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Florida Court Clarifies Drug and Alcohol Defense in Motorcycle Crash Case

Motorcycle accidents can be extremely dangerous, especially for the motorcycle rider who is particularly susceptible to bodily injury. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident that was not your fault, you may be able to recover compensation to cover your losses. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our skilled Miami motorcycle accident attorneys can help you value your claim and seek the maximum amount of damages in your case.

In Kempton v. McComb, following a jury trial for a collision in which the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle and was struck by a car, the plaintiff appealed based on the jury’s ruling that he was 55 percent negligent and the defendant was 45 percent negligent. The trial court then applied section 768.36 (the drug and alcohol defense) of the Florida Statutes (the “statute”) and barred the plaintiff from recovering any damages. The plaintiff appealed.

The plaintiff argued that the trial court made a mistake in applying the drug and alcohol defense since the jury’s decision did not indicate, as necessitated by the statute, that the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault “as a result of the influence of an alcoholic beverage.”

Florida follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence, under which fault is relatively apportioned between all parties to an accident. Under this doctrine, a plaintiff’s recovery will be limited by his or her amount of negligence. In other words, even if a plaintiff is partly at fault for an accident, he or she can still recover damages but the damages award will be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s share of fault.

There are certain exceptions to this rule, however, and one of those exceptions is set forth in the statute. The court explained that the drug and alcohol defense completely prohibits a plaintiff’s recovery if the following factors are met: the trier of fact must find that the plaintiff had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher at the time of the crash or that the plaintiff was under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired; and the plaintiff must have been more than 50 percent at fault for the harm he or she suffered.

Here, the jury determined that the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault and the BAC was 0.08 percent or higher but did not find that the plaintiff’s share of fault was a direct result of his intake of an alcoholic beverage as required by the statute. Thus, the court ruled that the trial court erred in applying the statute and remanded the case back to the lower court directing it to enter a judgment awarding the plaintiff damages.

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you need to reach out to a seasoned Miami motorcycle accident attorney without delay. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we want you to focus on your rest and recovery while we take care of the legalities of your case. We understand that this is a stressful time, which is why we will handle your case with the utmost compassion. For more information about your rights, call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.