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Contributory Fault In Commercial Motor Vehicle Accidents


Commercial motor vehicles (CMV) are involved in many different accidents on Florida roads, due to many different causes from gross negligence to bad luck. If you have been injured in an accident with a CMV, and you suspect negligence on the driver’s part (or the part of their employer), you have the right to seek damages from the party or parties responsible. However, it is worth keeping in mind that sometimes, you may bear a portion of the responsibility for your own injuries. This does not mean that it is pointless to file suit against a negligent driver – but it can reduce your overall recovery, even if you are ultimately successful in establishing liability.

Establishing Negligence Equals Liability

When an accident occurs, determining liability is based on three major criteria in Florida. Road users have a duty to act with reasonable care toward every other road user, and if a lack of care can be shown, that effectively breaches that duty. A plaintiff must show that the breach of the duty of care was the direct cause of the harm they suffered, with no other potential intervening cause. If they can establish these points, they have effectively established negligence as a matter of law, which makes the defendant liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. This is a common-law doctrine, which means that it is established by case precedent rather than statutory law.

The important thing to keep in mind about a standard negligence case is that in order to establish liability, an injured plaintiff does not have to establish negligence to the same standard as in a criminal trial (beyond a reasonable doubt). Rather, they have to establish it by a “preponderance of the evidence” – in other words, it has to be more likely than not that negligence has occurred. If a plaintiff can show that a defendant is more liable than they are for their injuries, the defendant must pay damages to the plaintiff.

The Doctrine Of Comparative Negligence

When they are injured, the average person does not necessarily want to think about the ways in which one might be liable for their own injuries – however, in many accident situations, it is a truism that the plaintiff may have contributed in some way to their own injuries. However, it is crucial to remember that in most cases, this does not mean that they are not entitled to damages. The concept of comparative negligence is one that essentially states that the person who was the most negligent should be on the proverbial hook for damages; as long as that is the defendant in your case, you are entitled to recover.

Florida used to have what was known as a pure comparative negligence statute, which meant that as long as the defendant was at least 1 percent liable, the plaintiff would be able to recover damages. A 2023 change to the law put a modified comparative negligence system in place. The ‘modification’ was establishing that in order to recover, a plaintiff must show that the defendant was 51 percent (or more) liable for their injuries. If a plaintiff is more than 50 percent liable for their own harm, they are not permitted to recover anything at trial.

Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in an accident with a CMV, and you are afraid that part of your injuries can be laid at your door, do not allow this to prevent you from seeking damages. If you have been the victim of another person’s negligence, you have the right to be made whole, even if your recovery might be less than you hope. A Tampa CMV accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can help. Call our office today for a free consultation.



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