Comparative negligence is a legal principle used in personal injury cases to determine the degree of fault and liability among multiple parties involved in an accident. Under this principle, the responsibility for the crash and damages is assigned based on the proportionate fault of each party involved. This means that if you’re partly to blame for the accident, the compensation you receive will be reduced by your portion of the blame.
Within the United States, each state has its own approach to handling comparative negligence, and Florida follows a modified comparative negligence system. Under this system, the injured party can still seek compensation even if they are partially at fault for the accident. However, their recovery may be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to them.
In Florida, the modified comparative negligence law follows the “50 Percent Bar Rule.” According to this rule, you can recover damages as long as your fault does not exceed 50 percent. If the courts determine that you are 50 percent or more to blame for the crash, you cannot recover any damages. However, if your fault is less than 50%, your recovery will be proportionately reduced.
Real-World Example of Modified Comparative Negligence Law in Florida
To better understand how Florida’s modified comparative negligence law works, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario involving a car accident.
Suppose that Sarah and John are involved in a collision at an intersection. Sarah was driving over the speed limit, but John ran a red light. As a result of the accident, Sarah suffers injuries and incurs medical expenses. She decides to file a personal injury lawsuit against John, seeking compensation for her damages.
During the legal proceedings, the court determined that Sarah’s speeding contributed 20% to the accident, while John’s running of the red light contributed 80%. Under Florida’s modified comparative negligence law, Sarah’s recovery will be reduced by her assigned percentage of fault.
Suppose that the court awarded Sarah $100,000 in damages. Given that Sarah was found to be 20% at fault, her recovery will be reduced by this percentage. Therefore, she will be eligible to receive 80% of the total damages, which is $80,000. The remaining 20% ($20,000) will be deducted from her recovery to account for her level of fault.
In this example, Florida’s modified comparative negligence law allows Sarah to seek compensation for her injuries and damages, despite being partially at fault. However, her recovery is adjusted to reflect her degree of responsibility for the accident. If Sarah’s fault had exceeded 50%, according to the “50% Bar Rule,” she would have been completely barred from recovering any damages.
This example illustrates how Florida’s modified comparative negligence law works in a real-world scenario. It emphasizes the importance of determining the proportionate fault of each party involved in an accident and understanding how it impacts the amount of compensation that can be awarded.
Florida’s Prior Pure Comparative Negligence Law vs. Current Modified Comparative Negligence Law
In the past, Florida followed a pure comparative negligence system, which differed from the current modified comparative negligence system in several significant ways. Here’s a comparison between the two.
Pure Comparative Negligence
Under this system, pure comparative negligence permitted injured parties to recover damages even if they were predominantly at fault. Regardless of the fault attributed to the injured party, they were entitled to recover damages. However, their recovery would be reduced according to their assigned percentage of fault.
Modified Comparative Negligence
In the modified comparative negligence system, fault is still allocated based on percentages, but with the “50% Bar Rule” in place. If the injured party’s fault is 50% or more, they are barred from recovering any damages. The modified system is more restrictive. It aims to prevent parties with significant fault from obtaining compensation.
How is Fault Determined in a Personal Injury Case?
In personal injury cases, insurance companies and attorneys will try to determine who is to blame for the accident. Sometimes, there is little question about who caused the accident and the injuries. However, opposing parties do not always agree on who caused the crash. When this occurs, the court will play a crucial role in determining fault. They are responsible for evaluating the evidence presented by both parties and deciding the degree of negligence or fault of each party involved. The court will listen to witness testimonies, examine physical evidence, and consider expert opinions to assess the sequence of events leading to the accident and the actions or omissions contributing to it. Based on their evaluation, the Florida courts will assign a percentage of fault to each party involved in the case.
In general, the courts will consider three main factors when determining fault:
- Duty of Care: The first step in assessing fault is establishing whether the defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party. For example, in a car accident, all drivers must operate their vehicles safely and follow traffic laws.
- Breach of Duty: Your Florida personal injury legal team must show that the defendant breached their duty of care. This involves showing that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care, such as driving recklessly, ignoring safety regulations, or engaging in negligent actions that directly caused the injury.
- Causation: The plaintiff must establish a causal connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the injury sustained. It must be shown that the defendant’s actions or negligence directly harmed the plaintiff.
How Can an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney Help?
After an accident, insurance companies may employ various tactics to minimize their financial obligations. They may pressure you into accepting a low settlement offer or attempt to exploit any inconsistencies in your statements to undermine your claim. Hiring an attorney after an accident is the best way to protect your future. An attorney is your advocate, ensuring your rights are protected, and you receive fair treatment and compensation.
Dealing with insurance companies can be challenging, especially when they are looking to minimize payouts. They often try to reduce their liabilities by shifting blame onto injured accident victims. Your lawyer won’t let insurance companies put more of the blame back on you.
Attorneys are skilled negotiators who can engage in discussions with insurance adjusters on your behalf. They have experience in assessing the value of your claim, considering factors such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future damages. They’ll fight aggressively to protect your rights and build a case that clearly establishes liability after your crash.
Contact Our Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you or someone you love suffers an injury in an accident, you need a law firm to fight for you and what you deserve. At Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA, our personal injury attorneys handle cases like yours with the compassion and tenacity you deserve.
When you win – we win. It’s that simple. We don’t collect a fee unless we can win or settle your case. Ask us about our contingency fee arrangement. Call Prosper Shaked at (305) 694-2676 for a free case evaluation. Together we can seek justice and get you the compensation you need – and deserve.