Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida motorcycle accident case discussing the “drug and alcohol defense” which, in certain situations, can completely preclude a plaintiff’s ability to recover for their injuries after a serious accident.
Under Florida’ comparative fault system, even a plaintiff who is partially at fault can recover for their injuries. In these situations, the court would first determine the appropriate amount of damages the plaintiff sustained as a result of the accident and then reduce the actual damages award by the plaintiff’s own percentage of fault.
The drug and alcohol defense is an exception to this general rule. Under Florida Statutes section 768.36, a plaintiff cannot recover for their injuries if the defendant can establish that the plaintiff was 1.) “under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug to the extent that the plaintiff’s normal faculties were impaired,” or that the plaintiff’s blood-alcohol content was .08 or greater, and 2.) “as a result of the influence of such alcoholic beverage or drug the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault for his or her own harm.”
The Court’s Opinion
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a Florida traffic accident involving the defendant. At trial, evidence was presented that the plaintiff’s blood alcohol level was above .08. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury determined that the plaintiff was 55% responsible for the accident and that the defendant was 45% responsible for the accident.
The trial court determined that, although the defendant bore 45% responsibility for the accident, the plaintiff was completely barred from recovery because his blood-alcohol content was above .08 and the jury determined he was more than 50% responsible for the accident. The plaintiff appealed the court’s decision.
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision. The court explained that the drug and alcohol defense requires a finding that the plaintiff’s negligence was a result of his intoxication, and not due to some other reason. Here, the court noted that there was other evidence in the record suggesting that the plaintiff was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. Thus, without a finding that the plaintiff’s fault was due to his intoxication, the court could not apply the drug and alcohol defense to preclude the plaintiff’s ability to recover for his injuries.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida car accident, the dedicated South Florida injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank can help. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims and their family members in a wide range of Florida personal injury claims, including Florida motorcycle accidents. To learn more about how our dedicated team of Florida personal injury advocates can assist you in pursuing a claim for compensation, call 877-448-8585 today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you recover for your injuries.