How Is Fault Determined in an Injury Case?
At some point, you might suffer an incident that leaves you seriously injured. When you are involved in this situation, one of the first questions you might have is how to prove fault. After all, someone must be at fault so that you can collect compensation through an insurance settlement or personal injury lawsuit.
Fault is the legal responsibility assigned to one party in an accident case – whether it is a dog bite, slip, and fall, or motor vehicle accident. Defining the party at fault is complicated and usually requires that one party was more reckless or negligent and that their actions or inactions caused the accident.
Understanding Legal Liability in Ft. Lauderdale
An accident occurs because someone was negligent. When one person in the accident is more negligent than the other, the more negligent party is legally required to pay for some or all the damages caused by that negligence.
The Duty of Care Standard and How It Plays a Role in Negligence Determination
When looking at who might be responsible, one question comes up: did the party involved in the incident act with a reasonable amount of care or were they reckless enough to cause the accident? If a person breaches their duty of care, they are usually found liable for the incident.
In certain situations, determining liability requires assessing the duty of care owed and whether the duty was breached.
For example, you have a duty of care to obey the rules of the road while operating a vehicle. If you fail to follow the speed limit, for example, and you cause an accident, you have breached your duty of care. Because you violated that duty of care, you are now responsible for the damages and injuries you caused.
What Is a Reasonable Amount of Care
To decide a person’s duty of care owed, you must first consider what a reasonable amount of care is. A person is required to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm to another person. Therefore, deviating from what is an acceptable, reasonable amount of care could mean that they are negligent.
Legal Liability and the Party Assigned Liability
Legal liability is determined by the rule of carelessness and who has violated their reasonable duty of care owed to the victim. The person that liability is assigned to might vary, depending on the circumstances of the case:
Private person – An individual could be found legally liable for injuries if they breach a reasonable duty of care (like causing an automobile accident after running a red light).
The Injured party and another person – A victim could be liable for a portion of their injuries as well – known as a comparative fault. We will discuss this in more detail in the following section.
An employer – When an employee is on the job and causes an injury, the employer might be the liable party for the actions of their worker.
Property owner – If an accident occurs on someone’s property due to unsafe conditions, the property owner might be found liable even if they were not present to cause the accident.
Manufacturer – A product with a defect that causes injury could lead to an injury lawsuit if that manufacturer was careless or allowed an unsafe product on the market.
How Does Comparative Negligence Work?
Florida uses pure comparative negligence when determining liability in injury cases. Therefore, you can still receive compensation for your injuries, but the compensation you get is reduced based on your amount of assigned fault. If you were in an accident and the courts decide that you are 30 percent at fault, then you would only receive 70 percent of what the courts award to you.
For example, if you received $100,000 for a settlement, you would have it reduced by 30 percent to account for your portion of fault – leaving you with $70,000 in compensation.
How Personal Injury Protection Plays a Role
In Florida, you are required to have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Therefore, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you must use your PIP insurance coverage to help pay for your medical expenses.
Certainly you can file a lawsuit or seek further compensation through the other party’s insurance in addition to utilizing your own PIP insurance. Note, PIP only applies in motor vehicle accidents. Therefore, if your injuries stem from a non-motor vehicle incident, PIP rules would not apply.
Factors Used to Determine Negligence
Regardless of the type of accident or how it occurred, you must prove the other party’s negligence exists to get compensation. As the plaintiff, you carry the burden of proof, which means the courts will determine fault and compensation based on your evidence.
A few factors that you must consider include:
You must show that you were careful, acting reasonably, and that the other party breached their duty of care.
You must prove your damages are valid and that those damages are directly tied to the accident that caused the injury.
You must show that you suffered an injury because of the breach of duty. If your injury is unrelated to that person’s breach, you are not eligible for compensation.
It Is Best to Hire an Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident, it is in your best interest to speak with a personal injury attorney. Liability and negligence is a complicated area of the law. Therefore, it is best to explore your options with an attorney that has experience helping accident victims.