Blaming the Victim: Does It Work?

One of the greatest mysteries for anyone who has ever had an experience with the civil court system, whether in Florida or elsewhere, is how juries ultimately make the decisions that they do.  Attorneys or judges who have been through hundreds of trials may think they have an idea, but no one truly knows what goes on in the jury deliberation room.  No one, whether the judge, court staff or attorneys, is allowed in the jury deliberation room.  However, those who have been through enough jury trials can understand, in very general terms, what types of arguments that juries will and will not buy.  One of those is the “blaming the victim” argument often employed by the defense in Florida personal injury cases involving motor vehicle accidents and the injuries caused in such accidents.

In virtually every personal injury case, whether a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall or dog bite case, the defendant(s) almost always will raise the plaintiff’s comparative negligence as a defense. The defense argument will be that, even if the driver that caused the accident was negligent, the plaintiff was just as negligent (if not more so) in causing the accident; that is, they are blaming the victim.  This is a version of pointing the finger to minimize, or completely extinguish, fault on the part of the defendant for the motor vehicle incident in which the plaintiff was injured.  This calls upon the jury to weigh the evidence and testimony and it also has to sort through all the finger pointing and come to a conclusion as to who was responsible and to what degree for an accident victim’s injuries.  However, there are a number of problems for the defense in blaming the victim.

First, there is no requirement that a person be free from blame to pursue compensation from those who were responsible, whether in whole or in part, for someone else’s injuries.  Second, juries are often trying to get things right.  At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, our experienced Florida personal injury attorneys have tried enough cases to understand as well as anyone can that juries are much smarter than many attorneys give them credit for and that jurors most often are looking to do the right thing.  Therefore, being honest with the facts, and not attempting to pretend that it was all one person’s fault when the testimony and evidence will show otherwise, is simply the best way to go.  Thus, our experienced attorneys will be honest with the jury and the results end up speaking for themselves, because juries reward honesty instead of an attorney that tries to argue the sky is pink.

What Exactly is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal term that means the injured person him or herself was negligent and that his or her negligence resulted in his or her own injuries and losses.  Under Florida law, you have a responsibility to take all reasonable precautions for your own safety, regardless of what situation you are in.  If for some reason you did not do so, then a person whose negligence caused you to suffer injuries would be able to ask the jury to take into account your own negligence in causing the incident that led to your injuries and reduce your recovery accordingly.  It is important, however, to understand that just because a jury assigns you a percentage of fault in the situation in which you were injured,  whether 1% or 40%, that only means that your ultimate recovery will be reduced by that amount.  It does not mean that the other person will not have to compensate you for whatever percentage of fault the jury determines that person had in causing your injuries or damages.  Thus, if the jury finds you 10% responsible and the other person 90% responsible, then you will still be entitled to recover 90% of your damages from that person under Florida law.

How Does The Jury Make Decisions as to Fault in a Florida Personal Injury Case?

Even though no one is allowed back in the jury deliberation room, an attorney with enough trial experience can roughly predict how an argument may impact the average jury.  Jurors are often much smarter than lawyers give them credit for.  One other thing that the 150+ years of collective legal experience of our personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley have determined to be true in virtually any trial is that juries are looking to do the right thing.

Therefore, it has been our experience that the jury will pay attention and separate what is just one attorney making an argument to possibly reach the result that best favors his or her client versus what the evidence actually shows.  Therefore, if an accident victim was texting or otherwise not paying attention immediately before the accident occurred, this often will come out in evidence or testimony during trial.  That is why we will not attempt to hide the truth, which is a mistake that defense lawyers sometimes make.  Overplaying one’s hand can be a deadly mistake in front of a jury that is much smarter and more intuitive than the average attorney often will give them credit for.  Therefore, the defense attorney whose client caused a major accident but then proceeds to present a blaming the victim defense often will find that argument will not get very far with the jury.

Contact Schwed, Adams & McGinley

 At Schwed Adams & McGinley, P.A., our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined legal experience and many of our firm’s cases stem from motor vehicle accidents in which our clients have been injured due to someone else’s negligence.  We are experienced in offering evidence and making compelling arguments to make a jury see that our client was not at fault or that, even if he or she had some fault in causing an accident, their fault was dwarfed by that of the motorist who actually caused the accident.  Call us toll free at 877.694.6079 or email us today at contact@schwedlawfirm.com to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer.