Florida Court Explains Drug and Alcohol Defense in Motorcycle Accident Case

One of the defenses commonly asserted in vehicle accident cases is that the plaintiff’s negligence caused the accident and therefore, the plaintiff should not be able to recover damages. Under Florida law, however, even if a plaintiff is at fault, in most cases he or she can still recover damages. There are certain exceptions to this rule, such as instances where the plaintiff was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A Florida appellate court recently vacated a verdict in favor of the defendant in a case involving a motorcycle accident, finding that the trial court erred in applying a statute that barred the plaintiff’s recovery due to the use of drugs or alcohol. If you were involved in a South Florida motorcycle accident, it is important to retain an attorney who can anticipate any obstacles or hurdles to your recovery and provide you with strong arguments in support of your claim.

Trial Court and Jury Findings

There was a multi-vehicle accident on a highway in South Florida. The defendant reportedly made a left turn to avoid the accident, and moved in front of the plaintiff’s motorcycle, causing the plaintiff to be thrown from the motorcycle. The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendant, alleging the defendant’s negligence caused him to sustain personal injuries. Following a trial, the jury found the defendant forty-five percent liable for the accident and the plaintiff fifty-five percent liable. The trial court then applied a drug or alcohol statute that barred plaintiff’s recovery of damages. The plaintiff appealed.

Exceptions to Florida’s Pure Comparative Negligence Statute

Florida has adopted a pure comparative negligence statute. As such, even if a plaintiff is partially at fault for causing an accident, he or she may still recover damages. Any damages awarded are subsequently reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s negligence. There are exceptions to the rule allowing a negligent plaintiff to recover damages, however.

One such exception is set forth in Section 768.36, Florida Statutes. This exception establishes a drug or alcohol defense, which bars a plaintiff’s recovery in the entirety if certain factors are met. First, it must be proven that the plaintiff’s blood alcohol level was .08 or higher at the time of the accident or that the plaintiff’s normal function was impaired due to the influence of alcohol or drugs. Then, it must be shown that due to the influence of drugs or alcohol, the plaintiff was more than fifty percent at fault for the harm he or she sustained.

In the subject case, the plaintiff’s blood alcohol level was .08 or higher at the time of the incident, and the jury found that the plaintiff’s fault in causing the accident was greater than fifty percent. The jury did not find, however, that the plaintiff’s fault was caused by his consumption of alcohol, as required under the statute. Therefore, the court found that the trial court erred in applying the statute, and remanded the case with a directive for the trial court to enter a judgment awarding the plaintiff damages.

Meet with a Proficient South Florida Motorcycle Accident Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you suffered harm due to a motorcycle accident in South Florida, you should meet with a proficient South Florida motorcycle accident attorney to discuss the facts of your case and what compensation you may be able to recover. At Donaldson & Weston our South Florida personal injury attorneys will gather facts and evidence to help you develop strong arguments in favor of your recovery, and will work tirelessly to help you seek a favorable result. You can contact us at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Rules Comparative Negligence Statute Applies Retroactively,South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, January 28, 2019