Florida Rear-End Collision Law and When to File a Claim

florida rear-end lawWere you rear-ended in Florida? You are not alone. Rear-end collisions make up nearly 30% of all serious injury accidents in the United States, and they account for almost 20% of fatalities in two-vehicle accidents.

If you have been injured in a rear-end collision that was someone else’s fault, Florida rear-end law offers a financial remedy

Common Root Causes of Rear-End Accidents

Most rear-end collisions happen at low speed. That doesn’t stop devastating and even life-threatening injuries from occurring. Following is a list of some of the most common causes of rear-end collisions:

  • Aggressive driving,
  • Texting and driving,
  • Speeding,
  • Inattentive merging,
  • Tailgating, and
  • DUI.

Any form of inattentive driving can cause a rear-end accident.

Common Accident Scenarios Caused by the Tailing Driver

Following are some common accident scenarios in which the tailing driver is at fault:

  • The driver hits a car that is slowing down while entering an area of traffic congestion;
  • The driver fails to notice another car’s turn signal and hits the car as it slows down to make the turn.
  • A driver intends to speed through changing yellow light and falsely assumes that the leading driver will do the same;
  •  The driver falsely assumes that the car ahead will move as soon as the light turns green and plows into the car at a stoplight; and
  • The driver fails to account for slippery road conditions when determining its following distance from the car ahead.

It is not always obvious who is at fault in some of these scenarios.  

Common Accident Scenarios Caused by the Leading Driver

The trailing driver is not always at fault in a rear-end accident. Following are some scenarios in which the leading driver is at fault:

  • The leading driver suddenly brakes hard (perhaps due to a heated argument with a passenger or an intentional “road rage” incident);
  • The leading driver is driving without brake lights and is struck by the rear vehicle while slowing down.
  • The leading driver turns without using a turn signal; and
  • The leading driver shifts into reverse in a traffic lane.

The accident scenarios in which the leading driver is at fault represent a minority of rear-end accident scenarios. 

Common Injuries in Rear-End Accidents

Some injuries occur more frequently in rear-end accidents than in other types of car accidents. The most common injuries arising from rear-end accidents include:

  • Whiplash,
  • Back injuries,
  • Airbag injuries such as face and scalp burns as well as broken noses and ribs,
  • Spinal cord injuries,
  • Traumatic brain injury,
  • Facial disfigurement,
  • Wrist and arm injuries, and
  • Bruising or lacerations caused by seat belts.

Many other types of injuries are possible as well.

Determining Fault in a Rear-End Accident

Florida rear-end law applies a presumption that the tailing driver is at fault for a rear-end accident. This presumption comes in the form of an expectation that the rear-end driver should watch the distance between the two cars and maintain a safe stopping distance at all times.

You can overcome this presumption, however, by pointing to circumstances that might indicate that the leading driver was at fault or that the two drivers shared fault for the accident.  

Florida’s No-Fault System

Florida is one of a minority of US states that apply a “no-fault” system to auto insurance. If you are involved in a car accident, your first resort is your own insurance (known as “personal injury protection” or PIP insurance), no matter whose fault the accident was. The same applies to the other driver. 

That means unless you meet specific qualifications to sue an at-fault party, you cannot file a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance policy as you can in a “fault” state.

Moreover, you cannot file a claim for “pain and suffering” damages. Pain and suffering damages often amount to more than 50% of the total value of a claim, at least when they are available.

Exiting Florida’s No-Fault System

If you qualify to exit Florida’s no-fault system, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, and claim pain and suffering damages. Under Florida law, you qualify to exit the no-fault system if you suffer:

  • Loss of an important bodily function;
  • Permanent injury;
  • Permanent scarring or disfigurement; or
  • Death.

In the case of death, a wrongful death lawsuit, rather than a personal injury lawsuit, is appropriate.

When More Than One Party Is at Fault: Comparative Fault

When more than one party is at fault and injuries are serious enough to exit the no-fault system, Florida courts assign a percentage of fault to each party. It might find one driver 35% at fault, for example, and the other driver 65% at fault. 

The court then subtracts a percentage of damages from each party that corresponds to that party’s percentage of fault.

A party that is 35% at fault, for example, loses 35% of their own damages and pays 35% of the other driver’s damages. The other party loses 65% of their own damages and pays 65% of the other driver’s damages.

When to File a Claim

If you want to file a claim with your own insurer, you must check your specific policy to see how much time you have. Generally, you should file your claim as soon as you can after the accident.

If you qualify to file a third-party claim against the other party’s insurance carrier, you should file it as soon as it becomes apparent that you qualify to do so under Florida’s no-fault rules.

The Statute of Limitations Deadline for Filing a Lawsuit

In Florida, the deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit is four years after the date of the accident, unless one of Florida’s limited exceptions applies.

If someone died in the accident and you qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the application deadline is two years from the victim’s date of death, unless an exception applies. 

Keep in mind that filing a lawsuit in the midst of negotiations, even if you don’t want to go to trial, can get you access to Florida’s discovery process, which could help you gain access to evidence that you might not otherwise have access to.

Contact Florida Car Accident Lawyer Wendy Doyle-Palumbo

Wendy Doyle-Palumbo has been litigating car accident cases for around 30 years now. 

If you have been injured in a car accident in the Tampa Bay area, call us at 727-597-5232 or contact us online for a free initial consultation. Our office is located in Hudson, FL.

Wendy Doyle

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