Rear-End Collision Motorcycle Accidents

Rear-end accidents can be calamitous for any driver, depending on factors like speed, the size of vehicles involved and driver distraction or impairment (both of which prevent any braking and other invasive maneuvers). For a motorcyclist, a rear-end collision can be devastating.

In fact, rear impacts in motorcycle accidents have been deemed by transportation safety experts as the “most harmful event” for motorcyclists.

There exists in Florida presumption that a driver who strikes another from the rear is at-fault in the crash. However, there is no guarantee of success in insurance negotiations or trial.

As the Fort Lauderdale motorcycle accident attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm can explain, a decision by the Florida Supreme Court in 2012, Cervallos v. Rideout, allows litigants to counter that presumption of fault with compelling evidence to the contrary.

So whether a motorcycle collision involves a rider who was struck from behind or one who struck another vehicle from behind, there are possible avenues of financial recovery.

Effects of Rear Impact Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle deaths account for nearly a fifth of traffic fatalities on Florida roads, according to data from the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of Florida. That figure has doubled in the last decade.

The U.S. Department of Transportations’ Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) found that when it comes to rear-end crashes, this type of scenario is one of the most dangerous for motorcyclists. Although rear impact collisions accounted for just 3 percent of all motorcycle deaths, motorcyclists and passengers involved in rear-end crashes were more likely to be killed than those in other types of accidents.

Rear-end motorcycle accidents usually fall into one of two categories:

  • Motorcyclist is struck from behind;
  • Sudden-stop accident, where motorcyclist strikes another vehicle from behind, causing the bike to cartwheel or catapult the driver or rider over the handlebars.

In either situation, operators and riders may suffer serious and permanent injuries and even death. Some common injuries reported from rear-end motorcycle accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Broken neck
  • Concussion
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Facial disfigurement
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Death

Some 93,000 motorcyclists are injured in the U.S. annually. In many of these cases, our Fort Lauderdale attorneys recognize that a motorcyclist who is rear-ended has virtually no time to take action or avoid an impending collision. This often results in motorcyclists being thrown from their bikes, pinned underneath another vehicle or run over.

Cervallos v. Rideout and Rebuttable Presumption

Florida first adopted a rule pertaining to rear-end collisions in 1959, with the decision of Bellere v. Madsen. The court ruled that in rear-end auto accidents, a presumption arises that the driver in the rear was negligent and that his or her negligence was the proximate cause of the collision.

With that decision the court lessened the initial burden of proof borne by plaintiff in proving two essential elements of negligence:

  • Breach of duty of care
  • Causation

Although this “rebuttable presumption” is very helpful to victims in rear-end collisions, it can lose its legal effect when there is evidence presented from which a jury might conclude these facts can’t be presumed. Our Fort Lauderdale lawyers recall that this resulted in much confusion in appellate courts weighing rear-end accident cases over the years.

In 2012, the Florida Supreme Court took on one of those cases from the 4th DCA, Cervallos v. Rideout. The appeals court had ruled a rear driver can’t rebut the presumption of fault in rear-end crashes.

The Florida Supreme Court reversed, explaining the way the appellate court had applied the rule resulted in a de factor contributory negligence standard on the driver in the rear. Legislatively and judicially, contributory negligence is no longer recognized in Florida, as it totally bars a plaintiff and their attorney from recovery if they were in any way negligent in causing an accident – even if defendant’s negligence was much more serious. If rear drivers have to prove the absence of any fault, then the court has no chance to compare relative percentages of fault by those involved (known as comparative fault, which is the model Florida follows).

Ultimately, the court made clear: If there is existing evidence from which a jury could conclude the front driver was also at-fault or in some way contributed to the collision, the rebuttable presumption is no longer in effect.

Our motorcycle accident lawyers are prepared to answer questions you may have about the chances of a successful recovery in your injury case.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fort Lauderdale motorcycle accident, contact The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 or (954) 761-3641.

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