Frequently Asked Questions - What is Automobile Negligence?
Automobile negligence is essentially the failure to operate a vehicle in a reasonable and safe manner. Distracted driving is regarded as anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road or your hands off of your steering wheel. You have a duty of reasonable care when you get behind the wheel to drive the speed limit, keep your eyes on the road, avoid distractions and stop for all traffic control devices. Florida Statute 316.1925 states “Any person operating a vehicle upon the streets or highways within the state shall drive the same in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic and all other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person. Failure to drive in such manner shall constitute careless driving and a violation of this section”. Anyone charged with careless driving can be punished by fines, points on your license, or possible suspension of your license. A careless driving charge is a civil traffic offense in the State of Florida; however, a reckless driving charge is a criminal traffic offense. Florida Statute §316.192 states “Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving”. A reckless driving charge can be punishable by minor jail time and fines. If you are charged with reckless driving involving a fatality or serious bodily injury, this can be punishable by significant jail time, large fines and restitution to the victims family. Failure to use due care while operating a motor vehicle has severe consequences as you could be putting not only your own life in danger but the lives of all those around you.
Cell phone use is the number one cause of automobile negligence not only in the State of Florida but in the entire nation. Over a million automobile accidents are attributed to drivers talking on the phone and over 300,000 are attributed to driving while texting every single year nationwide. Texting is the number one cause of distracted driver fatalities in the State of Florida according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The most common source of cell phone use while driving comes from teen drivers. This as well as the lack of driving experience can prove fatal in a significant amount of teen driver accidents. Some states have banned hand held cell phone use for this very reason. Several large companies also have strict rules in place banning their employees from using a cell phone while driving a company vehicle.
Distracted drivers are extremely common in the state of Florida due to the amount of tourists that visit our state each year. A large number of accidents in Florida are caused by tourists paying more attention to their navigation system than the road in front of them. As Florida’s population grows, so does the amount of vehicles on the road. Maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and paying attention to the road is a great way to avoid automobile negligence. If you are following too closely and the vehicle in front of you brakes suddenly, you are required to be a safe enough distance away so that you have time to stop too. The majority of automobile accidents are rear end accidents which could have easily been avoided by leaving enough space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. 90% of all rear end accidents result in a citation for careless driving and a fine. Another contribution to automobile negligence is driving under the influence. DUI is an offence in the State of Florida resulting in fines and even jail time and Florida has the highest DUI rate in the entire nation. It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level at or above 0.08% and it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive with any amount of alcohol in their system, no matter how small.
Florida has implemented a law known as comparative negligence. This means that if you are involved in an automobile accident where someone runs into your vehicle, you can ultimately be deemed partially at fault for a number of contributing reasons, including but not limited to speeding which is the most common factor. If someone merges into your lane but you were found to be speeding and you both collide, both drivers can be held liable for the accident. In that case, both insurance companies will be responsible for paying only a portion of each claim. You can be held liable anywhere from 1% - 99% at fault for the accident, depending on the severity of each parties negligence. Both insurance companies will determine the amount of comparative negligence each party should be awarded and will proceed with partial payment of your claim based on the percentage of comparative negligence you are found to be at fault for. If you are found to be 100% liable for an accident, no matter if you are charged with negligent driving or not, you are forever barred from recovering any type of compensation.
Florida public school systems have implemented several programs to help educate young drivers and to raise awareness about the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone or being distracted period. Florida Highway Patrol has also created several awareness programs throughout the state to keep drives informed and safe. As technology advances, car manufacturers have also begun installing hands free voice activated technology in new vehicles. They have also devised technology to help parents by allowing them to control the settings for young drivers by only allowing a set music volume, turning off the radio if the seatbelt is not fastened and not allowing the driver to operate any of the settings while the vehicle is in motion. According to Florida Highway Patrol, this new technology has already reduced auto negligence accidents by a fraction and with technology advancing, more and more lives will be saved.