Florida law enforcement agencies issued nearly 195,000 citations for careless or negligent driving in 2019. Negligent driving is far more than a simple traffic citation, however.
Being cited for negligent driving can have far-reaching consequences. Never is this more true than when negligent drivers are involved in accidents.
Keep reading now to learn what every Floridian needs to know about negligent driving.
What Is Negligent Driving?
By law, negligent driving is defined as:
- Failure to exercise reasonable care
- Failure to exercise the amount of care that a reasonable individual would in a given set of circumstances
- Doing something that no reasonable person would have done in the same circumstances
- Failing to prevent a problem or incident when possible
Under these criteria, negligence can take many forms. Common examples include:
- Driving while distracted
- Running a red light
- Failing to maintain a vehicle in good working order
- Driving at dangerously high speeds or racing on public roads
- Failure to try to avoid an accident if you see one coming
Some types of accidents are considered negligence by default. For example, rear-ending another vehicle is almost always considered negligent driving and the fault of the driver doing the rear-ending.
Negligence is most often a matter for civil courts but, in cases such as drinking and driving incidents, it can be charged as a crime.
Generally speaking, there are three legal approaches to negligence.
- Some states do not consider negligence at all
- Some states use the contributory negligence doctrine
- Some states use a comparative negligence doctrine
In states where it is not considered, negligence has no bearing on the outcome of legal cases or liability. Under the contributory negligence doctrine, any party who contributed to an accident in any way has no legal standing to sue any other party for damages.
Florida law, however, follows the comparative negligence doctrine. This means that all parties to an accident may sue other involved parties but still remain responsible for their own negligence.
So, for example, imagine that you are in a car accident. You were driving faster than you should have been and could not stop in time to prevent an accident when the other party ran a red light. The court decides that you are 5 percent responsible and the other driver was 95 percent responsible.
In this case, you are both at fault but you are free to sue the other driver for their part in causing the accident. Due to your negligence, you can only sue for up to 95 percent of what you would be entitled to if you had played no part in causing the accident.
One of the natural outcomes of the comparative negligence doctrine is that whenever an accident occurs, both sides usually seek to prove the other was somehow negligent. This reduces their own liability and the total potential compensatory damages they may have to pay. It also reduces the likelihood that they will have to pay punitive damages.
Negligent Driving and Bicycle Accidents
Thanks to their inherent beauty and bike-friendliness, Florida cities like Boca Raton have an abundance of bikers. Residents and visitors alike turn to bikes as a healthy, fun, and inexpensive way to get around.
Unfortunately, Florida also has the highest rate of bicyclist fatalities of any state in the nation. In fact, Florida bikers are almost three times more likely to die in an accident than bikers elsewhere in the country. Many of the deaths and injuries bikers sustain in crashes are the result of negligent driving.
What does this mean for bicyclists?
Bicyclists Need to Protect Themselves
First, it means that bikers need to take steps to protect themselves. In the event of a crash, the driver of the vehicle involved and their insurance company will likely attempt to claim negligence on the part of the bicyclist to reduce their own liability. If they are successful, bikers may not be able to sue for the full compensatory and punitive damages they deserve.
As a result, bikers should protect themselves by:
- Keeping their bicycle and gear in good working order
- Wearing a helmet
- Wearing bright or reflective gear after dark or in poor visibility conditions
- Following all applicable laws about where and how to ride, such as following the flow of traffic
- Consulting an attorney immediately if they are in a bike accident
- Not providing information to or accepting offers from the other party’s insurance until after speaking with a lawyer post-accident
Consulting an attorney versed in accident law will help you protect your rights.
Bicyclists Need to Prove Negligence
The second thing that bikers in areas like Pembroke Pines and Key Biscayne need to understand about Florida’s comparative negligence laws is that they cannot just claim negligence in court. In civil cases, such as suing over bicycle accidents, it is the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove negligence.
Proving negligence can involve:
- Showing that the driver was cited for a traffic violation
- Showing that the driver broke a traffic law, even if they were not cited
- Showing that the vehicle involved was improperly maintained
- Providing evidence of excessive speed, recklessness, or distraction
Understandably, this can be challenging. In many cases, it is impossible for bicyclists who were injured during the accident.
Bikers planning on suing for negligence need to hire an experienced attorney to help them. On their clients’ behalf, attorneys can:
- Collect and review witness statements
- Review footage from nearby traffic and security cameras
- Review photos of the scene and pick out relevant evidence
- Arrange for an accident reconstruction
- Prevent clients from being accused of negligence or brushed off by insurance companies
If the case goes to court, the attorney will know how to prove negligence to court standards. Often, however, attorneys are able to keep cases out of court while still securing bikers the settlements they deserve.
If you are in a bicycle accident, don’t underestimate the impact that proving negligent driving can have on the outcome of your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how our experienced team can help you get the compensation you deserve after an accident.