As I wrote in an earlier blog, there are certain legal presumptions which arise when the rear car runs into a lead car. But those “presumptions” sometimes evaporate into thin air if the rear driver has a good reason to explain the collision. This blog explains how that disappearing presumption works.
In the case of Klipper v GEICO, the evidence came out at trial that the rear driver had a good reason for rear ending the lead car: the lead car had become disabled on the interstate late at night, and the driver of the lead car had not
- attempted to move it out of the way onto a nearby median even though there was time,
- turned on its flashers,
- raised the hood, or
- otherwise signaled oncoming traffic
So what happened to the presumption of negligence? The trial court should have said nothing about it and just let the jury decide who was at fault. Instead, the judge instructed the jury that the rear driver had the burden to prove she was not negligent. This was wrong, and resulted in a reversal. Once evidence is produced which tends to show the real fact is not as presumed, the presumption dissipates.
Why: Because once evidence was presented giving some good reasons why the jury could reasonably find the lead driver was also negligent, the presumption was “rebutted.” It vanished from the case and was no more than an inference which the court should not have commented on either way. In fact, both drivers had something to point their fingers at.