5,400 accidents. Pedestrian accidents. Fatal pedestrian accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 5,400 accidents occurred in 2015 alone, resulting in more than 70,000 reported injuries. In pedestrian friendly places such as Boca Raton, Orlando, and West Palm Beach, Florida, these types of accidents can leave pedestrians bloody, battered, and broke. Medical bills are a serious thing. After these accidents, pedestrians are going to need an experienced and knowledgeable Florida Injury Lawyer. Before testing the waters, these would-be clients need to understand a little about civil liability cases.
The Legal Breakdown
In most states, legislature enacts or adopts some type of law to evaluate and determine fault in civil liability cases. In Florida, this law is outlined in Florida Statute 768.81, also known as the “comparative fault law.” Comparative fault simply means that upon hearing a case, the judge or jury will compare the plaintiff’s fault against the defendant’s fault. The court will hear evidence of any factors that may have contributed to the accident and/or injuries. This approach is plaintiff-friendly.
Under this approach of comparing fault, a plaintiff is still allowed to recover damages even if he/she has contributed in some way to his/her own injuries. For instance, if the court determines that a plaintiff is 60% at fault for an accident and the defendant is only 40% at fault, the plaintiff is still able to recover money damages. Under this approach, the court will simply reduce the total amount of damages owed to the plaintiff based upon the above percentages. For example, if the amount of damages is $100,000 in the above scenario, the plaintiff would only be entitled to $40,000 because the defendant’s percentage of fault was only 40%.
In some other states, once a plaintiff’s percentage of fault reaches 50%, the plaintiff is not allowed to recover any amount of damages. Here is an actual court case to better illustrate.
The Legal Application
In 2012, a driver on a four-lane road struck a pedestrian near an intersection. Upon arrival at the hospital, the pedestrian was declared dead. After his death, a medical examiner completed an autopsy which was comprised of a toxicology screen. This report exposed the pedestrian as having a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.313 along with trace amounts of some illegal substances.
In a wrongful death suit against the defendant driver, the defendant sought to offer into evidence the deceased pedestrian’s intoxication as a means to bar any recovery and to shift the blame. He even went so far as to offer expert testimony that the BAC level of the pedestrian would have caused him to be severely intoxicated and unable to safely navigate the streets. Ultimately, based on this evidence, the jury sided with the defendant.
At issue on appeal was whether the BAC evidence should have ever been submitted to the court. This court did not operate under the comparative fault law of Florida. If it had, whether or not the BAC evidence should have admitted would not have been an issue. The apparently inebriated state of the pedestrian would not have been an issue either. Under a Florida comparative fault analysis, the defendant would be held accountable for his percentage of fault. Know before you go. Choose a Florida Injury Attorney who fully understands and can explain to you the comparative fault laws of Florida.