Millions of residents, vacationers, and business visitors in Florida rely on ridesharing services like Uber. The company itself reports contributing $1.1 billion in gross state product to Florida’s economy – and that doesn’t even include the UbeEATS branch of the business. But those who rely on Uber and other rideshare services should understand how the state’s new comparative fault standard may impact their Palm Beach personal injury claims.
Let’s start by explaining what comparative fault is, and how it’s changed in Florida in the last year.
Comparative fault in principle is the idea that everyone should be responsible for his or her own wrongdoing. So if you’re injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver but your injuries were exacerbated by the fact that you were speeding, the drunk driver would not necessarily be 100% liable to pay for your damages. A finding of comparative fault proportionally reduces damage awards to whatever extent the plaintiff is responsible for their own injuries. So if there is a finding of 20% comparative fault due to your speeding, you can only collect up to 80% of your total damage awards.
Different states have different rules about how comparative fault is applied. Prior to last year, Florida followed a pure comparative fault model. That means that even if you were 99% at fault for your own injuries, you could still collect the remaining 1% of damages from the other at-fault party. Obviously that wouldn’t be an ideal scenario, as it would dramatically reduce your damage award. But the idea with a pure comparative fault model is that a person who is 45% responsible for causing an accident shouldn’t be off the hook completely simply because the person hurt was 55% responsible.
Florida was in the minority of states with its pure comparative fault model, but that changed last year when the legislature amended F.S. 768.81. Now, Florida is a modified comparative fault state with a 51% bar. This means that if a plaintiff is more than 50% responsible for their own injuries, their entire claim gets tossed.
As Palm Beach car accident attorneys, we have always taken the issue of comparative fault seriously in our crash cases, but now, the stakes are incredibly high.
What does this have to do with Uber passengers? What possible liability can a passenger have if they aren’t the one driving?
A passenger could potentially be comparatively liable for a Florida Uber accident if:
- The passenger took control. If you touch the steering wheel, brakes, gear shifts, or any other mechanical part of the car, you may be comparatively liable.
- The passenger enabled or encouraged the driver to be reckless. If you pressure a driver to speed, encourage them to race, or egg them on in a road rage situation, that could be the basis for a comparative fault finding.
- The passenger incapacitated the driver. If you interfered with the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely (i.e., covering their eyes, using dangerous verbal distractions, tugging at their clothes, etc.), this could be incapacitating to the driver.
- The passenger distracted the driver. Even just talking to the driver, attempting to show them directions or a video, shouting about an outside occurrence, could be the basis for a finding of comparative fault.
- The passenger wasn’t wearing a seat belt. This one often takes folks by surprise because it’s almost never the cause of an accident. However, if it contributes to the extent of your injuries, lack of a seat belt could be grounds for a finding of comparative negligence that may reduce your damage award. It’s a good reminder to wear your seat belt every single time.
Drivers are responsible to avoid passenger-related distractions, but a passenger who intentionally or carelessly distracts the driver might be found comparatively liable.
Uber’s liability insurance coverage limits are larger than standard car insurance limits. Passengers of an Uber actively engaged in a contracted ride may be entitled to collect up to $1 million. But it also depends on whether other drivers were involved/at-fault. Because of the high stakes and potential complications, anyone injured in a Florida Uber accident should consult with an experienced injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Personal Injury: What Will I Get if I Win My Case? American Bar Association
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