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Do I have to Prove anything more than the Fact I was Rear-Ended?

Here we discuss the very interesting issue of what it means for your car accident and personal injury case when you have been rear-ended by another vehicle. The conventional wisdom in Massachusetts is that if you've been rear-ended, you've pretty much won your case. Well . . . that's not entirely true.

First, the basics. You need more than an accident to have a case. Car accident cases are generally negligence cases. To prove negligence you must prove the elements. That is, you must prove there was a duty of care which was breached and as a result, there were damages, which usually involve an injury. So, it's logical to think that if someone rear-ended you, they likely breached their duty to operate their vehicle safely, right?

Well, yes, that would make sense, but when we say it's an absolute certainty in a negligence case, we're typically talking about the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor. That's Latin. Res ipsa loquitor means that the accident couldn't have possibly been caused by any other means except the driver's negligence and so there need not be any further proof. In rear-ender accidents, we DO NOT have the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor. . . but it's close.

The case law says, and it is well settled, "while only slight additional evidence may be necessary to place the fault, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur does not apply to salvage a negligence claim based on nothing more than the fact of a rear-end collision. Varisco v. Malovin, 356 Mass. 712, 714, 255 N.E.2d 190 (1970). And I should point out that the date of that case is not all that relevant because the rule in Massachusetts has been around since cars were on the road. It's most relevant to show just how well settled the issue is. And, there's more recent treatment of the issue.

In 2007, we again saw the issue discussed in Norris v. Lewenson, in which in a four car, straight line accident, car 2 sued car 4, which pushed car 3 into the rear of car 2. Norris and Lewenson testified and provided the only evidence. Norris made the mistake of presenting no evidence aside from the testimony that Lewenson pushed the other car into it's rear. Well, back to the rule. That fact alone is not enough. Although only slight additional evidence is necessary, when none is presented, you have a problem.

Just think about what happened in that case. It's entirely likely that there was some degree of negligence on the party of Lewenson, but because it was not presented, Norris lost the case, including the appeal. Although it may be tempting, you must prove more than that the rear-ending occurred. If you have been injured in an accident, it would be nothing short of a travesty to lose the case this way. Please, if this happens to you, call our office and speak with a Boston personal injury lawyer, or speak with another competent injury attorney.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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