A man left severely injured following a rear-end collision was recently awarded $1.5 million in damages by a South Florida jury.
Plaintiff was stopped a stop sign in Coral Springs when another driver came barreling up behind him, unable to stop in time to avoid impact. At-fault driver conceded negligence, but had no insurance.
That left plaintiff with just one other option for compensation: His own insurer.
He initiated an uninsured motorist coverage claim against his own carrier for compensation relating to injuries including disc herniations, radicular pain and drop foot, among other problems.
In the case of Sinclair v. 21st Century Insurance Co. of California, defense argued these conditions were not caused by the crash, but the jury disagreed and awarded damages totaling just under $1.5 million.
Our Fort Myers car accident attorneys know cases that involve rear-end collisions can be challenging, despite the assumption the rear driver is always at-fault.
Fault in an auto accident is generally determined by figuring out who was most capable of preventing the crash. With rear-end collisions, it’s often presumed the vehicle to the rear had the option of maintaining a greater following distance, can clearly see what’s happening ahead and usually has the most time to notice cause for concern and react.
There are sometimes circumstances in which both drivers are at-fault or even when the driver ahead is solely to blame. Defense attorneys and insurance companies will be looking closely to find ways they can minimize or eliminate payout.
Their cases were bolstered in 2012, when the Florida Supreme Court decided a case stemming from a 2005 car accident in Palm Beach. Prior to this ruling, it was automatically presumed the driver in the rear of a rear-end collision was negligent.
In Cevallos v. Rideout, judgment had been granted by trial court in a rear-end collision claim. The Fourth District Court of Appeals affirmed, but the Florida Supreme Court reversed.
According to court records, Driver 2 crashed into Driver 1, who was stopped atop a cresting hill. Authorities would later say Driver 1 was on her cell phone. However, it was actually Driver 2 sought compensation for injuries, despite being the rear-end vehicle, because she alleged Driver 1’s actions did not give her an adequate opportunity to stop, even though she slowed down when coming over the hill.
The court ruled Driver 2 should have the chance to have her position heard at trial, particularly in light of the principle of comparative negligence. That principle allows juries to award damages based on the degree to which each party has fault. So even if a driver in the rear of a rear-end collision is 50 percent at fault, the driver in the rear may still be able to collect damages for injuries.
It also means drivers in the front position can’t automatically assume they will win their case. It’s imperative to hire a legal team with experience.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
$1.5 Million Awarded in Rear-End Collision, January 21, 2015, Staff Report, Daily Business Review
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Report: Hit-and-Run Crashes Spike in Central Florida, Jan. 20, 2015, South Florida Car Accident Lawyer Blog