Last year, the Florida Supreme Court made an important change to the case law governing rear-end automobile accidents. Traditionally such accidents are presumed to be the fault of the person driving the rear vehicle. This presumption exists because the driver of the forward vehicle generally can’t see what caused a rear-end collision, making it difficult for him or her to present evidence in court, and because the rear-vehicle driver is usually in the best position to avoid the accident. Therefore, since the 1950s, when a front-vehicle driver sues a rear-vehicle driver for a rear-end accident, Florida courts shift the burden of proof to the rear-end driver to rebut the presumption he or she caused the accident.
In 2012, the Florida Supreme Court addressed two cases of the rear-end presumption that produced different legal outcomes in the state’s lower appeals courts. The first case arose from a 2007 accident in Sanford. The passenger in a rear-end motorcycle, Crystal Charron, collided with an automobile driven by Warren Birge. Charron then sued Birge for damages. The trial court granted Birge summary judgment–that is, the case was not even submitted to a jury–based on the presumption that the motorcycle driver, who was not a party to the lawsuit, was at fault. [Read more…]