Front driver stopped short due to texting, but rear driver at fault?

by Any Driver
(Pinellas County, FL)

A driver was recently involved in a rear end collision where the car in front was distracted / texting while driving. The driver stopped short after realizing traffic had stopped in front of them, not allowing much time for reaction.

Though there was a swerve in an attempt to avoid the car in front, there was still a minor collision. Very minor, puncture to bumper, no crumbling, crunching, etc. The rear driver was advised the driver in front was on their phone, though the ticket was issued to the latter vehicle.

How hard is it to prove the negligence of the driver, distracted by their cell phone, was the cause of the accident? Also, who should be held liable for the "soft tissue damage" claim?

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Front driver stopped short due to texting, but rear driver at fault?":

Any Driver (Pinellas County, FL):

There are two Florida Statutes which apply in this case...

The first is Section 316.0895 of Florida's Revised Statutes, "Following too Closely." It reads in part:

"The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the highway."

While the statute does not mention the exact number of car lengths a driver following another driver should maintain, the implication is clear. The driver following must allow ample time to stop in case the driver in front decides to stop.

Second: Florida also has a statute dealing with Comparative Negligence. Under Section 768.81 of Florida’s Revised Statutes, when two or more divers contribute to the crash, the victim’s percentage of negligence will be taken into account and compensation for the victim will be decreased accordingly.

Section 768.81 reads in part as follows:

"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."

In the fact scenario you present, if it can be proved the driver in front was texting, and that texting adversely affected the driver’s ability to drive safely, then the driver would be considered negligent, which would decrease the compensation he or she would receive as a result of damage caused by the driver following.

For example: Let’s say the driver (victim) in front was injured and he or she sued the driver following for $10,000. At trial it was determined the driver in front was texting and that texting contributed to the crash by 20%. In this case the victim would only receive $8,000 instead of the $10,000 initial demand.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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