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  • Brent A. Couture
  • Tara C. Couture
MELBOURNE INJURY ATTORNEYS

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Rear-End Auto Collisions

In Melbourne, Who’s at fault when a car is hit from behind?

Florida law has historically presumed that drivers who collide with the rear-end of another vehicle behaved negligently. Therefore, if one vehicle hits another from behind and causes a rear-end accident, the driver who collided into the rear-end of the other vehicle is likely to be liable for injuries and property damage. Because Florida law prohibits a driver from following another vehicle too closely, drivers who are rear-ended in an accident are not required to prove negligence.

However, Florida’s historical approach to rear-end collisions appears to be evolving as drivers who rear-end other vehicles may present evidence in court to disprove the presumption of negligence. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court has resolved conflicting rulings issued by lower courts in rear-end collision cases. The court’s ruling may be good news for Brevard County, Titusville, and Melbourne, Fla. drivers involved in rear-end collisions.

What if more than one vehicle is involved?

In cases involving three-vehicle collisions, the Florida Supreme Court recently cleared the way for “second” drivers–those who rear-end the vehicle in front of them–to pursue damages, including partial damages, from the driver of the middle vehicle. For example, if the middle driver was distracted and suddenly applied the brake prior to hitting the vehicle in front, the rear third driver may claim he or she collided with the rear of the middle vehicle due to the middle driver’s sudden stop. Therefore, the third driver becomes part of a three-vehicle rear-end collision due to the middle driver’s negligence.

Florida’s comparative negligence law

Florida juries are instructed to determine how much fault should be assigned to each party in the lawsuit. Damages are calculated according to the extent to which each party is at fault for the accident. Sometimes juries assign a percentage of fault to all parties in the accident. However, in a rear-end collision in which the first driver is at fault, the comparative negligence theory will most likely apply.

Rear-end collision disputes can be complex. For example, if a vehicle has a faulty brake light that fails to illuminate to indicate the vehicle is stopping, the driver of a car that is following the vehicle may not realize the upcoming stop and collide with the vehicle in front. Although the jury might assign a percentage of blame to the driver of the second car, the jury is unlikely to decide the second driver is fully responsible for rear-ending the first vehicle, which had the faulty brake light. However, because the first vehicle was rear-ended by the second car, the driver of the first vehicle may still attempt to recover a percentage of the damages. If successful in court, the first driver’s portion would be reduced by the percentage of fault that is attributed to the second driver.

In another example, if the driver of the first vehicle is driving erratically and swerves in front of a second car, the second driver may argue that he or she was unable to turn or stop to avoid hitting the first vehicle. If available, witness statements may be used to support the second driver’s argument to refute the existing presumption that the second car is always at fault.

Defense strategies

Any sudden or unexpected stop, or an illegal stop, may shift blame to the driver of the first vehicle. However, if the first driver suddenly stops at an intersection (which can happen because of an emergency vehicle or pedestrian approach) and the second driver causes a rear-end collision, the first driver could argue that the stop at the intersection should have been anticipated by the second driver. If in cases involving mechanical failure, the second driver may be able to present evidence that his or her vehicle collided with the first vehicle due to improper mechanical function.

Not all rear-end collisions involve clear fault. Florida law says that the driver has the duty to act rationally and reasonably. The manner in which Florida courts may assign fault can be complex. If you’ve been injured in an auto wreck in Brevard County, discuss your rear-end collision matters with a Melbourne car accident attorney. Contact Couture Law P.A. to request a free consultation.

Always seek medical attention

Even if you feel fine, don’t chance it. The most common type of injury associated with a rear-end collision is whiplash, and related symptoms often do not appear for months or even years after the crash. By getting medical help, you’ll also help your future case as there will be a record of what’s found by the examining doctor.

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AUTO ACCIDENT FAQs
Out-of-state travelers occupy Florida’s roads every day. Auto insurance policies generally cover damages no matter where the insured driver has an accident in the country. Should legal action be necessary, then you will usually file the lawsuit in Florida where the accident occurred. However, you may have the option of filing the lawsuit in the state where the defendant lives. The defendant may even push for this option if that state’s comparative negligence laws are more restrictive than Florida’s. A car accident attorney can evaluate these issues and pursue a litigation strategy focused on your best interests.
Smart phone use behind the wheel is a well-documented traffic hazard, but you need proof to accuse someone of this negligent behavior. The definitive way to gather evidence of texting while driving is to subpoena the driver’s mobile phone service. It will have records documenting the time of all texts. The assistance of an attorney will streamline the process of requesting the data from a telecommunications company. Additionally, witness testimony could confirm texting activity at a certain time. Police officers sometimes ask drivers if they were texting, and their police reports might serve as evidence.
The sudden blunt force of motor vehicle accidents whips around the bodies of vehicle occupants. Rear-end collisions are especially prone to causing whiplash injuries to the soft tissues of the neck, nerves, and bones. Symptoms, like pain, tingling, reduced range of motion, headaches, or dizziness, may not emerge for a few days after the accident. A medical evaluation as soon as possible after a crash can alert you to whiplash injuries and connect you with appropriate treatment. Medical records will also improve your ability to prove injuries when seeking damages from the responsible party.
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