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Were you in a fender bender? Liability for rear-end collisions can be complicated.

Considering how common auto accidents happen in Florida, it’s not surprising that the factors leading up to them are numerous. However, rear-end accidents, ranging from simple fender benders to high speed impacts, are by far the most common type of accident in the Sunshine State.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reports that there are more than 6 million motor vehicle accidents in the United States each year and nearly a third of these are rear-end collisions.

While common perception is that the vehicle behind is always to blame for a collision with the vehicle in front, there are circumstances where this isn’t the case. What’s more, just because a fender bender might occur in a parking lot or while traveling at a slow rate of speed doesn’t mean the injuries are any less severe.

This is a misconception. In reality, severe whiplash — one of the most common injuries resulting from rear-end collisions — is often debilitating and results in chronic pain.

These types of crashes happen for a wide number of reasons. Distracted drivers, drunk drivers, bad weather conditions and reckless behavior are the most common culprits. Many drivers also flee the accident scene after a rear-end collision.

Whatever the cause or circumstances, it’s important for accident victims to contact a Clearwater rear-end accident lawyer if they have pressing questions about their legal options.

Did you suffer physical, emotional or financial injuries in a rear-end collision?

You may be entitled to compensation.

Learn more about your legal rights by completing our free case review form today.

Who’s At Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

Under current Florida law, rear-end auto accidents operate under the presumption (known as “rebuttable presumption”) that the driver at the rear of the impact bears more responsibility for the collision.

The rationale for this is that drivers are always required to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of them, and the fact of the crash itself is considered evidence that this rule of the road was disobeyed.

As a result, a driver who is rear-ended in Florida typically won’t need to establish negligence on the part of the other driver; negligence will be imputed by virtue of the accident having happened.

However, that’s not to say that situations don’t exist where the driver of the front vehicle can also be deemed (at least) partially responsible for the collision.

Some potential scenarios where a driver who was rear-ended may also be to blame for a collision include:

  • When the driver reverses their vehicle suddenly
  • When the driver makes an abrupt stop to turn, but fails to complete the action
  • When the vehicle malfunctions in some way, but the driver makes no effort to pull over, turn on hazard lights or warn other motorists
  • When the driver operates a vehicle without operational brake lights

In these and other circumstances, it’s important to contact a car accident lawyer as it’s likely the driver of the leading vehicle might also be assigned a portion of the overall responsibility for the accident.

Florida Rear-End Accident Damages

When seeking compensation for a rear-end collision caused by another person’s negligence, Florida law allows accident victims to seek recovery for certain financial losses. These losses, or “damages,” are broken into three main categories:

  • Economic. Tangible financial losses that include medical bills, lost income, property damage, attorney fees, etc.

  • Noneconomic. Intangible financial losses to compensate you for the cost of damages that diminish your quality of life, such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of consortium (in the event of a death), etc.

  • Punitive. Punitive damages are aimed at punishing a driver for “grossly negligent” and intentionally malicious actions. These damages are rarely awarded in car accident cases because the bar is set so high.

To receive compensation for economic damages, your first step should be to file an accident claim with your auto insurance company. Florida is a no-fault state, meaning your PIP insurance policy should cover some of your injuries and expenses regardless of who was responsible for the collision.

However, it’s possible that your coverage won’t be enough to cover all of your expenses or the insurance company will reject your claim. In this case, you’ll need to pursue additional compensation by enlisting help from a personal injury lawyer to prove how much your total damages are, negotiate with insurers, and file your case in civil court if necessary.

Contributory Negligence: When More Than One Driver is Responsible

In Florida, the doctrine of comparative fault is at play. For car accidents, including those involving rear-end impacts, this law means that it’s possible for a portion of the total blame to be attributed to more than one party.

According to Florida’s comparative fault statute:

In a negligence action, contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.

When this happens, the amount of responsibility assigned to an injured party will proportionately reduce their ability to recover compensation. For example, if two drivers are found to be equally at fault for the accident, each party would only be allowed to recover a maximum of 50% of their total damages.

It’s worth noting, however, that contrary to many states and jurisdictions around the country, Florida puts no percentage threshold of blame that bars recovery altogether.

So even if you’re ruled to be 60% at fault for the accident, you can legally still seek compensation for 40% of your total damages. (In other states, compensation is barred if you’re more than 50% or 51% at fault.)

Florida Rear-End Collision Settlements

Every rear-end accident is unique, which means settlements and payouts vary widely. It’s impossible to provide a realistic average settlement value without knowing the details of your case and circumstances — any lawyer who promises otherwise is being dishonest.

While calculating tangible, economic damages is relatively straightforward, estimating the costs associated with intangible and noneconomic damages like emotional distress is more difficult. Your attorney can help calculate these expenses and costs — including all past, current and future costs — to ensure you are fully and fairly compensated for your losses.

While ethically we can’t tell you exactly how much your case might be worth without knowing more details, we can show you some examples of positive outcomes we’ve been able to secure for past clients with similar cases:

  • $400,000 settlement for our client who was rear-ended and sustained a disc herniation requiring surgery.
  • $300,000 settlement for a client who suffered a broken bone in her wrist as a result of a motor vehicle accident.
  • Confidential settlement for our client, John Graziano, who was catastrophically injured by the reckless driving of Nick Bollea, son of wrestler Hulk Hogan.

The only way to fully know what your accident claim is worth is by talking with an experienced car accident attorney.

Get Answers from Experienced Clearwater Rear-End Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or other losses in a rear-end accident in the Clearwater area, you may be entitled to receive significant financial compensation.

However, establishing fault in a car accident case, even a rear-end collision, can be difficult and takes time.

To learn how a Clearwater rear-end accident lawyer can assess the facts and provide you with essential legal insights, get in touch with an experienced injury attorney at Tragos, Sartes & Tragos as soon as possible to explore your legal rights before time runs out.

We can help answer common questions like:

  • Who’s at fault in your rear-end collision?
  • Can you sue someone for rear-ending you?
  • What should you do if you rear end someone?
  • How much is your rear-end collision case worth?
  • What damages can you sue for?
  • How long do you have to file a car accident lawsuit?

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.