In Florida, when one driver collides with another vehicle, it is often presumed that the driver is negligent and should be held accountable for any harm that ensues. In some instances, however, even if it seems liability is clear, a defendant in a case arising out of a car accident may be able to assert a defense that precludes a jury from assigning him or her fault. For example, the unexpected and sudden loss of consciousness while driving is a defense to negligence claims in car accident cases. In a recent opinion, a Florida court explained what evidence a defendant must offer to support a loss of consciousness defense, in a matter in which it ultimately reversed a verdict in favor of the defendant. If you were injured in a collision, it is smart to meet with a Florida car accident lawyer to determine what damages you may be owed.
The Accident and Trial
It is reported that the plaintiff’s car was stopped at a red light when it was struck from behind by a vehicle operated by the defendant. The plaintiff and her minor children, who were passengers in her car, sustained serious injuries. She then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, averring that his negligence caused the accident and their harm.
Allegedly, during the trial, the defendant argued he should not be liable because he suffered a sudden loss of consciousness prior to the collision. The jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, after which the defendant filed a motion for a directed verdict. The defendant’s motion was granted by a judge who had not presided over the trial, and the plaintiff appealed.
The Sudden Loss of Consciousness Defense
On appeal, the court noted that under Florida law, it is presumed that a defendant in a case arising out of a rear-end collision is negligent, and the burden shifts to the defendant to set forth a valid reason for the inability to avoid a crash. The presumption arises out of the idea that the front driver is typically in a poor position to identify and present evidence on the cause of the crash.
A defendant can rebut the presumption of negligence by proving an unexpected and sudden loss of consciousness. The court explained that the unforeseeable loss of consciousness is a complete defense to negligence claims in car crash cases. Once a defendant rebuts the presumption of negligence, the presumption is reduced to an inference from which a jury may find negligence on the part of the defendant. In the subject case, the court found that the defendant had not produced sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he lost consciousness prior to the crash. Thus, the trial court ruling was reversed.
Speak to a Skillful Florida Car Accident Lawyer
Car accidents often cause significant harm, and in most cases, one of the drivers involved in the accident should be held accountable. If you were injured in a car crash, you should speak to an attorney regarding your possible claims. Jarrett Blakeley is a skillful Florida car accident lawyer with the knowledge and resources needed to help you seek a just result, and if you hire him, he will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Blakeley at (800) 602-5000 or through the online form to schedule a meeting.