Negligence: How do Juries Apportion Fault?

An often-misunderstood concept in Florida personal injury law is what occurs when both parties to a motor vehicle accident or other scenario in which someone suffered personal injuries are guilty of negligence but to different degrees.  For example, assume that another driver rear ends you as you slowed down to make a turn. However, you did not put on your blinker first because you were not sure exactly where you were going and whether a particular street was what you were looking for.  The other driver and his insurer likely will claim that you were completely responsible for the accident because you neglected to put on your turn signal.  However, he likely will be the one ticketed by the police for careless driving when they respond to the scene of the accident because he was following you too closely.

If you file a lawsuit, he and his insurer may also want to take the case to trial because they like their chances that a jury will find you, the accident victim, to be responsible for the crash and your resulting injuries.  Nevertheless, simply because the other person takes this position does not mean that the jury will accept it.  Although the inner workings of a jury deliberation are a mystery to everyone, attorneys, judge and court personnel included, if one has tried enough cases, you can begin to understand what juries do and do not accept.  The experienced Florida personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley have been through enough trials to know that juries are sophisticated enough to understand that an accident does not occur solely as a result of one person’s actions, particularly if that person has filed suit because he or she was injured in the accident.  Therefore, we always work with our clients to present the simplest, most credible version of events because, more often than not, juries are looking for whom to believe and an accident victim who tells the truth will be believed more often than the negligent motorist who caused the accident if the latter is trying to stretch the truth.

What Questions Does the Jury Answer Regarding Negligence in Apportioning Fault and Awarding Damages?

The threshold question that the jury answers in filling out the verdict form is whether the defendant, the party being sued, was negligent and whether that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  If the jury checks yes to this question, then it will reach the next issue, which is whether the victim him or herself was negligent.  The jury also will assign fault to each one.  If it determines that the other driver had a hand in causing your injuries and his negligence was the legal cause of loss or injury to you, then you will be able to recover against that driver for your injuries.  This is true whether the other driver is found to be 5% responsible or 95% responsible for the accident and the victim’s subsequent injuries.  Whereas in states like Virginia, where there is a complete bar to recovery if the jury finds the victim even 1% at fault, Florida allows you to recover whatever percentage of your damages were the other driver’s fault.  This means that if the other driver is 50% responsible, you recover 50% of your damages from him or her.

What Do Juries Actually Do if the Parties Dispute Who Was at Fault in An Accident?

Juries often are looking to do the right thing and they generally are able to quickly to grasp what attorneys sometimes may consider to be an extremely complicated motor vehicle accident case.  After all, South Florida is built around the use of motor vehicles, so virtually every juror will have some familiarity with what can go wrong on the road to result in an accident.  Therefore, if an accident victim comes across as not believable, then the jury often will punish him or her by either finding that a large proportion of the particular accident was that person’s fault or else by punishing him or her when it comes to the award that the jury makes to the victim.  The same is true of a defendant who tries to blame everything on the victim when it is the defendant who also was responsible for causing the accident and the victim’s injuries as a result of that accident.

To put it simply, if the motorist with most of the blame for an accident walks to the witness stand and blames the entire thing on an accident victim who limps to the stand as a result of his or her injuries, then there is little question who the jury will believe.  This ultimately will also be reflected in the award the jury makes as well as its findings as to who was responsible for what proportion of the plaintiff’s damages in connection with a motor vehicle accident caused by someone’s negligence.

Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A.

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 in Florida.  During that time, we have tried hundreds of cases.  Our experienced attorneys know how to make our clients come across as not only sympathetic but also credible and, most importantly, believable to juries.  If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident due to the negligence of another Florida motorist, you have the right under Florida law to receive compensation for your injuries, including the payment for any medical treatment you need to undergo as a result of those injuries, compensation for your pain and suffering as a result of those injuries, and other damages.  Therefore, if you, a family member, or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident 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.