It may seem like car drivers are always responsible when they hit a motorcycle rider. Riders are more vulnerable and exposed to the elements, whereas drivers are safely tucked away in steel boxes.
Legally, the safety of a vehicle plays no part in the outcome of a lawsuit. Courts use negligence models, which can force each person in an accident to share the blame.
The civil justice system acknowledges that everyone has a part to play in an auto accident. Two different drivers are expected to follow the same traffic laws and be at the same level of competence and awareness. This is why personal injury cases use different methods to compensate plaintiffs. In the U.S., states use either contributory negligence or comparative negligence models.
Only four states still use the contributory negligence model. Some criticize it for being inflexible. Essentially, after the court hears both sides of the argument, it decides who is more at fault for the accident. If the judge determines that the plaintiff is more responsible for their own injuries, the defendant’s legal team can then file a counterclaim, dismissing the whole case. The result is a system where the plaintiff has rewarded the entirety of the damages or nothing at all.
The rest of the country uses a comparative negligence model, Florida included. Some see it as a fairer system because it can award something to the plaintiff, if not everything.
Under this model, the judge will assign a direct percentage of blame to each person in the case, totaling 100%. For example, the judge can say that the plaintiff was 20% responsible for their injuries, and the defendant was 80% responsible, totaling 100% responsibility.
For example, Jason was out riding his motorcycle. He thought he was going to make the yellow light, but it turned red just as he was at the line. Fearing an injury from stopping too quickly, he gunned his engine and barely ran the red light. Bruce was at the intersecting traffic light. As soon as his light turned green, he sped through the intersection in his fast sports car. He hit Jason directly, breaking many of Jason’s bones and destroying the motorcycle.
Jason is now suing Bruce for damages. The judge rules that Jason is 60% responsible for his injuries because he ran a red light. Bruce, however, should not have sped through the intersection, so he is 40% responsible.
In most comparative negligence states, this would leave Jason without any compensation. They operate on the “above 50” rule, declaring that if a plaintiff is 51% or more liable for their own injuries, they will receive no reward from the defendant. Florida does not use the 51% rule.
Pure Comparative Negligence in Florida
In comparative negligence states, the plaintiff receives a percentage of the total compensation. This percentage is equal to the defendant’s percentage of the responsibility. If the defendant is 75% responsible for the injuries, the plaintiff receives 75% of the total compensation.
In pure comparative negligence, the plaintiff can receive a percentage of the total damages, even if they were 99% responsible for their own accident. Using the example from above, let’s look at how much money Jason would receive.
The Judge ruled that the total compensation is $20,000.
- Bruce, the defendant, is 40% responsible for the accident.
- Jason, the plaintiff, is 60% responsible.
- Jason can receive $8,000 dollars in damages, or 40%, which is equal to Bruce’s percent of the liability.
- If the judge ruled that Jason was 99% responsible, he could receive $200, or 1%.
Ask an Attorney About Your Injuries
An inherent risk in any comparative negligence lawsuit is the possibility of a countersuit. If the plaintiff is found more responsible for an accident, the defendant could use that against them. If the defendant suffered injuries, they could claim that the plaintiff was responsible and countersue.
Talk to a lawyer about the specifics of your accident. They can go over the facts and help you determine if a lawsuit is worth pursuing. Even if you are likely to be held more responsible, attorneys can help you fight to recover a substantial sum of money. They can argue the specifics of your accident in an attempt to prove that you still deserve some compensation.
Financial compensation comes in the form of “damages.” Essentially, you want to recover money for the damages you’ve suffered. They could be financial damages, such as medical bills. If you’ve lost work, you can ask the court to recover that lost income. Severe injuries can change the kind of work you’re able to do, meaning you can seek damages for lost future earnings. You can also seek damages in the form of pain and suffering, where you’re claiming that you need compensation for the trauma you’ve experienced.
If you’ve been hurt in a motorcycle accident, we are here to help. With years of experience, our attorneys can assist in guiding you through complex comparative negligence laws. We can be reached online or at (941) 960-7225.