How Florida’s Comparative Fault Rule Could Impact Your Auto Accident Claim
Comparative fault, also known as comparative negligence, is a legal principle that is used to determine the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover in a negligence-based claim, based on the degree of fault that is assigned to each party involved in the incident.
Simply put, it’s a method of dividing responsibility for an accident among each party involved. Each party is assigned a percentage of fault, and any damages awarded are adjusted in proportion to that fault.
There are two main types of comparative fault systems:
- Pure Comparative Fault: In a pure comparative fault system, a plaintiff can recover damages even if they are found to be 99% at fault for the accident. The plaintiff’s damages are simply reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages, but they are found to be 50% at fault, they would receive $50,000.
- Modified Comparative Fault: In a modified comparative fault system, a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages is limited if they are found to be equally (50/50) or more at fault than the other parties. The exact threshold varies by state. Some states bar recovery if the plaintiff is 50% at fault (known as a “50% bar rule”), while others bar recovery if the plaintiff is 51% or more at fault (known as a “51% bar rule”).
This principle allows the courts to acknowledge that often in accidents, more than one party has contributed to the event and resulting damages. Therefore, it’s a way to allocate responsibility and damages more equitably.
Understanding Florida’s Comparative Fault Rule
Historically, Florida operated under a pure comparative negligence system. This approach allowed an injured party (the plaintiff) to recover damages proportionate to the defendant’s share of responsibility, regardless of the plaintiff’s own degree of fault. However, a significant shift in the law occurred on March 24, 2023.
Florida now follows a modified comparative negligence system. Under this rule, a plaintiff can still recover damages in proportion to the defendant’s share of fault, but there’s a critical caveat. If the plaintiff is found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the accident, they are barred from recovering any damages.
The Impact on Your Auto Accident Claim
So, how could Florida’s new comparative fault rule affect your auto accident claim? It’s all about the distribution of blame. If you’re involved in an accident, both you and the other driver(s) involved will be assessed for any contributing negligence.
For example, if another driver ran a red light and hit your car, but you were speeding, a court might find that you’re 20 percent responsible for the accident. In this case, under Florida’s modified comparative negligence rule, you could still recover damages, but your compensation would be reduced by your share of the fault. If your damages total $100,000, you would receive $80,000 after the 20 percent reduction.
However, if the court determines that you were 60 percent at fault—maybe you were excessively speeding and also texting—you would not be able to recover any damages from the other party, even though they shared some blame for the accident.
This new rule underscores the importance of building a strong case that effectively demonstrates the other party’s liability while mitigating your share of the blame.
Legal Support is Crucial
Understanding and applying Florida’s modified comparative negligence rule can be complicated. However, having knowledgeable legal counsel by your side can make a significant difference in your case. An experienced attorney can help present your case in the most favorable light, working to emphasize the other party’s liability and reduce your percentage of fault.
With over 25 years of experience in personal injury law, including notable victories in complex auto accident cases, the Stuart, Florida personal injury law firm, Lance P. Richard, P.A. is well-positioned to help you navigate Florida’s modified comparative negligence system. Leveraging his extensive understanding of Florida laws and courts, Attorney Lance Richard can guide you through the legal process and advocate for your rights and interests.
If you have been involved in an auto accident in Florida, contact Lance P. Richard, P.A., for a consultation and case evaluation. Let us put our experience to work for you.