov. 23, 2012