What is Comparative Fault in a Florida Wrongful Death Case?

November 10, 2020

When someone is injured in a car accident, they often have many thoughts racing through their head: could they have avoided the accident? Is there anything different they could have done? Who was at fault? Defendants will often try and use this thinking to convince a jury that the plaintiff was also at fault for the incident and, therefore, should be found negligent. This is called comparative fault. The comparative fault principle applies when the plaintiff’s actions contributed to their injuries. When it applies, comparative negligence reduces the defendant’s overall liability. However, many people are surprised to learn that this principle can also be applied in wrongful death cases.

According to a recent news report, a 10-year-old girl was killed in a car crash on Interstate 75 in Sumter County. The driver of the vehicle reduced his speed for traffic – which had slowed down ahead of him – and the vehicle was struck in the rear. The force of the crash pushed the car into the center median, where it hit a guardrail and the car overturned. The driver suffered minor injuries, and the child died at the scene. The report indicates neither the child nor the driver was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident.

In tragic accidents like the one above, potential defendants will likely claim comparative fault as a part of their defense, to lessen their own liability. In a wrongful death case, the jury is tasked with determining if the deceased was partially responsible for their own death; and, if so, which percentage of comparative fault is attributable to them. If the deceased is found to be partially responsible for the accident, their family’s recovery of damages will be reduced by the percentage the deceased is found liable. For instance, if the jury determines the deceased was 20% at fault for the accident that caused their death, their loved ones will only receive 80% of the awarded damages.

In cases where the plaintiff – or the deceased in a wrongful death lawsuit – did not wear a seat belt, the defendant will often argue comparative fault. In Florida, evidence of failure to wear an available and fully operational seat belt may be considered by the jury when evaluating comparative fault. However, to be successful, the defendant needs to prove that the failure to use the seat belt produced or contributed substantially to a portion of the accident.

Because defendants will often try to use comparative fault as an excuse to escape liability, it is critical that potential plaintiffs consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can help hold defendants accountable for their negligent actions.

Has a Loved One Been Killed in a Car Accident?

If a loved one has been killed in a Florida car accident, contact the experienced wrongful death attorneys at the Grife Law Firm for immediate assistance. Our lawyers are trained to effectively address comparative fault allegations, and we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. We provide clients with comprehensive advice and clear explanations so you can make the decision that is right for you. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 855-998-0770.