What Is Auto Negligence in Florida?

17Jan
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Auto negligence in Florida happens when a driver fails to drive responsibly and causes an accident. The accident, in turn, causes other road users to suffer injuries, damages, and other losses. The injured parties pursue compensation by filing a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier or suing the driver directly. Florida follows a pure comparative negligence rule. This rule allows victims of auto accidents to recover compensation even if they were partially at fault for the accident. 

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Clearwater Car Accident Attorney James Magazine

Having an experienced Clearwater car accident lawyer in your corner can help level the playing ground when dealing with large insurance companies. Your lawyer will take advantage of his or her resources and staff members to build a strong case against the liable party. The lawyer will also put together enough evidence to prove the other driver’s negligence and compel the insurance company to compensate you.  

Understanding Auto Negligence

Negligence-related auto accidents are an everyday occurrence on Florida roads and highways. One moment, you are driving on the highway, and the next, you have been tailgated by a reckless driver. The other driver’s unreasonable actions end up causing you harm and damage. 

Whereas drivers must observe traffic rules at all times, this does not always happen. Many motorists blatantly disregard traffic laws. These motorists engage in infringements like skipping traffic lights, speeding, or dangerous overtaking. These irresponsible and unreasonable actions often cause accidents. The outcome is car accident claims or lawsuits against the negligent driver.

Car accidents often stem from the negligent actions of one driver. Multiple drivers can, however, be liable in some cases. An example is when two or more negligent drivers cause a crash. Another example is when a driver’s negligence and unsafe road conditions contribute to a vehicle accident. 

What Is Pure Comparative Negligence in Florida?

Florida adopts a pure comparative negligence rule. Comparative negligence involves the apportioning of the accident blame to multiple parties. This rule allows you to claim damages in an auto negligence case even if you were partly liable for the accident. Your percentage of liability will, however, affect the amount of damages you can recover from the other driver.

Example

Let’s say you make a left turn on a busy roadway without carefully evaluating the traffic situation. Another motorist driving over the speed limit crashes into your car after attempts to stop fail.

The jury reviews the facts and arguments in the case and finds both parties liable for the accident. You were liable for failing to assess the traffic conditions carefully. The other driver was at-fault for speeding. 

The jury determines your percentage of fault as 30% and awards compensation of $100,000. In this scenario, you will receive a compensation of $70,000, which is $100,000 minus $30,000 (30% of $100,000). 

Not every driver in an auto accident in Florida qualifies for compensation under the comparative fault laws. You must meet a medical threshold to recover damages for personal injuries in an auto accident. You must present compelling medical evidence showing you suffered severe personal bodily injuries in the accident. In Florida, the severity of sustained injuries gets categorized into four parts, including

  • Significant impairment to a vital body part or organ
  • Lifelong injuries with a reasonable chance of medical management
  • Permanent disability
  • Death 

It is common for at-fault Florida drivers to admit liability for the accident at the scene, only to recant their statement later. That mainly occurs after the at-fault driver consults with his or her insurance company’s legal team. 

How to Prove Auto Negligence in Florida

Proving an auto negligence claim in Florida takes time and effort. You have to prove with substantive evidence that the other driver was at fault. Your lawyer can assess your situation to determine the types of evidence required to prove liability in your auto negligence case. Some types of evidence needed to prove auto negligence in Florida include: 

Liable Party’s Admissions 

The liable party may admit fault for the accident in some auto accidents. The party might make this admission to the injured driver, responding law enforcement officer, or any other person at the accident scene. Anyone who hears this admission could give testimony at trial. 

Photographic Evidence 

Pictures of the crash scene can give the jury an idea of how the accident occurred. These pictures can also help your lawyer reconstruct the crash scene to gather the evidence necessary to determine all potentially liable parties. 

Video Evidence 

Videos of the accident can show the events leading to the crash. A review of these videos can reveal who was legally responsible for the accident. Nearby surveillance cameras and dashboard cameras are common sources of video evidence in car accidents. 

Medical Records 

Medical records, such as diagnostic and imaging reports, can help prove your injuries are car accident-related. Your doctor’s notes could reveal the type and extent of your injuries. 

Proof of a Criminal Conviction

Some auto accidents, including driving while intoxicated, can result in arrests and criminal prosecution. In such cases, evidence that the defendant was found guilty of a specific offense for the same accident could help prove auto negligence.

Elements of an Auto Negligence Claim in Florida

Auto negligence happens when a driver’s actions depart from what is considered acceptable. You must prove four elements to win an auto accident negligence in Florida. These elements include: 

Duty of Care 

Proving a duty of care exists is the first element of an auto negligence claim. Drivers, for instance, have a legal obligation to ensure safety on the roads by driving reasonably carefully.

Breach of Duty

You must demonstrate that the other driver breached his or her duty of care for you to have viable grounds for an auto negligence claim. A breach of duty often happens when drivers fail to comply with traffic laws or engage in unsafe practices like distracted driving

Causation

Causation entails proving that the negligent actions of another motorist directly caused your damages. You must, for instance, provide proof that the defendant was on a phone call or inattentive behind the wheel to prove that the defendant’s distracted driving conduct caused your injuries. 

 Photos and videos of the crash area can help show that the defendant was inattentive on the road when the accident happened. Pictures showing the absence of braking-related tire markings, for instance, can demonstrate that the driver did not step on the brakes before the accident. In this case, your lawyer can argue that the driver was distracted and failed to notice the safety risk on time. 

Cellphone records can help show the driver was texting or making a phone call before the accident occurred. A police report and witness statements are other crucial pieces of evidence in a crash caused by a distracted motorist. 

Damages

You must have sustained injuries or incurred losses due to the other driver’s negligent actions to be entitled to compensation. It’s essential to note that you cannot pursue compensation if you did not suffer any harm or loss. This rule applies even when the other driver broke a traffic law or was driving irresponsibly. 

Recoverable damages in an auto negligence claim include tangible (economic) losses like medical bills, lost income/wages, and property damage. They also include intangible (non-economic) losses like pain and suffering, mental distress, and loss or decline in quality of life. 

Punitive damages might also be available in a few cases. Courts usually award these damages to punish liable parties for their extremely negligent conduct and discourage similar conduct from happening in the future. 

Medical bill receipts, invoices, wage statements, bank statements, and other financial documents can help prove economic damages. Psychological evaluation reports, pain journals, testimonies from your loved ones, friends, or workmates, and pictures of scarring or disfigurement are instrumental in proving non-economic damages.

Why You Need to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer

Florida’s roads and highways rank among the most dangerous in the U.S. In fact, an analysis of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows six of the ten most dangerous highways are in Florida. That means you are always a heartbeat away from getting involved in a severe road accident in the state. 

What’s more, you will be shocked at the extremes and extent many insurance companies of the potentially liable parties go to deny liability. These companies focus more on growing their profit margins. So, they are likely to deny or undervalue claims from injured parties. 

Florida’s no-fault laws do not require you to retain an attorney for auto negligence cases. However, a lawyer with a stellar record of handling car accidents can represent your best interests and get you full and reasonable compensation. 

Your lawyer collects evidence to prove the liability of the other driver. The Lawyer records witness statements and collects other evidence to show the impact of the accident on your life. He or she negotiates with, at times, notorious insurance companies on your behalf. The lawyer takes your case to court and argues it skillfully if negotiations fail to yield a reasonable settlement.  

Photo of Jim Magazine
James (Jim) Magazine is a Florida Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer who has spent his career helping injured victims. Jim is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida since 1990 and is also admitted to practice at the Appellate level and admitted to the United States Supreme Court.