In a recent Florida court case, the jury found three drivers and the Alachua Police Department to be negligent (at fault) in a fiery I-75 and Hwy. 441 crash that left one dead and two seriously injured two years ago. The jury decided that one driver and the Police Department were each 35% to blame for the accident and two other motorists, each 15%.
How can this be? This is done utilizing the doctrine of comparative negligence which Florida adopted in 1973 and falls under case law for personal injury or accident lawyers. This doctrine more accurately allows assignment of blame on a percentage basis.
What does this mean? Vehicular accidents usually result from the mistake/s made by one or more drivers or pedestrians. Many times people believe that they cannot recover any damages for loss of their property or their personal injuries if they were partially to blame for an accident. This is not always true. Florida law compares the fault of each party involved in an accident. Under the comparative negligence doctrine, a person may still be able to recover damages, even if they were partly at fault for a crash. However, the damages will be reduced by the percentage that they were found to be at fault.
For example, if you were rear-ended and the crash caused you serious personal injuries, your settlement amount may be reduced if you slowed down to make a turn but failed to signal.
What is the lesson here? Every person using the road, (whether it be a pedestrian, a motorist, or a passenger), is required to pay attention, follow traffic rules and use reasonable care on the road. If an accident victim fails to protect his or her own safety and the safety of others, he or she could be found to be partly at fault for their own injuries. Here are a few tips:
· If you are driving: avoid speeding, buckle up, always signal when making a turn, pay attention to the road, follow all road signs and laws, and do not drive a car that you know has mechanical problems.
· If you are a passenger: do not ride with a driver that you know has been drinking or is too sleepy to drive properly, and wear your seat belt.
· If you are a pedestrian: cross the street in a crosswalk, do not enter a crosswalk on red light, avoid using an MP3 player because it may prevent you from hearing a car horn or a vehicle approaching.
Dealing with the allocation of fault in accident cases can be very complicated, as there is no exact formula to determine percentages of fault. Proper investigation is of the utmost importance to help assign the fault of each party. This is one reason why if you have been involved in a serious accident, it is important to contact an experienced accident attorney ASAP before the evidence “gets cold”, witness become difficult to locate, and the facts of the case are lost. You may not need a lawyer, but with most personal injury attorneys, consultations are free, so take advantage of them and educate yourself.