If you or a loved one has been involved in a Florida truck or motor vehicle accident, you will likely hear the term “negligent” or “negligence” tossed around, even at the scene of the accident. Although it can be frightening to hear another driver or the police claim that you were negligent, in Florida “negligence” is a legal term and requires proof of certain elements in order to be established. A qualified Florida personal injury attorney can help you sort through each of these elements.
Definition and Requirements for Negligence in Florida
Negligence1 is defined, in legal circles, as “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” In other words, you are negligent if your behavior while driving is less careful than that exercised by the general public. For example, as long as you are paying attention you may not be considered negligent for taking a sip of your coffee while driving; however, if you are attempting to put on makeup while driving and making a phone call all at the same time, this may fall below the average standard of care due to distraction.
If you or another driver is facing a claim of negligence in a court of law, the following elements must be shown:
- There was a legal duty to exercise care, i.e., the duty to drive safely;
- There was a failure to exercise that duty, i.e., you were distracted or intoxicated while driving;
- Your failure to exercise care contributed to the harm, i.e., the accident and injuries; and
- Your failure to exercise care was the actual cause of the injuries sustained.
- If even one of these elements cannot be shown, then you would not be considered negligent in Florida.
Florida's System of Negligence
As is common, there may be multiple factors that contribute to an auto accident, including negligence on behalf of multiple drivers. The State of Florida follows a legal doctrine known as “pure comparative fault.” Under Florida Law,2 the court, jury or your insurance company will determine the percentage of each party's fault and award damages only in proportion to your level of negligence. For example, if a driver in an SUV and merges into your sedan, but you were speeding, a judge may determine that they are 80 percent at fault for the accident while you are 20 percent at fault. Accordingly, if you are awarded $10,000 in compensation, the amount you receive will be reduced by your percentage of fault, meaning that you would receive only $8,000 (or 80% of the $10,000 award). This law allows you to recover even if you were partially to blame for the collision.
Whether you or another driver was negligent in either causing or contributing to an accident may turn into a complex question of law. Although it may seem obvious up front, the other driver's insurance company or attorney may try to argue that their client's behavior does not qualify as negligence under the legal definition of the term.
Contact an Experienced Clearwater Accident Attorney to Discuss your Case
If you or a loved one has been in an accident, even one where liability may seem simple, be sure to contact a qualified Florida accident and personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA is your go-to truck and car accident law firm in the greater Tampa Bay area, and they will advocate on your behalf to ensure you receive the maximum compensation possible. Call 727-451-6900 today for a free, no-risk consultation.