What is Properly Considered a Rear-end Collision?
If you have been injured in a car wreck in Rhode Island, it is often the case that the other driver rear-ended you. The situation is so common that the law in Rhode Island has long recognized that the fact of a rear-end collision is proof of the negligence of the driver whose car struck the car ahead. This does not mean that you automatically win your case. The law provides that it is a presumption or inference in your favor.
Inference in Your Rear-end Accident Case
An inference is a deduction of fact that may be logically and reasonably drawn from other facts that have been proved at trial. Jurors deciding a case are permitted to make reasonable inferences of fact from those facts they find have been proved in the case. An inference is reasonable when the facts proved in the case point to one conclusion as being more natural and plausible than other conclusions that might be drawn. It is not required that all other possible conclusions inferable from the same basic facts be completely excluded, but the conclusion of fact which the jury draws must be the more natural and plausible conclusion from the trial evidence.
Case Example: DeMaio v. Ciccone
A recently reported case of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, DeMaio v. Ciccone, (Docket No. 2011-211-Appeal) (Feb. 1, 2013), is notable for its detailed discussion about what constitutes a rear-end collision, and who should be able to benefit from the presumption or inference that may be drawn.
In DeMaio, it was undisputed that a collision had occurred between Mr. DeMaio who was riding his motorcycle and Mr. Ciccone who was driving a Volkswagen Jetta. Before trial, the attorney for Mr. Ciccone moved that the court enter judgment in his favor on the basis of Maglioli v. J.P. Noonan Transportation, Inc., 869 A.2d 71, 75 (R.I. 2005), because Mr. De Maio would be unable to rebut the presumption that he had rear-ended the Jetta and therefore he was negligent, not Mr. Ciccone.
There were no witnesses other than the two operators, and the judge deciding the motion considered each version of the events, along with the deposition testimony of the investigating police officer. Mr. DeMaio lost consciousness in the collision, but before the collision he recalled traveling 30-35 miles per hour down a straight section of the road with his lights on at approximately 8:00 p.m. He did not know where Mr. Ciccone came out from, but the heavier damage to his motorcycle was all on the right-hand side, with everything crushed in. The crash bar, the tank, the chrome were all damaged, the peg was bent up, and the right front fender was damaged.
Mr. Ciccone testified that he first observed Mr. DeMaio’s motorcycle over 200 yards behind him, traveling in the same direction. Mr. Ciccone said he came to a complete stop at the entrance to a convenience store that was his destination because there were usually cars at the store and he would have to take a look before turning in. Mr. Ciccone said he had started to turn right so the Jetta was slightly at an angle, with the nose of the car in the parking lot, when the motorcycle struck the Jetta from behind, scraping the back left rear of the Jetta and the left side, and pushing it in a little bit, too.
The investigating officer did not interview Mr. DeMaio because he had head injuries and was bleeding in the middle of the roadway, but did interview Mr. Ciccone who said he was struck in the rear by the motorcycle. In his report, the officer wrote that it appeared the motorcycle was traveling behind the Jetta, was not able to stop, and based on the damage being at the driver’s back corner of the Jetta, the motorcyclist tried to swerve around and possibly caught the rear corner of the Jetta. At the conclusion of the motion hearing, the judge granted the defendant’s motion, stating that Mr. DeMaio had struck the Ciccone vehicle from the rear, and Mr. DeMaio was only able to offer speculation as to Mr. Ciccone’s negligence.
In the appeal of the motion judge’s decision, the attorney for Mr. DeMaio argued that the motion judge should not have granted Mr. Ciccone’s motion because there were factual issues which should be decided by a jury. In deciding the appeal, the state Supreme Court agreed with the attorney for Mr. DeMaio that the motion had been improperly granted. For purposes of the motion, the judge was required to view the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Mr. DeMaio, and while there was some evidence tending to show that the accident was a rear-end collision, there was conflicting evidence. The damage to the motorcycle and the Jetta could also be consistent with the motorcycle having hit the Jetta while the Jetta was negligently pulled out into the street. It was not established well-enough that a presumption or inference should have applied in favor of the Jetta driver, and the case was sent back to the Superior Court to proceed.
Get Help Sorting Out the Case Details
Here at Rob Levine & Associates, we are available at all times to help you in the evaluation and pursuit of any car wreck in which you may become involved. Please do not hesitate to contact us so that we may be of service in righting the wrongs you have suffered.