When an individual sustains an injury in a fall, due to medical malpractice, due to a dog bite, or in any other type of accident, they can seek financial recovery by filing a personal injury claim in the Hillsborough County civil court. In order to prevail in a personal injury claim, a victim must not only identify which person or party was at fault in the accident but must also submit proof of their fault.
Additionally, though Florida has no-fault auto insurance, in cases of serious injury in which a victim’s losses exceed their personal injury protection (PIP) insurance policy, fault can come into play even in car accident cases. This is because a victim who sustained severe injuries will then have the right to bring a legal claim and they will have to prove fault on the part of the opposing party.
Many different parties can be at fault in personal injury cases, including:
- Commercial truck drivers;
- Product manufacturers;
- Property owners;
- Business owners;
- Hotels or resorts;
- Government entities; and
In some cases, it may be fairly clear who was at fault in the accident. For example, if a property owner had a wet floor with no warning sign and someone slipped and fell, the owner of the property can be held liable. However, in other cases, fault is not immediately clear and it may require investigation to determine fault. The following are some examples of how fault is determined in a personal injury claim.
When an injury occurs, it can be helpful to report the occurrence to law enforcement officers. Police will write an official report of the incident, including any evidence of fault that existed. This can help to later determine fault in the accident.
Violations of Safety Laws
It can also be helpful to identify whether any traffic or safety laws were violated to cause or contribute to the accident. For example, if a work site was not meeting safety standards, it may be easier to hold the company at fault for any resulting injuries. If a driver was operating their vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit, that can be extremely helpful in identifying fault if they are then arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).
Following any type of accident, it a victim is able to remain at the scene, it is important to gather as much information as possible from anyone who may have witnessed the accident. Because witnesses are not involved in the accident and are watching from the outside, they can often identify fault easier. Witnesses can also serve as an objective identifier of fault since they will not have a stake in any subsequent injury claim.
In modern times, almost everywhere in public or private businesses has cameras or some sort of technology monitoring the premises. Such surveillance footage can serve as concrete evidence of fault if the accident was caught on camera.
Data and Records
In some cases, it may be important to gather data and records to determine fault. For example, cell phone records can show whether or not a driver was texting at the time of a collision. In addition, the event data recorder of a commercial truck can be analyzed to determine the activity of the truck driver prior to a collision. Truck drivers are also required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to keep records of driving shifts and inspections to ensure they are complying with federal regulations and these records can be helpful to see if a driver violated any safety standards. Similarly, records kept of property and store inspections can indicate whether staff had been inspecting the premises for possible hazards on a regular basis.
In Florida, the rear driver is presumed to be at fault in a rear-end collision unless they can present evidence to the contrary. In this type of case, it is up to the defendant (rear driver) to rebut this presumption of fault.
The above are only some ways that fault can be determined in various personal injury cases. Every case is different and the investigation and evidence needed to determine fault can vary widely depending on the circumstances of a particular case.