In Florida, a person will be responsible for the damages caused by a car accident if he or she behaved in a negligent manner. Negligence is a legal term that, in common terms, means recklessness or carelessness. Whenever a driver chooses to get behind the wheel, the law imposes a “duty” on the driver to behave in a reasonable manner. When a driver does not behave in a reasonable manner, and that unreasonable behavior causes a car accident, then the injured victim may be able to recover damages in an Orlando court. The definition of “reasonable” and “unreasonable” behavior is typically left to a jury, since the behavior is unique to the circumstances and facts surrounding the car accident. For example, a driver who causes a car accident while driving at the speed limit would likely be behaving reasonably if the weather was dry, the traffic conditions were clear, and the driver was focused on the road. On the other hand, if the driver was going the speed limit during a torrential downpour and consequently caused a car accident, then a jury may find that going the speed limit in these circumstances is “unreasonable behavior.”
When is a Driver Negligent and Liable for Damages in a Car Accident?
While every car accident is unique, here are some common scenarios in which a driver in Florida might be negligent and liable for the damages caused:
- Violating the traffic code: A driver who causes an accident by violating the traffic code will likely be liable for the damages caused by the accident. In fact, this is the most common causes of car accidents. Violations of the traffic code that regularly result in car accidents include drivers who ignore traffic lights and drivers who are speeding.
- Impaired Driving: Sadly, alcohol-related crashes are still fairly common in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Transportation, 5,223 crashes were caused by drivers impaired by alcohol, which in Florida means that the driver has a Blood Alcohol Level (or BAC) over 0.08. While alcohol may be the most common cause of impairment for drivers in Orlando, Florida, it is not the only intoxicating substance. Drugged driving also impairs drivers and causes car accidents, with 617 confirmed cases in Florida during 2016. Drugged driving does not just include illegal drugs such as marijuana or cocaine. It can also include prescription drugs, even when the driver is prescribed the medication and following the doctor’s orders. If the prescription still impairs the driver, then it is unreasonable for him or her to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and put the lives and wellbeing of other Floridians at risk.
- Distracted Driving: While less pernicious than impaired driving, distracted driving is still very dangerous. Unlike impaired driving, where a specific substance can be identified, distracted driving encompasses any activity that takes the driver’s attention off of the road. Obvious examples include texting while driving or calling while driving without using a hands-free device. Less obvious examples of distracted driving include changing the radio station, inputting an address into a navigation system, eating or drinking while driving, or putting on makeup while behind the wheel. For victims of car accidents that have been caused by distracted drivers, there may be a legal recourse in the Florida courts for their damages.
Florida Law on Car Accidents Caused by the Negligence of Multiple Drivers
In many car accidents, especially those involving more than two vehicles, it is possible that the accident was caused by the negligence of multiple drivers – or even a pedestrian who darted into traffic, or a bicyclist who veered outside of the dedicated bike lane. In these situations, Florida’s comparative negligence law will apply. Under Florida’s comparative negligence scheme, the jury in a car accident case will assign a percentage of blame to each negligent party. Then, each party will be responsible for the amount of damages proportionate to his or her percentage of blame.
Here is an example to illustrate how Florida’s comparative negligence law works:
Two drivers caused a car accident when they were both behaving negligently. After litigating the case in a Florida court, the jury decides that the damages from the car accident are $100,000. The jury also decides that one car driver was 70% at fault for the accident, while the other driver was 30% at fault for the accident. That means that the first driver will be responsible for $70,000 in damages, while the other driver will be responsible for $30,000 in damages caused by the car accident.