Jennifer A. Burns, of Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett explains that the rule of “comparative negligence” could limit or block the personal injury damages. An example of this is in the news concerning the amount of damages comedian Tracy Morgan is entitled to receive following his tragic accident involving a Walmart truck.
The June 7 six-car pileup on the New Jersey Turnpike that severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed a fellow passenger remained in the headlines, most recently due to Walmart’s claim in court papers that Morgan's injuries, sustained after a Walmart truck driver rear-ended his limousine, were allegedly "caused, in whole or in part, by plaintiffs' failure to properly wear an appropriate available seat belt restraint device." The case is Morgan v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 14-cv-4388, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton). Walmart’s defense is known in the legal world as a contributory negligence or comparative negligence defense.
In Florida, the theory of comparative negligence could impact a personal injury victim’s compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages following an automobile or trucking accident. Section 768.81 of the 2014 Florida Statutes, states that, “in a negligence action, the court shall enter judgment against each party liable on the basis of such party’s percentage of fault.” This means that if an injured driver or passenger contributed to the severity of his injuries by not wearing a seatbelt, the amount of damages he may recover may be reduced based on the percentage of fault attributed to him. For example, if a victim suffered injuries worth $100,000 in a trucking accident, but was 10% at fault during the accident, the value of his claim may be reduced to $90,000.
Jennifer A. Burns states, “comparative negligence comes into play most often when negotiating settlements with insurance companies.” Burns notes that when multiple parties are found to have contributed in some way to an automobile accident, the insurance policies of each party are subject to claims. A skilled personal injury attorney can help victims of trucking and automobile accidents evaluate the impact of their own carelessness on the value of their claim, review the relevant insurance policies to determine the best approach and options for pursuing claims, and negotiate with insurance adjusters to obtain the maximum compensation for their injuries.