Florida Court Explains Liability in Rear End Accidents - Jiminez v. Faccone

February 11, 2012

Rear end accidents are among the most common types of automobile collisions in the United States. In Jiminez v. Faccone, Florida's Second District Court of Appeal explains state law regarding the presumption of liability in a rear end collision.

923935_car_parking_dent.jpgPlaintiffs George and Rita Faccone sued Ana Jiminez for personal injuries the married couple alleged that they sustained in a car accident. On the night of the accident, the Faccone's 1986 Cadillac was stopped in the left lane of Highway 41 in Collier County where it had stalled. Three of the six people in the car tried to push it off the road, but were unable to do so. According to Mr. Faccone, he activated the emergency flasher lights when he got out of the car.

Defendant Jiminez was driving behind a van as it approached the Cadillac in the same lane. Apparently seeing the stalled car in the lane, the van abruptly swerved right. Jiminez, however, was unable to stop or swerve and her car collided with the Cadillac, injuring both Ms. Faccone - who was seated in the car with her seatbelt unbuckled - and Mr. Faccone, who was outside of the car at the time, but asserts that he was injured when his son pulled him out of the way of the oncoming car.

Before trial, the trial court granted Plaintiffs' two motions for summary judgment, ruling first that Jiminez was both negligent and the sole cause of the accident and second that Defendant was not entitled to argue that Plaintiffs had not established the requisite "threshold injury" to support their claim for non-economic "pain and suffering" damages.

On appeal, the Second District overturned both of these rulings. Florida law presumes that the rear driver in a rear end collision is the sole proximate cause of the accident and the driver must provide sufficient evidence in order to rebut this presumption, the Court explained. However, "the rule does not require the rear-car driver to eliminate every possible inference of negligence on his part in connection with the accident before he is entitled to have the jury decide the case." Rather, the rear driver must simply provide enough evidence to "fairly and reasonably" show that the presumption is misplaced. Such evidence includes: (1) an abrupt and arbitrary stop in a place where it could not reasonably be expected or an unexpected lane change; (2) a mechanical failure - sudden brake failure, for example - that causes the rear driver to collide with the lead driver; and (3) an illegally and, therefore, unexpectedly stopped lead vehicle.

In this case, the parties disagree as to whether the emergency flashers on the Faccones' vehicle were illuminated at the time of the accident. This, according to the Court, is a material fact dispute which precludes summary judgment on the issue of liability. As a result, the Court reversed the summary judgment order and remanded the case back to the trial court. The Court also reversed the trial court's ruling on non-economic damages, a matter we will tackle in a separate blog post.

The South Florida rear end accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine work hard to zealously represent clients throughout the area, including in Hialeah and Boca Raton. If you were involved in a rear end collision, a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you to weigh all of your legal options. Call Anidjar & Levine's Fort Laurderdale office today at (800) 747-3733.