Establishing Liability and Apportioning Damages in a Car Accident
Every day throughout the United States, there are thousands of car accidents that cause devastating injuries and numerous deaths. Tragically, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injuries and deaths in the United States. Unfortunately, it is likely that either you or someone you know will be in a car accident. As such, it is important to understand your rights in a car accident and how to hold a responsible party liable.
Establishing Liability in a Car Accident
Most car accidents needlessly occur because another driver did not operate a car properly. Common causes of accidents include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, failing to pay attention to the road (known as distracted driving), speeding, aggressive driving, and failing to use proper car under bad weather conditions. In order to recover damages against another driver who caused a car accident, it is necessary to establish that the driver operated the car negligently. To establish negligence, each of these four elements must be established:
- The other driver had a duty to other pedestrians and drivers to reasonably operate his car.
- The other driver failed to operate his car in a reasonable manner under the circumstances. One example would be a driver speeding and weaving in and out of traffic in a heavy rain.
- The other driver’s actions caused the injuries.
- The injured driver actually suffered some type of loss or injury, whether it is a damaged car, a broken leg, or missed time from work because of the injury.
Apportioning Damages Based on Fault
Even if liability can be established against another driver, there is still the issue of apportioning damages based on the respective fault of each party involved in the car accident. Sometimes the other driver may not be completely at fault for the car accident. Instead, the injured car accident victim may have contributed to the accident. States employ three different approaches to apportioning damages based on fault: contributory negligence, pure comparative fault, and modified comparative fault.
Under a contributory negligence theory, if the injured car accident victim contributed to the accident in any amount then the party cannot recover damages. Therefore, if a jury finds the injured victim was 1% at fault then no damages can be recovered. This rule, however, can be overcome if it can be shown that the other driver had the last chance to avoid the car accident. Only a few states employ this approach.
Under a pure comparative fault theory, damages are apportioned based on the percentage that the other driver contributed to the accident. Therefore, if the injured victim was 90% at fault for the car accident, the injured party is still entitled to recover damages. Instead, damages are reduced based on the injured party’s fault. Florida is a pure comparative fault state. Finally, under a modified comparative fault, the injured party cannot recover damages if he is either 50% or 51% at fault, depending on the state. If fault is below this amount then the injured party can recover damages, but the damages are apportioned based on the percentage of fault.
Contact a Brandon Florida Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, it is important to reach out to an experienced Florida car accident attorney who can help protect your rights. Reed & Reed’s Florida car accident attorneys have significant experience prosecuting hundreds of car accidents throughout Florida. Our car accident attorneys will work tirelessly to make sure that you receive the compensation you deserve. From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida. Contact Reed & Reed for a free consultation.