Florida Supreme Court Rules on 2005 Palm Beach County Car Accident Lawsuit to Find that Second Driver in a Rear-End Crash Isn’t Always the Only One At Fault
The Florida Supreme Court has reversed a decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal in a 2005 Palm Beach County car accident lawsuit over whether the second driver in a rear-end crash should be allowed to recover damages or if he/she should retain all of the blame. While the appeals court had upheld a judge’s ruling that the second driver is the only one blame, the state’s highest court found that regardless of this presumption, which has been in play for over five decades, this may not always be the case and an examination of the facts in each instance needs to take place so that a comparison of each motorist’s degree of negligence (if any) can occur regardless of who is seeking personal injury compensation.
Because of this latest ruling, Maria Cevallos will be allowed to pursue damages from Keri Ann Rideout, the driver who had the middle vehicle in this Palm Beach three-vehicle rear end collision. Cevallos contends that Rideout was allegedly distracted driving and talking on a cell phone when she rear-ended the vehicle in front of her. Following that crash, Cevallos rear-ended Rideout’s vehicle.
Under the state’s comparative negligence law, juries can allot percentages of negligence to the parties involved, meaning that if a plaintiff were found to be 50% at fault, then an award in his/her favor would be decreased by that percentage. This law has not applied to Florida rear-end crashes until now because all negligence has always been presumed to be the second driver’s. It has also generally prevented rear-end collisions' second drivers from being able to pursue damages for their injuries.
Now, however, this may no longer be the case. The high court upheld, in another case, the 5th District Court of Appeal’s decision to reverse a trial judge’s summary judgment that ruled in favor of the first driver in a Seminole County rear-end crash. This now paves the way for motorcycle passenger Crystal Charron to pursue damages from driver Warren Birge.
In 2007, the motorcycle Charron was riding got flipped when its motorcyclist William Smith failed in his efforts to avoid rear-ending Birge’s vehicle. Charron was injured in the Florida motorcycle accident.
She filed a Florida personal injury case against Birge claiming he was at least partially to blame because he had suddenly hit the brakes for what seemed like no necessary reason. (Smith has already settled his injury case with Birge.)
Once again, the Florida Supreme Court found that despite the presumption that the rear-end crash’s second driver is the negligent one, there can be evidence shown to override this presumption. The justices said it should be up to a jury to decide how much (if at all) Burge is to blame.
These two rulings could allow more second drivers and their passengers that were hurt in Florida rear-end crashes to pursue damages and/or not be saddled with all of the blame in such accidents.
Florida Rear-End Collisions
Rear-end crashes can result in serious injuries for the vehicle occupants of both vehicles. If you were injured in this type of collision and you believe the accident happened because another party was at fault, you should contact an experienced Palm Beach car crash lawyer right away.
Florida Supreme Court: Drivers in rear-end crash may not be at fault, Sun-Sentinel, November 23, 2012
Florida Supreme Court rethinks rear-end collision lawsuits, BayNews9, November 22, 2012
More Blog Posts:
Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit Blames Improperly Installed Guardrail for Fatal Car Crash, Florida Injury Attorney Blog, January 6, 2012
Deadly South Florida Crash Near the Palm Beach County Line Claims the Life of Three Children, Injures Two Others, Florida Injury Attorney Blog, April 6, 2011
South Florida Motorcycle Accident on I-595 Injures Four, Florida Injury Attorney Blog, May 3, 2010