Articles Posted in Comparative Negligence

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seat belt2Individuals who do not wear seat belts are much more likely to be injured in a motor vehicle accident than persons who do wear seat belts. This is precisely why so many states, including Florida, have mandatory seat belt laws. In Florida, defendants can use the seat belt defense to lessen liability.

In Jones v. Alayon, a Florida driver was rear-ended by the defendant, an off duty police officer. Upon impact, the driver’s car struck a guard rail and rolled over. The driver was ejected from the car and was subsequently run over by other vehicles on the road. The driver died as a result of the accident.

The defendant left the scene and reported his vehicle stolen before admitting that he caused the fatal wreck. The defendant was jailed for the occurrence.

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high heelWhen a defendant is sued, that defendant may raise an affirmative defense. Affirmative defenses are a type of defense in which a defendant presents additional facts to defeat the charges being brought. Just as the plaintiff must meet the burden of proof when bringing a claim, similarly, the defendant must meet a certain burden of proof to establish his or her affirmative defense.

In Bongiorno v. Americorp, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a slippery floor in the bathroom of her workplace. The plaintiff sustained injuries. She was wearing high heels at the time of the incident. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the property owner, alleging negligence. The defendant filed an answer denying liability and asserting the affirmative defense of comparative negligence. The matter proceeded to a bench trial. After reviewing the evidence, the trial court determined that the plaintiff was 50 percent comparatively negligent due to the fact that she wore four- to five-inch high-heeled shoes at the time of the accident.

The state of Florida operates under a comparative negligence system. This means that whatever amount an individual is negligent, that individual’s recovery will be limited by that amount. For example, if  a plaintiff is deemed to be 40 percent negligent, that plaintiff’s maximum amount of recovery will be 60 percent. In other words, the plaintiff’s total award would be decreased by his or her fault. In this manner, the principle of comparative negligence apportions negligence among the various parties involved in the incident.

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