In most Florida personal injury cases, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant violated a duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff, and that the defendant’s breach of this duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. However, in some situations, Florida accident victims can utilize the doctrine of negligence per se to prove the first two elements of a negligence claim: duty and breach.
Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that results in a legal finding that the defendant acted negligently. For negligence per se to apply, a plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant violated a regulation, law, or statute that was passed to protect people in the plaintiff’s position. If a plaintiff is able to establish that negligence per se applies, the plaintiff must only prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of their injuries. A recent state appellate decision illustrates a situation in which the court determined negligence per se applied.
The court explained the facts as follows: the plaintiff was driving when she looked up to see a mattress flying towards her car. The plaintiff tried to avoid the mattress, but in so doing crashed into a cement barrier. Witnesses to the accident were able to obtain the other vehicle’s license plate number, and police officers eventually caught up with that driver, who was towing a trailer.
The other driver gave conflicting answers about what was in the trailer, but never definitively stated that there was a mattress. Essentially, the man explained that he had several items in the back of the trailer the day before, but that he asked a fellow employee to clear out the trailer. The employee told the driver that the trailer was clear, and the driver never checked to see if that was the case.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, arguing that he was in violation of the vehicle code when he failed to secure a mattress that was in the back of his trailer. The plaintiff claimed that this particular section of the vehicle code was passed specifically to prevent this type of accident, and that the doctrine of negligence per se applied. The court agreed, and instructed the jury accordingly.
The jury ultimately found in favor of the defendant. However, that verdict was reversed on appeal based on an additional instruction that the trial court provided to the jury, allowing them to excuse the defendant’s violation of the vehicle code if it found he tried to comply with the law but failed to do so. The appellate court held that the evidence did not support the additional charge, and that the error required a new trial.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida car accident, the dedicated injury lawyers at the Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank can help. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we work with accident victims and their families to help them obtain full and fair compensation for the injuries they have sustained. To learn more about how our knowledgeable team of car accident lawyers can help you pursue a claim for financial compensation call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.