Florida auto accident litigation, like many other lawsuits, often involves conflicting recollections of the facts. In Miller v. Perez, the Second District Court of Appeal explains that this makes certain cases difficult to decide in the summary judgment stage.
Plaintiff Truman McGill was injured in a car accident when the tractor-trailer he was driving allegedly rear-ended a truck driven by Defendant Martin Perez. The accident occurred when Mr. Perez turned right to travel south on to the road on which McGill was also traveling. McGill's tractor-trailer collided with Perez's truck when Perez merged into the right-hand lane.
McGill sued Perez for negligence. Prior to trial, Perez filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that McGill could present no set of facts to overcome the presumption that the following driver in a rear end collision is negligent. The presumption is that the rear driver's actions are the sole proximate cause of the accident and any resulting injuries in a rear end accident. The circuit court agreed with Perez, granting summary judgment in his favor.
On appeal, the court noted that "the presumption that the following driver in a motor vehicle accident is negligent can be rebutted when that driver 'produces evidence which fairly and reasonably tends to show that the real fact is not as presumed.'" In this case, according to the court, a number of factual issues remained to be resolved that may ultimately rebut the presumption. For example, "the parties differed about whether fog was present and about whether the road was wet" along with the question of whether Mr. Perez's lights were on at the time of the accident. More importantly, McGill alleged that Perez failed to properly yield before merging and did not have enough time to accelerate when he merged.
The court held that because there remained disputes as to facts material to the rear-end presumption, summary judgment was not appropriate. Furthermore, even if McGill cannot overcome the rear end presumption, evidence indicating that the lead driver may have been negligent raises issues of shared liability and proportionate damages, which should be determined by a jury rather than at the summary judgment stage. Florida operates under a comparative negligence system, in which a person who is injured partly due to his or her own negligence can hold another negligent party proportionately liable. Thus, if McGill can show negligence on Perez's part, he may be entitled to proportionate damages.
The court reversed the summary judgment ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Rear end accidents are among the most common types of automobile collisions in the country. These accidents occur when the front end of one car hits the rear end of another. As the court noted, a driver partially at fault in a rear end accident, or any other type of car accident, may nevertheless be entitled to compensation. 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. The South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine represent clients throughout the area, including in Hialeah, Hollywood and Ft. Lauderdale.
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