You can still recover some money damages you are entitled to if you are partially at fault for an accident, as long as someone else was also negligent. The proportion of your fault will reduce your compensation accordingly.
It used to be the rule that, if you were even slightly at fault, you could not get any compensation for your injuries. That legal theory is contributory negligence. Simply put, if your actions contributed to the accident in which you got hurt, you could not recover damages.
Florida, however, applies comparative negligence, which says that you can collect money damages after deducting an amount equal to your percentage of the total negligence. Do not be concerned if you read FL § 768.81 and see the term “contributory fault.” Although it causes some confusion, the Florida legislature uses the term contributory negligence instead of comparative negligence, but the state actually uses the comparative negligence rule.
How Comparative Negligence Works in Florida
Comparative fault will first determine the percentage of fault of each party. The second step is to calculate the total damages for each party. Finally, the damages are adjusted to reflect relative negligence.
Here is how comparative fault works when one person got hurt, and two people were negligent:
The plaintiff had $100,000 in total damages. The plaintiff was 30 percent at fault, and the defendant was 70 percent liable. The plaintiff will get $70,000 in damages from the defendant after the comparative fault rule reduces the $100,000 by 30 percent to account for the plaintiff’s negligence.
Here is what happens when two people were negligent, and they both got hurt:
Plaintiff Archie had $50,000 in damages. He was equally at fault with Plaintiff Brian, who also had $50,000 in damages. The rule of comparative fault will cut each plaintiff’s money damages in half to account for each of them being 50 percent at fault. Archie will recover $25,00 from Brian, and Brian will recover $25,000 from Archie.
How to Determine if Someone Was at Fault
We will first have to evaluate whether the person you want to hold liable for your losses is responsible to you. We will have to prove all four of these elements to impose liability on someone:
- The defendant (the person we are suing) had a legal duty. Let’s say that the injuries came from a car accident. Everyone who operates a motor vehicle in Florida has a duty to obey the rules of the road, including traffic signals and speed limits.
- The defendant breached the duty of care. Failing to measure up to a legal duty is negligence. For example, if the defendant ran a red light, he violated the duty to obey traffic signals and is negligent.
- The negligence caused the accident and resulting injury. Running the red light must be the cause of the crash that hurt you.
- You must have measurable injuries from the wreck. Physical harm satisfies this element.
The negligent person might blame you for the accident, but Florida law will only find you responsible, even partly at fault, if the defendant can prove all four elements against you. In other words, the defendant will have to show that:
- You had a duty of care.
- You violated the duty of care.
- Your negligence caused or contributed to the incident in which you got hurt.
- Measurable damages resulted from negligence.
The Montero Law Center Will Fight For You
Comparative fault assessments can be confusing, but you do not have to figure these things out on your own. We can fight for the damages you are entitled to if you are partially at fault for an accident. The Montero Law Center can help. Call us today at (954) 767-6500 for a free, no-obligation consultation before the statute of limitations enforced by FL § 95.11 to pursue justice passes.