Comparative Negligence in an Auto Accident
Imagine you are attempting to make a left hand turn out of a parking lot onto a busy roadway. Traffic is backed up, but luckily, a motorist stops before the driveway and waves you forward. You ease out, nodding your thanks, then creep past his car as you prepare to cross the road to make the turn. Smack! A vehicle behind the kind motorist who had stopped had decided to pass him on his left, heading up to a turn lane just ahead. Driving along in the median lane en route to the turning lane, he did not see you until he smashed into the side of your vehicle, causing damage to your car and personal injury to you.
Determining Fault and Liability
Who is at fault here? Well, to some degree, you are, because drivers entering the roadway are responsible for looking out for a safe entry. On the other hand, the motorist who hit you was driving in the median lane—not a real lane. He should have been behind the motorist who had waved you through until he reached the turning lane up ahead. And what about the fellow who waved you through? Would the accident have even occurred had he not been courteous enough to wave your forward into the roadway?
It sounds as though more than one party bears some responsibility here.
Enter Florida’s comparative negligence statute 768.81: a law written to mitigate the damages when more than one party is at fault in an accident. The policy reflects the notion that it is unfair to assess 100 percent of damages to one party if multiple parties bear responsibility for the accident. Instead, liability is directly linked to the degree of culpability assigned to each party. Due to this law, a plaintiff may be awarded some damages, even if the court finds him to be 99 percent at fault. Clearly, the damages would be reduced relative to the degree of culpability.
The situation becomes complicated when making a determination as to how much fault, as a percentage, to assign to each party.
The statute, under subsection (3)(a)(2) indicates that in order to apportion damages, the defendant must prove, at trial, the fault of the nonparty in causing the plaintiff’s injuries by a preponderance of evidence.
Here is where things get tricky. In our example, assume the jury finds you, the plaintiff, 20 percent liable and defendants A and B 80 percent liable. That means you are able to collect 80 percent of damages. What the court does not clarify is exactly from whom to collect your 80 percent.
Effective Legal Representation
Now it becomes abundantly clear that experienced legal help is what you need. Let the aggressive team at the Law Offices of Robert W. Elton in in Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach be your lifeline after your automobile accident. Our experienced team will fight to obtain the settlement you deserve. Contact us today for your confidential consultation.