Can Intoxicated Plaintiffs Still Recover in Florida Car Accident Lawsuits?

Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida personal injury case requiring the court to decide whether an accident victim could still recover for their injuries when they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the accident occurred. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff appealed a trial court decision that found him unable to recover any damages after being injured in a motor vehicle accident because he was under the influence of an alcoholic beverage at the time. As required by law, the trial jury apportioned liability amongst the plaintiff and defendant. They assigned 55 percent negligence to the plaintiff and 45 percent negligence to the defendant.

Generally, Florida is considered a “pure comparative” negligence state. In pure comparative negligence states, plaintiffs can recover compensation from another party, unless the plaintiff is the only one to blame for the accident. In theory, this means that a plaintiff can recover compensation for their injuries even if they are 99 percent at fault. However, their proportionate level of fault reduces the total damage award. The “drug and alcohol” defense, contained in Florida Statutes section 768.36, is an exception to this general rule.

In such cases, the court can preclude the plaintiff’s recovery if the defendant can establish that the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault for the accident and their injury occurred when they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol or their blood or breath alcohol level was .08 or higher. Most importantly, the jury must also find that the influence of the alcoholic beverage or drug caused the plaintiff to be more than 50 percent at fault for their injuries. Each of these requirements must be met for the defense to apply.

In the case above, the trial court applied this defense and found that recovery should be barred entirely. The plaintiff appealed this decision arguing that although the jury found that the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault and that his blood-alcohol level was higher than .08, they did not specify that this influence caused him to be more than 50 percent at fault for his injuries. The appellate court ultimately reversed the decision because the defendant failed to show that the plaintiff’s intoxication was the reason why he was found to be at fault for the accident.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Florida motor vehicle accident, you should contact the dedicated attorneys at Frankl Kominsky. Our experienced West Palm Beach injury attorneys are experienced in all areas of Florida personal injury law, and understand the unique challenges facing accident victims. We can help you understand what your rights are and what potential remedies you may be entitled to. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. Contact the office today at (561) 660-9562 to schedule your free initial consultation. Calling is risk-free, because we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. You can also contact us online.