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Understanding Florida’s Theory of Comparative Negligence

In the aftermath of a car crash it can be significantly difficult to determine who was at fault for the wreck. Though there are times when only one party is solely at fault, it is very common for both parties to share in the causes of the accident. Under Florida Statute 786.81, this is known as comparative fault. It is a legal theory that apportions percentages of fault among all parties involved and Florida is one of only 13 states in the country that have adopted this theory of liability.

What is Comparative Negligence?

The doctrine of comparative negligence was adopted to minimize the potentially harsh legal circumstances that resulted when a party contributed to the cause of their own accident. For example:

  • Driver A is sending a text message while driving and runs a red light, striking Driver B’s car.
  • During the accident investigation, it is discovered that Driver B was traveling at a speed of five miles faster than the posted limit.
  • Prior to adoption of the comparative negligence theory, Driver B could be denied any financial compensation due to his contribution to the accident, even though he was much less at fault than Driver A.

Under the comparative negligence doctrine, instead of completely denying Driver B of any compensation, the courts can determine what percentage of fault was his and what percentage of fault belongs to Driver A.

How It Affects Compensation

Once the court determines the percentage of fault for each party, that amount is used in the calculation of damages. For example:

  • The court determines that Driver A is 95% at fault for the accident and Driver B is 5% at fault for the accident.
  • Driver B suffers injuries and financial damages in the amount of $10,000.
  • Instead of awarding Driver B the entire $10,000, the court will deduct his 5% contribution to the accident from his compensation award.
  • Driver B will receive $9,500 under the comparative negligence doctrine, instead of the entire $10,000. Though his award is still reduced, this creates a much more equitable outcome.

Florida courts are mandated to utilize comparative negligence when determining personal injury liability. If you are an injured party, you must practice care when speaking with insurance companies following an accident. Your statements could provide the representative with information that will later be used against you under comparative negligence. Insurance companies also tend to use the theory as a bargaining tool during settlement negotiations, by telling the injured party that the settlement amount will amount to more money than a comparative negligence award from the court. This is just one reason why you should secure the services of an experienced attorney before speaking with insurance companies and pursuing claims.

If you or a loved one was injured in a West Palm Beach-area automobile accident, our personal injury attorneys at Gary Roberts & Associate, P.A. are here to help. Call the office or contact us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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