Can an Intoxicated Accident Victim Recover for Their Injuries in a Florida Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Florida law generally allows for an accident victim to recover for their injuries, even if they are partially at fault for causing the accident in which the injuries resulted. In Florida, this concept is known as comparative negligence. Being a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction, Florida accident victims who share responsibility for causing an accident will not be prevented from recovering for their injuries. Instead, accident victims will have their total damages award reduced by their own percentage of fault.

For example, if a party is injured in an accident and sustains $500,000 in damages, and the jury determines that the plaintiff is 20% responsible and the defendant 20% responsible, the plaintiff’s ultimate recovery amount would be $400,000 ($500,000 – (.20 x $500,000)).

If, however, an accident victim is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the collision, Florida’s drug and alcohol exception may apply. Florida Statutes Section 768.36 contains the drug and alcohol exception, which states a plaintiff is prevented from recovering for their injuries if the defendant can show that:

  • The plaintiff was under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the extent that their facilities were impaired (or the plaintiff had a blood-alcohol content of .08 or greater); and
  • As a result of the plaintiff’s intoxication, they were determined to be 50% or more at fault for the accident resulting in their injuries.

Importantly, although it appears that there are only two elements that a defendant must prove to establish the drug and alcohol defense, there are actually three elements. A close reading of the statute indicates that the defendant must not only prove that the plaintiff was intoxicated and that they were more than 50% at fault for the accident, but also that the plaintiff’s intoxication was the reason for his negligence.

In a recent state appellate decision, a lower court’s decision precluding a plaintiff from recovering for their injuries was reversed. In that case, the plaintiff was injured in an accident with the defendant. The defendant presented evidence showing that the plaintiff’s blood-alcohol content was in excess of .08. After trial, the jury determined that the plaintiff was 55% at fault for the accident and the defendant 45% at fault. The jury was not asked to determine if the plaintiff’s intoxication was the reason it found him 55% negligent.

After trial, the defendant sought to preclude the plaintiff’s recovery altogether, arguing that the drug and alcohol defense applied. The trial court agreed. However, on appeal, the case was reversed based on the fact that the jury never made the determination that the plaintiff’s negligence was a result of his intoxication. The court reasoned that the record reflected that there were other facts indicating that the plaintiff may have been negligent that were unrelated to his intoxication.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?

Anyone who has been injured in a Florida car accident and is considering filing a case against any of the other drivers involved should consult with the dedicated Florida injury lawyers at the law firm of Frankl Kominsky. At Frankl Kominsky, we represent injury victims and their families in Florida car accident cases, as well as in other Florida personal injury cases. To learn more, call 561-354-6184 to schedule a free consultation today.