Be Safe—Protect Your Body and Your Case
“Be safe” seems like a pretty obvious recommendation from personal injury lawyers. But being safe and aware of your surroundings—when driving, walking through a department store, crossing the street, etc.—has multiple benefits. Further, the consequences of being too relaxed when it comes to safety can be serious and costly—even once your case gets to court.
First, the obvious: the safer you act, the less likely you are to be injured. But because not all injuries can be avoided, the second reason to practice safety precautions is especially important. Specifically, being safe and cautious can save you a lot of money in your personal injury case. On the flip side, as our personal injury lawyers at Aronberg, Aronberg & Green know, in the State of Florida, being negligent or absent minded in an accident—even if you were not the more negligent or reckless party—can significantly limit your ability to receive compensation, no matter how injured you might be.
Why? Because Florida is a state which statutorily adheres to the doctrine of comparative fault, meaning that in a negligence action, the contributing fault attributable to the plaintiff diminishes the amount awarded in damages for the injury. So, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers understand, while contributory negligence is not a complete bar to recovery here in Florida, it limits the plaintiff’s ability to be made “whole” and recover all of his or her losses.
To explain this issue, let’s work with a hypothetical scenario. Suppose Dale Defendant is driving down an otherwise empty road when he looks down at his cell phone to read a text message while approaching an intersection (with a green light). At that very moment, Paula Plaintiff, listening to music on her phone, steps into the intersection to cross the street (not in a cross-walk). Dale finally notices Paula at the last second and slams on his brakes, but he still knocks Paula to the ground in the middle of the intersection. Paula winds up breaking her hip and left leg as a result of the accident. Due to her injuries, she has to miss three months of work and incurs thousands of dollars in medical and other expenses.
Suppose that after failed settlement negotiations, Paula sues Dale for her injuries. As our personal injury lawyers know, if the case makes its way before a jury, the members of the jury will have the ability to allocate fault in the accident. They will consider, of course, the fact that the defendant was texting and driving and did not see the plaintiff in intersection until it was too late. But they will also consider the fact that Paula was carelessly walking through the intersection, distracted listening to music, never looking up to check for oncoming cars.
Let’s say the jury decides to award Paula Plaintiff a total of $200,000 for her injuries, pain & suffering, etc. If the jury finds her to have been 20% at-fault in the accident, her award will be reduced accordingly. So with a $200,000 jury verdict, a finding that the plaintiff was 20% at fault means that she will be awarded $160,000 ($200,000 less 20%). As our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, 80% is better than 0%, but it’s not better than 100%. Had Paula been more aware, she might not have been found at-fault at all in the accident, and she would have been entitled to recover the full $200,000.