Published: October 1, 2022 | Brian L. Elstein, Esq.

As you navigate your personal injury case, you may hear the term comparative negligence. This legal doctrine aims to address issues of liability when multiple parties may have contributed to the accident. Comparative negligence can significantly impact your claim and your overall settlement amount. Therefore, it is essential to understand how Florida law handles comparative negligence and what you can expect if you share liability for the accident. 

At Elstein Legal, our Miami personal injury lawyers can explain comparative negligence and how it applies to your claim based on the specific facts of your case. In addition, we will work with you to develop a personalized strategy to defend against claims of comparative negligence by the insurance company or other party. 

Florida Uses a System of Pure Comparative Negligence

There are two main fault systems used across the country, contributory and comparative. Contributory negligence, used in Florida until 1973, does not allow plaintiffs to recover compensation unless the defendant is 100% at-fault for causing the accident. Comparative negligence allows plaintiffs to seek compensation even if they were partially responsible for the accident. 

In some states, known as modified comparative negligence states, you can only seek compensation from the at-fault party if your own liability falls within a certain, specified threshold. In other states, such as Florida, a pure comparative negligence system allows plaintiffs to recover compensation regardless of the amount of responsibility they bear for causing the accident. However, in both modified and pure comparative negligence states, the amount of compensation you receive is reduced based on your apportioned percentage of fault. 

Example of Pure Comparative Negligence in a Miami Personal Injury Accident 

Consider a situation where you are driving down Brickell Avenue toward Downtown Miami. It is raining, and you are driving well over the speed limit to make an appointment. However, just before you make your way over the Brickell Avenue Bridge, another driver runs the red light at the intersection with SE Fifth Street and crashes into the side of your vehicle, leaving you with severe injuries and property damage to your car. 

In this scenario, both you and the other driver are responsible for causing the crash because you both failed to exercise the required amount of caution behind the wheel. During your claim, it is determined that you were 25% responsible for the accident because you were speeding, and the other driver is 75% responsible for the crash because they ran a red light. Therefore, if your overall settlement is $100,000, you would only receive $75,000 because your compensation is reduced by the 25% of fault you shared for causing the crash. 

Who decides the percentage of fault in Florida injury cases?

In a Florida personal injury accident case, a civil jury is the entity that decides the percentage of fault for each party. They will listen to the facts and evidence surrounding the accident and assign a percentage of fault to both the plaintiff and the defendant. 

However, this is only for cases that go to court. If your claim is handled without going to court, both you and the defendant will need to agree on the percentage of fault. This can be challenging because the insurance company will often exaggerate comparative negligence claims to reduce their financial liability for the accident. Our Miami personal injury attorneys will aggressively defend against inflated claims and represent your interests at every step of your case. 

How Comparative Negligence Laws Affect Your Accident Claim

The most significant way comparative negligence affects your accident claim is by reducing the amount of your settlement. Depending on the strength of the comparative negligence claims raised by the defendant, you could be left without the total compensation you need to recover from the accident. 

The best way to defend against comparative negligence claims and get the full compensation you deserve is by working with an experienced Miami personal injury lawyer. At Elstein Legal, we have extensive experience dealing with insurance companies and aggressively defending our clients from these and other claims designed to reduce settlement awards. 

Can I still recover compensation if I am partially liable for my accident?

Yes, in Miami and throughout Florida, you can still recover compensation if you contributed to the accident. Florida’s pure comparative negligence system allows you to recover compensation even if you are determined to be 99% at fault for the accident. Therefore, regardless of how much responsibility you share for causing your accident, you can still recover compensation if you are partially liable. 

Joint and Several Liability in a Florida Injury Case 

The legal concept of joint and several liability no longer applies in Florida personal injury cases with multiple defendants. Until 2006, Florida’s comparative fault statute allowed plaintiffs to recover compensation from a single defendant in cases with multiple defendants. Defendants would then need to pursue separate claims against each other to address respective liability and financial responsibility. 

Today, Fla. Stat. § 768.31 outlines the specific rules for the right of contribution among defendants who become jointly and severally liable. 

Types of Injury Cases Where Comparative Negligence Applies 

Comparative negligence is most often used in the context of car accident cases, but the legal doctrine also applies in other types of personal injury cases, including: 

Contact Elstein Legal for Help With Your Accident Claim Today

Comparative negligence is an essential concept to understand as you navigate the process of recovering compensation after an accident. Issues of liability are often a significant point of contention during negotiations and can make the difference in getting the settlement you need to recover. 

At Elstein Legal, our personal injury lawyers will take the time to explain how comparative negligence applies in your case, work with you to defend against these claims, and aggressively protect your interests during negotiations with the insurance company and the other party. 
For a free case evaluation with an attorney, call us at (305) 299-2835 or contact us today.

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