Every state in the U.S. has different laws pertaining to civil claims between private parties. When one party causes injuries and economic damages to another due to negligence or an intentional tort, the injured party can seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Most states follow some form of comparative negligence law, meaning that both parties in a civil lawsuit could potentially absorb fault if both parties contributed to causing the claimed damages.
Florida uses a pure comparative negligence law, and if you expect to participate in a personal injury lawsuit in Florida in the near future, you should know what this law could mean for your claim. Unlike states that follow contributory negligence laws and prohibit partially liable claimants from recovering any compensation at all, comparative negligence laws are a bit more flexible.
How Does Comparative Negligence Work?
Imagine a person gets in a car accident while going slightly over the speed limit, but the other driver was intoxicated and clearly caused the crash. The investigation shows that the injured driver was traveling faster than the posted speed limit, and the jury reviewing the case decides this constitutes partial fault for causing the accident. In this example, the injured driver’s fault is minimal, but it may still have a significant impact on his or her final settlement or case award.
In a modified comparative fault state, the speeding injured driver would still receive compensation through a personal injury claim, but he or she would lose a percentage of the award equal to his or her fault percentage. If he or she was 25% at fault, he or she loses 25% of the award. Modified comparative negligence states cap plaintiff fault at 50%, or less than that of the defendant or the combined fault of multiple defendants. If the plaintiff’s fault exceeds 50% or that of the defendant’s, the plaintiff cannot recover.
Under the pure comparative negligence law in Florida, the plaintiff’s negligence does not have any threshold to meet for the plaintiff to receive compensation; he or she may still claim damages even if his or her fault exceeds the defendant’s. However, it is not always wise to pursue a claim under such circumstances; doing so could open the plaintiff up to a counter-claim from the defendant, and the potential recovery after losing a portion to reflect his or her fault percentage would likely be less than the cost of legal fees for pursuing the claim.
Limiting Your Comparative Negligence
If you have any type of car accident in Florida or suffer injuries in any other situation in which fault is not immediately clear, you should speak with an attorney to discuss your potential liability and what you can do to maximize your recovery. When it comes to car accidents, traffic camera footage, car computer data, phone records, and eyewitness statements tend to be the most supportive evidence. Your attorney may be able to help you minimize the amount of fault you absorb for the accident, thereby increasing your overall recovery.
In any personal injury claim, you must identify the party responsible for your damages, prove that party violated the duty of care for the situation in question, and provide evidence that establishes the full extent of your damages. Additionally, you must prove your damages resulted from the other party’s negligence and not some other cause. In a comparative negligence case, the “other cause” is essentially your own negligence or contribution to causing the claimed damages. Florida’s pure comparative negligence statute will not prevent you from recovering after an accident, but it will reduce the amount of compensation you win from the case.