One of the most important legal doctrines that all accident victims should understand is the concept of comparative fault. While some Florida personal injury accidents are solely the fault of one party, many accidents involve a situation where the parties share responsibility for that accident. The doctrine of comparative fault determines which parties involved in an accident can recover for their injuries.
Under Florida Statutes section 768.81, any “contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.” This means that an accident victim’s negligence will be considered by the jury, and will be used to reduce the victim’s overall recovery amount, but will not completely prevent them from recovering for their injuries from any at-fault parties.
While some states prohibit an accident victim who is more than 50% at fault from pursuing a claim, Florida law employs the “pure” comparative negligence model, meaning a plaintiff can bring a claim even if they are found to be more than 50% at fault. For example, assume a Florida car accident victim is found to be 30% liable for causing the collision, and the only other driver involved is determined to be 70% at fault. If the plaintiff’s damages were $500,000, then the plaintiff would be entitled to recover $500,000 less 30%, or $350,000.
One issue that frequently comes up is how to factor in conduct that may have contributed to the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, but did not contribute to the accident itself. Common examples include a Florida car accident victim’s failure to wear a seat belt or a motorcyclist’s decision to wear a helmet. In the event of a collision, it is undisputed that wearing a sea tbelt or helmet can reduce the seriousness of any injuries sustained in an accident. However, at the same time, an accident victim’s failure to employ either of these safety devices did not contribute to the crash.
Generally, Florida law allows the “seat belt defense,” meaning that a defendant will be permitted to argue that the plaintiff may have suffered less serious injuries had they worn a seat belt. However, the initial focus of the plaintiff’s case will remain on which party caused the accident, and only then will the jury be able to consider whether the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt had any impact on the injuries they sustained.
Have You Been Injured in a Serious Florida Car Accident?
If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a South Florida car accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation – even if you were not wearing your seat belt at the time of the crash. The dedicated personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank have extensive experience handling all types of Florida car accident cases, including those where their clients were not wearing a seat belt. To learn more about how we can help you obtain compensation for the injuries you sustained, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.