Comparative Negligence Law in Florida Explained
Determining negligence is one of the most difficult aspects of any personal injury case. Accidents are not always strictly the fault of only one party, as more than one individual can contribute to them. To ensure responsibility is distributed fairly, Florida has adopted what is known as the pure comparative negligence theory. Knowing how this theory works can go a long way toward determining what a fair settlement is.
What is Pure Comparative Negligence?
The pure comparative negligence doctrine allows for a settlement to be reduced by the amount the plaintiff is deemed to be negligent. For example, if you are found to be 20% at fault, your damages will then be decreased by that amount. The other party must generally be more than 50% at fault in order for you to prevail.
In order to prove negligence, injured parties must show that:
- The defendant had a duty of care to provide for their safety
- There was a breach of that duty
- The breach directly resulted in the accident
The following is an example of how comparative negligence works. Let’s say Driver A and Driver B are traveling in opposite directions on a two-lane highway. Driver A crosses the center line and hits Driver B head on. At the time of the collision, Driver B was distracted by passengers in the backseat, who caused him to take his eyes off the road momentarily. Driver B is also negligent because he operated while distracted, and could possibly have avoided the accident if he were paying attention.
Courts are likely to rule Driver B partly responsible, and reduce the amount of settlement he receives accordingly. For example, suppose a jury awards damages amounting to $200,000. If Driver B is deemed 20% responsible, his settlement would then be reduced by $40,000, and he would then receive $160,000.
States such as Florida that follow a comparative negligence doctrine allow parties to collect damages even if they are found 99% at fault. In the example above, Driver A could then recover a minimal amount of his own damages, even though he was mostly to blame for the accident.
Modified Comparative Fault
Not all areas follow the pure comparative fault doctrine. Some use the modified comparative fault standard instead, which is broken down into two categories:
*50% bar rule, which prohibits individuals deemed to be 50 percent or more responsible from recovering damages
*51% bar rule, which prohibits anyone found to be 51 percent or more negligent from recovering damages
Contributory Negligence Rule
Some states prohibit drivers from recovering any damages whatsoever if they are found to be even minutely responsible for an accident. The degree of responsibility has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not an individual may seek damages. States that follow the contributory negligence model are Alabama, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.
Seek Legal Counsel
The amount of fault each party has in an accident is something that will likely be contested hotly. To ensure you are not unfairly charged with more responsibility than you deserve, it’s important to find an attorney who will aggressively fight for your rights. Contact us today at 800.360.7015 to discuss your case or fill out our free case evaluation form and we will get right back with you.