How does a “Blame the Victim” Defense appeal to a Jury?

If you are injured in an accident, no matter whether it is a motor vehicle accident, a pedestrian accident, a slip and fall, or any other personal injury scenario in Florida, one of the things you can inevitably count on is that the other side will blame you for the occurrence of the accident. Rest assured that if you file a lawsuit against the party whose negligence resulted in your injuries, the defense will blame you, even though you were the injured party, for the accident. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the other side will likely argue that you bore some responsibility, in otherwords they will try to blame the victim, no matter how slight, in causing the incident that resulted in your injuries. This is because, under Florida’s system of comparative negligence, a victim of someone else’s negligence can only recover the percentage of his or her damages from the person that caused an incident that the wrongdoer actually was responsible for causing. This means that, if the wrongdoer who caused the accident can reduce his or her proportion of fault, as determined by the jury, he or she is on the hook for less of your damages.   

However, just because the law allows the defense to blame a victim does not mean doing so is a good idea. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to deal with efforts to shift the blame to the victim and knows how to minimize whatever attacks the defense may make in an effort to reduce the amount of wrongdoing that the jury will assess against whoever caused the incident. Indeed, experienced personal injury lawyers like those at Schwed, Adams & McGinley know how to turn the tables on the defense in this situation by actually using the defense employing this strategy to make the victim appear more sympathetic. This defensive tactic thus can easily backfire because juries are smart and are comprised of people who look at situations with common sense and likely will not take kindly to the person who caused an accident trying to blame the victim of the accident to save a few bucks.

Why do Defendants do this?

Under Florida’s system of assessing fault in personal injury cases, every bit of fault the defendant can attribute to the plaintiff is one less dollar that the defendant (or more likely, his or her insurer) is on the hook for. Therefore, if the defendant is able to convince the jury that you were 10% responsible for causing the accident in which you were injured, that is 10% of your damages that the defendant (or his or her insurer) is not on the hook for. Thus, to a defendant or his/her/its insurer, it makes sense to point the finger back at the victim because that results in less exposure to the defendant. However, this can often be a risky move.

Does “Blame The Victim” Strategy Really Work?

“Blame the victim” can only take you so far. While it may be an effective strategy for shaving off a few thousand dollars off the value of a case in settlement negotiations, this strategy can easily backfire in front of a jury of laypeople who are looking at the situation differently than the attorneys may be looking at the case. What the jury sees is a victim of someone else’s negligence seeking compensation for the injuries that the defendant’s negligence caused that victim. Juries often do not appreciate when a defendant tries to point the finger back the other way, particularly where there is not a strong case to do so.

Simply because the victim in a personal injury situation may bear some portion of fault for, for example, a motor vehicle accident occurring does not mean this is a sound strategy to employ at a trial. Jurors are smart and understand that most accidents and other personal injury scenarios are complicated and may have happened as a result of a multitude of factors. For the most part, juries also are looking to do the right thing and be fair. Rare is the case where someone who is injured is 100% blameless, either because they were not paying attention to what was going on, were not being as careful as they should have, etc. Nevertheless, this does mean a jury will punish that person for simply not being as careful as humanly possible if someone else ran a red light, for instance. Thus, the defense often risks angering the jury if the jurors feel the wrongdoer is trying to blame the victim, which can result in the jury doing exactly the opposite of what the defense was hoping and either awarding the victim more than would otherwise be the case or else by not finding any fault on the victim’s part.

Contact Schwed Adams & McGinley

At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A., our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined legal practice representing victims of motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall incidents, and other personal injury scenarios in Florida. We are used to the “blame the victim” argument that defense attorneys inevitably make in virtually every case and we know how not only to neutralize this approach, but use it in our clients’ favor by making them seem even more sympathetic in the face of such attacks. Therefore, if you, a family member, or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident or any other situation caused by someone else’s negligence in Florida, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation.