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Daytona Beach Legal News - Comparative Negligence Standard

The Law Office of Paul Bernardini

Rear-End Collision and Florida's Comparative Negligence Standard

Although most people assume that the last car in a rear-end collision is always 100% at fault, in 2012, the Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for the rear driver to present evidence as to the partial fault of the front driver in causing such a collision.

In Cevallos v. Rideout, et al., the Florida Supreme Court overruled the 4th District Court of Appeal’s decision to attribute sole fault to the rear driver in a collision. This case involved three drivers. The one in the middle had been on a cell phone and abruptly hit her brakes, colliding with the car in front of her. This resulted in the rear car colliding with her.

This decision means that now the rear driver can pursue damages, even if partially. Florida operates under a pure comparative negligence standard, which allows proven fault to be split between drivers (here, the middle driver), allowing the third car to recover a percentage of the damages. Of course, this must be argued by a competent lawyer.

Keep this in mind if you’ve been involved in a rear-end collision and you believe that the car you hit has been negligent in any way. Call us right away before you admit fault or talk to the insurance company, and never sign anything. Our consultations are always free.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Here in Daytona Beach, we have more than our share of bikers during Biketoberfest and Bike Week, and plenty of them all throughout the year. The weather, the straight roads, and the lack of helmet laws make this a paradise for bikers. Unfortunately, Florida also has the highest number of biker deaths in the country, even when adjusted for population.

Both motorists and bikers are encouraged to remain aware of traffic and pedestrians at all times. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has declared May Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and campaigns are in full swing:

Share the Road
All motorists are reminded to safely "share the road" with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists safe. Motorcyclists are reminded to make themselves visible to other motorists.*

Ride Sober or Get Pulled Over
Alcohol affects those skills essential to riding a motorcycle - balance and coordination. So it plays a particularly big role in motorcycle fatalities. Statistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads. This is why NHTSA urges all motorcycle riders to always ride smart and sober.*

Florida operates under a pure comparative negligence standard. This means that the jury can assign a percentage of fault to each party in a motorcycle lawsuit. If the accident was 30% your fault, you will only be entitled to 70% compensation. Of course, proving blame is difficult.

The intoxication defense, provided in Fla. Stat. 768.36, has become a strong tool for defendants, allowing them to close the door on any recovery if the jury finds that the plaintiff was primarily at fault for his or her own injuries as a result of intoxication.

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, please be aware that the insurance companies are notoriously devious in getting you to admit guilt or to have you sign paperwork to close the case. You should never sign anything or make any statements to the other party’s insurance company. Do not talk with them for any reason.

Instead, it is imperative that you call us as soon as possible, or have someone call us for you, for a free consultation. We’ll quickly evaluate the circumstances of the accident, and begin to put an action plan together. We want to protect your rights during this difficult time and secure the maximum compensation you deserve.

Call me, Paul Bernardini, at (386) 258-3453 for your free consultation.

*www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Motorcycles