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The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Your trusted legal advisors since 1976

Pensacola Woman Rear-Ends Stopped Car


The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a crash in which a woman smashed into another car that had paused for a passing funeral procession.

Because of a hill, one woman did not notice that another 27-year-old Frisco City, Alabama woman had stopped in the road to allow a funeral procession on the other side of the road to pass. As a result, the first driver hit the 27-year-old at almost full speed. The force of the impact propelled the Frisco City woman’s vehicle off the road and into a ditch. Her vehicle overturned and eventually came to rest some 200 yards from the impact site.

Officers at the scene issued citations to the Frisco City woman for impeding traffic and the other for careless driving.

Special Issues in Florida Rear-End Crash Cases

Most of these collisions involve either the sudden emergency rule or the last clear chance rule. The above-described accident involves both. The sudden emergency doctrine excuses negligent conduct if the tortfeasor (negligent driver):

  • Reasonably reacted to
  • An unexpected situation.

In this incident, the first prong really does not apply. But the second prong is critical. Ordinarily, a stalled car, or even a stopped car, is not a “sudden emergency” in this context. In contrast, hood fly-ups and other completely unexpected events are true sudden emergencies. However, the rule may apply in this case, because the woman from Frisco City was stopped in a traffic lane without any apparent reason.

Somewhat similarly, the last clear chance rule excuses one driver’s negligent conduct if the other driver had the last clear chance to avoid the crash, yet failed to do so. In this case, the Frisco City woman probably could not argue that the other driver had the last clear chance to avoid the crash. The hill may have restricted her view, leaving her with insufficient time to avoid a crash.

The Comparative Negligence Doctrine in Florida

Given the analysis above, and the fact that both drivers received traffic citations, the contributory negligence rule seems applicable. If both parties were partially at fault, the jury must apportion legal responsibility between them. The judge then uses the percent distribution to apportion damages.

Florida is one of only a few pure comparative fault states. In divided liability cases, Tampa judges divide damages based solely on the percentage of fault. So, if the jury determines that the Frisco City woman’s damages were $100,000 and that she was 60 percent responsible for the crash, the other driver must pay $40,000.

However, if this same crash occurred in Georgia and the jury reached the same conclusion, the woman from Frisco City would receive nothing. In the Peachtree State, and most other jurisdictions, the victim does not receive a proportional damage share unless the tortfeasor was 50 or 51 percent responsible for the crash.

Florida’s Serious Injury Threshold

All Tampa car crash victims may obtain compensation for property loss, medical bills, lost wages, and other economic damages by filing PIP claims with their insurance companies. However, victims who sustain serious injuries are entitled to additional compensation for noneconomic damages, such as loss of enjoyment in life and emotional distress. Florida law defines a serious injury as:

  • Scarring or disfigurement,
  • Significant loss of an important bodily function, or
  • Any permanent injury.

In 2018, state lawmakers may repeal the no-fault law and make Florida into a tort state, but this outcome is very much in doubt.

Team Up with Assertive Lawyers

Seemingly simple car crashes often involve complicated legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.


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