Personal injury cases in Florida can be complex and determining who is at fault can often be a challenge. In many cases, multiple parties may share some level of responsibility for an accident or injury. This is where the concept of comparative negligence comes in. Comparative negligence is a legal principle that allows a court to allocate fault among multiple parties and assign damages accordingly.
In Florida, the comparative negligence standard applied before March of 2023 was pure comparative negligence. However, Florida is now a modified comparative negligence state. This article will provide an overview of comparative negligence in Florida, and how it can impact personal injury cases.
What is Pure Comparative Negligence?
Pure comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that allows a court to allocate fault among multiple parties in a personal injury case and assign damages, usually a monetary value, accordingly. Under pure comparative negligence, each party is assigned a percentage of fault based on their actions or omissions that contributed to the accident or injury. The percentage of fault is then used to reduce the amount of damages that the plaintiff can recover.
For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 80% at fault for an accident, and their damages are valued at $100,000, their recovery will be reduced by 80% to $20,000. The other party still has to pay, even though the other party was only 20% at fault for the accident.
Pure comparative negligence is different from other types of comparative negligence standards, such as modified comparative negligence, which can restrict a plaintiff's ability to recover damages if their percentage of fault exceeds a certain threshold. Pure comparative neglience is now only followed in a few states.
What is Modified Comparative Negligence?
Modified comparative negligence is the standard in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. It's a legal principle employed in personal injury cases to allocate responsibility among multiple parties and establish appropriate compensation, generally in the form of monetary damages. Like pure comparative negligence, this doctrine assigns a percentage of fault to each party based on their actions or inaction that contributed to the accident or injury. However, unlike pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence imposes a threshold on the plaintiff's percentage of fault, beyond which they are barred from recovering any damages.
For example, if a jurisdiction follows a 50% modified comparative negligence rule and a plaintiff is found to be 40% at fault for an accident with damages totaling $100,000, their compensation would be reduced by 40%, resulting in a $60,000 award. However, if the plaintiff is deemed to be 50% or more at fault, they would be unable to recover any damages. This is the standard in Georgia and Florida.
In South Carolina, it's a litte different than in Georgia and Florida. Specifically, the watermark is 51%. In other words, the plaintiff must be less than 51% at fault to recover. The overall effect is the same: if you share half of the blame or more for the accident, you may not be able to recover.
Modified comparative negligence is distinct from pure comparative negligence, which allows a plaintiff to recover damages regardless of their percentage of fault, as long as the other party also shares some responsibility for the accident. The modified version of the doctrine imposes limitations on a plaintiff's ability to recover damages, based on the specific threshold set by the jurisdiction.
How Does Comparative Negligence Apply to Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Cases in Florida?
As we talked about earlier, Florida switched from a pure comparative negligence state to a modified comparative negligence state in March of 2023. Under modified comparative negligence, the court will allocate percentages of fault to all liable parties, but a plaintiff cannot recover if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault. In Florida, modified comparative negligence is the standard in cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, slip and falls, and other types of personal injury claims.
Under the new laws in Florida, a plaintiff can recover for the defendant’s negligence only if the plaintiff is 50% at fault or less. This means that even if a plaintiff is found to be 40% at fault for an accident, they can still recover 60% of their damages.
It's worth noting that comparative negligence can also be used to reduce the damages that a defendant must pay to a plaintiff in cases where the plaintiff is partially at fault. In this situation, the defendant's liability is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff. In other words, the more the plaintiff is at fault, the less money the plaintiff will recover.
How is Fault Determined in Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Cases in Florida?
Determining fault in a personal injury case can be a complex process. In most cases, fault is determined by analyzing the actions of each party involved in the accident. This can involve a detailed analysis of the evidence, witness statements, and expert testimony.
In Florida, fault can be allocated to multiple parties involved in an accident, including the plaintiff, the defendant, and any third parties that may have contributed to the accident. This can include other drivers, property owners, or manufacturers of defective products.
The amount of fault each party is assigned can determine the amount of money that party pays or receives. That’s how it works in a comparative negligence state like Florida. Keep in mind, this is very different from contributory negligence states, like Alabama and North Carolina, where a plaintiff may barred from recovery if they are found to be even partially at fault for the accident.
How Can Comparative Negligence Impact Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Cases in Florida?
Comparative negligence can have a significant impact on personal injury cases in Florida. Under this doctrine, fault may be allocated to multiple parties involved in an accident, including the plaintiff. Each liable party will be responsible for a percentage of an award that is equal to the liable party’s percentage of fault.
However, it's important to keep in mind that the plaintiff may also be partially at fault for the accident at issue, and the court's determination of fault can have a significant impact on the amount of damages a plaintiff can ultimately recover. Specifically, if the plaintiff is found to be largely responsible for the accident, their damages may be significantly reduced, even if other parties were also partially at fault.
Comparative negligence can also make personal injury cases more complex, as the court must consider the fault of all parties involved in the accident. This can require a detailed analysis of the evidence and expert testimony, and this can result in lengthy court proceedings.
It's worth noting that comparative negligence can also impact settlement negotiations in personal injury cases. Because fault can be allocated to multiple parties, each party may be reluctant to accept responsibility for the accident. This can make it more difficult to reach a settlement, and it may require the involvement of a mediator or arbitrator.
Overall, comparative negligence can have a significant impact on personal injury cases in Florida. It's important for plaintiffs and defendants alike to understand how fault is determined and how damages are allocated in these types of cases. That way, they can come to negotiations with realistic expectations.
If you have been injured in an accident in Florida, it's important to consult with a skilled personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the legal process. An attorney can provide you with guidance on your legal rights and options and help you negotiate a fair settlement or take your case to trial.
Quick Summary of Content in This Article
Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine that can have a significant impact on personal injury cases in Florida. Under this doctrine, fault is allocated to multiple parties involved in an accident, and damages are reduced based on each party's degree of fault. While this can be beneficial for plaintiffs who are partially at fault for an accident, it can also make cases more complex and require a detailed analysis of the evidence. If you have been injured in an accident in Florida, it's important to consult with a skilled and aggressive personal injury attorney who can help you understand your legal options and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Do You Need a Florida Personal Injury Attorney?
If you have been injured and suffered permanent scarring because of the negligence or carelessness of another party, you should speak with an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer as soon as possible because you may be entitled to compensation. You can contact us online or you can call our Orlando, Florida law office at (321) 352-7588 to schedule your consultation.
If you need a South Carolina personal injury lawyer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (843) 638-6590. We have at least one lawyer licensed in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.