In Florida personal injury law, you must prove the party that caused your injury is at fault. generally, this means the other party failed to use reasonable care that caused the accident and injury. In a car wreck case, that means the other driver acted unreasonably (negligently) and caused the crash. Generally, if you are at fault for a crash, you cannot recover for your injuries. However, under Florida law that rule is not so absolute.
Comparative Negligence in Florida
Like many other states, Florida has adopted the legal doctrine of comparative negligence. This means that if a plaintiff is partially at fault for an accident in which they are injured, that persons recovery will be reduced by their own negligence. Any fault attributed to the plaintiff will diminish their claim in a proportionate amount of fault, but it does not completely prevent the plaintiff from recovering damages.
There are two approaches to comparative negligence:
Pure Comparative Negligence: Plaintiff’s damages are totaled and then reduced to reflect their contribution to the injury. For example, if a plaintiff was awarded $10,000 and the judge or jury determined that the plaintiff was 25% responsible for their would be awarded $7,500.
Modified Comparative Negligence: This is the most common approach. Plaintiff will not recover if they’re found to be either equally responsible or more responsible for the resulting injury. In other words, in order to recover damages, the plaintiff must not be more than 50% at fault for the resulting injury.
Not all states follow this rule of law. Some states follow the rule of contributory negligence, that requires a defense verdict if the plaintiff is found at fault, in any amount. This is a very unfair rule, but many states still apply it. If you are injured out of the state of Florida, you need an experienced Florida trial lawyer to advise you on these issues. Our neighboring state Alabama still applies this rule, but often we are able to settle these cases even if there is some degree of fault attributed to the plaintiff.
Proving Fault In a Car Accident
Fault for a car crash may be proven in many different ways.
- Often there are witnesses who saw what happened. These are very important if they are not biased and their testimony is reasonable.
There is evidence of property damage to the vehicles (very obvious in a rear end collision).
- Sometimes there are no witnesses, and the property damage may be susceptible to two different scenarios. In such cases, expert engineering or crash experts may be used to recreate the accident. Most vehicles have a ‘black box’ data recorder which can show speed, braking forces and things like that.
This can be very complicated and requires an experienced Board-Certified Trial Lawyer to review and analyze your case.
How Does a Citation Effect My Case?
In many car wreck accident cases, the investigating officer may make a determination of fault and issue a ticket or citation. Contrary to common belief, this does not affect the liability analysis in any way. Unless the law enforcement officer actually saw the crash, he or she generally cannot give testimony about the cause and cannot testify that one party or the other received a ticket. Additionally, unless you plead guilty to the charges, simply paying the ticket does not imply or prove fault in a civil lawsuit and is inadmissible under the rules of evidence.
If you are seriously injured in a car crash, you need to consult with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer. Even if the crash was some degree your fault, or others say it was, there are often ways to prosecute your claim and obtain fair compensation.
Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.
If you’ve been the victim of an auto accident, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve. It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit www.zarzaurlaw.com.