Causation In Florida Car Accident Litigation - Durse v. Henn

March 30, 2012

So you were injured in a car accident and you've got the medical bills and vehicle damage to prove it. Suing to recover for your injuries should be like shooting fish in a barrel, right? Not so fast. In order to successfully sue for damages related to a car accident, a person must not only show that he or she was injured, but also that the injury was caused by the person being sued. The Fourth District Court of Appeal's recent ruling in Durse v. Henn is a good example of just how important the issue of causation is in a Florida car accident lawsuit.

779159_traffic_jam.jpgPlaintiff George Durse was a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by another vehicle driven by Defendant Janice Henn while Durse's vehicle was stopped. Durse sued Henn, seeking to recover for injuries sustained in the accident.

Both parties called accident reconstruction experts to testify at trial. Durse's expert testified that Henn first ran into the Durse vehicle before a third car - driven by Keay - rear ended Henn's vehicle. Henn's expert, on the other hand, testified that Keay's vehicle rear ended Henn's first, which caused Henn's vehicle to strike the Durse vehicle. The investigating police officer, Officer Carmack, testified he concluded in his investigation that the Keay vehicle struck Henn's vehicle before Henn's vehicle struck the Durse vehicle. Carmack based this conclusion on statements from the drivers at the scene of the accident. He did not conduct an accident reconstruction or a crash analysis.

The jury found that Henn was not negligent. On appeal, Durse argued that Officer Carmack's conclusion regarding the cause and sequence of the accidents violated Florida's accident report privilege, which provides that a crash report made by a person involved in a crash and any statement made by such person to a law enforcement officer for the purpose of completing a crash report cannot be used as evidence in a subsequent trial, because it was based solely on statements taken at the accident scene.

Noting that "Carmack did not perform any kind of test to determine first impact, and instead, he only took statements," the court ruled that the trial judge abused his discretion in allowing Officer Carmack to testify regarding his conclusion as to which vehicle caused the first impact. Furthermore, because the parties presented conflicting evidence on the issue, this error could not be deemed harmless, according to the court. As a result, the court reversed the jury verdict and remanded the case for a new trial.

The South Florida rear end accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine work hard to zealously represent our clients throughout the region, including in Pompano Beach, Coral Springs and Boca Raton. Our lawyers commonly represent individuals who were injured in rear end collisions and we persevere to get the best possible results for our clients. 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 Lauderdale office today at (800) 747-3733.

Related blog posts:

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

"Claim Splitting" in Florida Car Accident Cases - Robbins v. General Motors de Mexico

String of South Florida Car Accidents Reminds Drivers of Danger on the Road