On the evening of Halloween, four teens were seriously injured when the pickup truck that they were riding in was in an accident. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the four teenagers were riding in the back of another teen’s Ford F-150 in Palm Harbor when the pickup struck an SUV. As a result of the impact, three of the four teens were ejected from the back of the pickup and all four of the teens riding in the back of the pickup were treated at the hospital for serious injuries.
It is in a case like this, where the injured passenger is arguably partially at fault for their own injury, that an understanding of comparative negligence is important. In this particular case, the passengers can be seen to be comparatively negligent because they purposefully got in the back of a pickup truck, where they knew they would be unrestrained by seatbelts and further open to injury because of the increased chance of getting ejected from the vehicle. One could argue that the injured party is as at fault as the driver for using poor judgment in riding unprotected, it does not bar collecting a judgment from the driver of the car, who in this case was ticketed for failure to yield the right of way to the SUV he struck. The reason why, is that Florida follows the legal doctrine of comparative negligence.
What comparative negligence means is that when a case it litigated, damages such as lost wages, pain and suffering or punitive damages is determined first. Then the percentage of fault of the plaintiff and the defendant is determined. At that point, the amount awarded in damages is altered to reflect the percentage of fault that the injured party has.
Where this is seen most often is in cases where the injured party was not wearing a seatbelt as required by law. Having any percentage of fault used to bar an injured party from seeking damages. In a case where there is comparative negligence, like the Palm Harbor accident, there may be damages that amount to $100,000. However, the injured party may be determined to be 25% at fault for their own injuries, as in the case of someone injured while riding in the back of a pickup truck unrestrained. What that would mean is that the injured party would collect a judgment of $75,000, not the full $100,000 in damages.
While comparative negligence is something that may be confusing to many who are not lawyers, what is shows is the importance of hiring an attorney when you or a loved one was involved in an accident, even if it is partially the fault of the person injured. If you have been injured in an auto accident, even if you were partially at fault, be sure to call 1-888-WE-MEAN-IT right away and set up your free consultation. You may still be entitled to damages for your injuries and it is essential that you have an attorney evaluate your case before witnesses or evidence gets lost or a deadline is missed.