The vast majority of traffic accidents in Florida and around the country are caused by some sort of human error, and sometimes more than one driver is at fault. In Maryland, North Carolina, Alabama, the District of Columbia, and Virginia, drivers who are injured in accidents that they played a role in causing are barred from receiving compensation, regardless of how small their part in it was. That is because the courts in these jurisdictions follow the contributory negligence doctrine. Florida and all other states have comparative negligence laws, which allow lawsuits in situations where both parties acted negligently.
Accident victims who may have acted negligently may recover damages under the comparative negligence doctrine, but the amount they are awarded will be reduced to reflect their degree of fault. States with modified comparative negligence laws only allow personal injury plaintiffs to recover damages if the other party was largely responsible and they are only partly to blame, but Florida has a pure comparative fault law. This means that plaintiffs in the Sunshine State can file and win lawsuits even if they are 99% responsible for causing an accident. However, the damages awarded in such a case would be reduced by 99%.
The seat belt defense
Motorists who do not use seat belts suffer more serious injuries in motor vehicle crashes than properly restrained drivers. When accident reports reveal that a personal injury plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt when they were injured, attorneys may mount what is known as the seat belt defense to establish comparative negligence and reduce the damages their clients are ordered to pay. Several states have passed laws that ban the seat belt defense, but Florida has no such law.
Buckle up and be careful
The courts in Florida follow the pure comparative negligence doctrine, which means personal injury plaintiffs can sue for damages even when they are almost entirely responsible for causing the accidents that injured them. The damages they are awarded will be reduced to reflect the role they played, but they can still file lawsuits and seek compensation. Florida also has no law banning the seat belt defense, which means plaintiffs who were not buckled up when they crashed could also be awarded reduced damages. The best way to avoid comparative negligence arguments and the seat belt defense is to buckle up before every trip and drive carefully.