The Florida Supreme Court recently overturned fifty years of legal precedent by ruling that a driver who causes an automobile accident by running into another vehicle from behind can argue, and a jury may consider, that the driver who was struck was also at fault, or comparatively negligent.
The Court felt that the legal doctrine of comparative negligence should apply to personal injury cases when there is evidence, no matter how unsubstantiated, for a jury to consider if the driver of the stopped vehicle was at fault. The Court’s decision made clear that it does not overturn the presumption of negligence when a injured person is properly stopped at a red light or stop sign.
In this accident, the plaintiff ran into a car that had rear-ended the car in front of it. So, car A stopped at a stop light. Car B rear-ended that car, and the plaintiff struck car B from behind — a classic chain reaction. The plaintiff argued that the driver of car B was on her cellphone and, therefore, was the cause of the plaintiff’s accident.
The Supreme Court agreed. The plaintiff was not the “sole proximate cause” of the crash, the court said, because the woman in front of her had been distracted at the time of her own accident.
Florida is one of 14 states that operate under the “pure comparative negligence” theory of fault in auto accidents. That means a plaintiff can collect damages for the percentage of the accident that was not his or her fault. If, then, the driver of car B were found 80 percent negligent and the plaintiff 20 percent negligent, the plaintiff would be able to collect 80 percent of damages.
All of this can be confusing and difficult to navigate. Let us help. If you or someone you know is injured in an automobile accident, please call the Spinner Law Firm. We are right here, for you.