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

What does it mean 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, then you've pretty much won your case. However, 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 of that tort. That is, you must prove there was a duty of care which was breached, and as a result, you suffered damages, which usually involve an injury.

It may be logical to think that if someone rear-ended you, that driver likely breached the duty to operate the vehicle safely, but when we discuss "absolute certainty" in a negligence case, we're typically talking about the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor. Res ipsa loquitor means that the accident couldn't have possibly been caused by any other means except the driver's negligence, so there need not be any further proof.

In rear-ender accidents, the duty element is a bit different. Well-settled case law says, "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).

There's more recent treatment of the issue. In 2007, we again saw the issue discussed in Norris v. Lewenson, which involved 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 its rear. Back to the rule above: 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 just the fact 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, speak with a competent personal 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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