No matter how obvious it may be that the other driver was at fault, you still have to prove your case. In addition, the other party has an opportunity to tell their side of the story - a version of events that may be quite unexpected. If you need to pursue a legal claim, you should be prepared for challenges along the way. A knowledgeable auto accident attorney can help you navigate those challenges and get the compensation you need to make a full recovery from your accident.
One of the most common ways to defend against claims is to simply deny liability. Strictly speaking, this is not a legal defense - they are just requiring you to prove your case. This can be frustrating, perhaps even insulting, if you have suffered a serious injury as a result of the accident. However, it is important to keep in mind that they are under no legal obligation to admit liability. The insurance company can make a determination of liability without their admission, but if they choose not to, you will then have to prove your claim in court. Working with an auto accident lawyer at the very outset of your case will give you the best chance of avoiding litigation and getting the compensation you need as quickly as possible.
Contesting Important Facts
This is closely related to denying liability and is also not a legal defense in the strictest sense. Regardless, a dispute over fundamental facts can prevent your case from settling and may require leaving it in the hands of the jury. An auto accident lawyer can help you gather the important facts as well as the evidence you will need to corroborate those facts so that your claim is as strong as possible.
Statute of Limitations
This is a legal defense but is somewhat unique in that it does not necessarily need to be raised by the defendant - it can also be raised by the court. The statute of limitations is the deadline by which you must file your case with the relevant court. If you have not filed a lawsuit prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, your case will be time-barred. This means that you cannot proceed with your lawsuit no matter how strong your case is, how severe your injuries are, or how egregiously negligent the other driver may have been. In addition, insurance companies will not even consider your claim if the statute of limitations has already expired because there is then no legal obligation to pay your claim.
We anticipate a surge in cases where statute of limitations arguments are raised in defense of claims as a result of Florida reducing the statute of limitations from four years to two. If it has been close to two years since your accident occurred, we recommend that you contact an auto accident lawyer as soon as possible even if you are already in discussions with the insurance company.
In raising this defense, the other driver is essentially saying that they did not cause your injury because you were already injured. This defense is typically raised after a lawsuit has been filed and they have subpoenaed your medical records.
Do not panic if you had a prior injury that you re-injured or had a pre-existing injury that was made worse by the accident. Your case is not over, but it will complicate it somewhat. An experienced auto accident lawyer will know how to gather the evidence you need to show precisely how the accident impacted your prior injury and why you are now entitled to compensation. In most cases, the worst-case scenario is that it may reduce the compensation that is awarded to you.
Contributory or Comparative Negligence
Contributory negligence is a defense that argues that the injured party’s own negligence contributed to causing the accident. The “pure” contributory negligence rule bars plaintiffs from receiving any compensation if their own negligence contributed to the accident to any degree whatsoever. In response, many states, including Florida, adopted the “comparative” negligence rule. Under the comparative negligence rule, a plaintiff’s compensation would be reduced by the amount that their negligence contributed to the accident.
As a result of the recent tort reform, however, Florida now follows the “modified” comparative negligence rule. Under the modified comparative negligence rule, plaintiffs who are more than 50% responsible for the accident are barred from recovery. On paper, this may seem fair, but in reality, it can be difficult to apportion fault in such definite terms. In close cases, the modified comparative negligence rule can have disastrous consequences for seriously injured plaintiffs. If you believe that your own negligence may have contributed to the accident, we urge you to involve an auto accident lawyer as soon as possible in order to protect your rights.
How Legal Defenses Work
If the other driver raises a legal defense, there are two things that you need to keep in mind:
- They have to submit evidence to prove the defense; and
- You have the opportunity to submit evidence to challenge the defense.
To put it another way, the burden of proof is on the other driver when it comes to establishing the defense. If they are able to do that, then you have the opportunity to submit evidence that refutes the defense. This is another way that an auto accident attorney can help - they will know whether you can argue that they have failed to meet the burden of proof and what evidence you will need to refute the defense.
Talk to an Auto Accident Attorney at Powell, Powell & Powell Today
If you have been injured in a car accident, we know how to overcome the obstacles and get fair compensation for your injuries. To discuss your case and how we can help you put your accident behind you, contact us today by calling 850-682-2757 to schedule your free consultation.