Comparative Negligence 101: Comparative negligence is explained and discussed including why it is an important part of our Florida legal system today.
Accident cases are often not black and white. Commonly there is more than one person at fault. There are some cases where one person is 100% at fault and the other person is 100% faultless, however many accident cases fall somewhere in-between this cut and dry spectrum.
Deciding who is at fault is one of the most critical factors in any type of car, truck, motorcycle, or slip and fall accident case. This is because determining who is at fault determines liability, which then determines who is responsible to pay for any damages incurred by their negligence or fault.
This is where comparative negligence comes into play. In 1973 Florida adopted the doctrine of comparative negligence which falls under case law for personal injury or accident lawyers. This doctrine allows juries to more accurately apportion or assign blame or negligence in an accident case. We are one of 13 other States to have this law other states include: California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.
Why is this important? Before this ruling if a person involved in an accident was found to be even the slightest bit at fault, they would not be entitled to recover anything for their injuries or losses. It was a very harsh system of justice! As an example, lets say, Person A, Mr. Legal Turner, was making a legal left turn and yielding the right of way, and Person B, Mr. Illegal Speeder, who was going 60 in a 25 mph zone T-boned into the turning vehicle of Mr. Legal Turner. However, later it was found that Mr. Legal Turner did not have a functioning turning signal at the time. In the past, before 1973 and the adoption of comparative negligence in Florida, Mr. Legal Turner would be found to have partial blame for turning signals not working and therefore not be entitled to any compensation for his injuries or damages at all from Mr. Speeder, who was greatly at fault for exceeding the speed limit. This was a harsh judgment for Mr. Turner, who probably had no idea that his turn signal light was out, and thought he was obeying the law and that all was fine.
What does this mean? With comparative negligence, more than one person can be found to cause a motor vehicle or slip and fall accident. It is actually very common for two (or more) people to be careless at the same time and contribute to an accident. For example, one person may be found to be 90% at fault and the other only 10%. Now, the injured person that was 10% at fault would receive 10% less in monetary recovery. This means, if the injured person had a $100,000 case, they would only receive $90,000. This is a far fairer system of justice!
This also comes into consideration when looking at insurance policies for victims of accidents. This means, if more than one person is at fault for an accident, then more than one insurance company can be open to a claim. To follow up on the example given before, lets say when Mr. Turner and Mr. Speeder collided, Person C, Mr. Innocent Bystander was crashed into while doing nothing wrong, but was hit by Mr. Turners and/or Speeder’s car/s in the collision and severely injured in the collision. Mr. Innocent Bystander now has two insurance companies to make a claim against. (This is where an experienced accident attorney can really make a difference in your case.
Who decides apportionment or the split-up of fault? Under Florida law a jury can apportion fault percentages if the case goes to trial. Another way to split up the fault and decide on financial responsibility is in mediation, where lawyers and clients can come together, negotiate and agree on a settlement, avoiding a lengthy and costly trial experience.
How is this percentage proven? Often in accident cases it is typical for one party to blame the other and it often comes down to a “he said/she said” scenario. Accident reconstruction specialists can investigate the scene, vehicles, review witness statements and injuries and shed light on the facts. This is one of the things an experienced personal injury or accident lawyer can help an injury victim with.
My Recommendation to You: If you have what may be a serious injury and are being told that the accident was all your fault, or partially your fault/blame, therefore you deserve no compensation, it may help to get legal advice from an experienced expert accident lawyer early on to avoid making a mistake and being taken advantage of.
You can only settle your case one time, so it is important to have advice from a knowledgeable Florida personal injury lawyer regarding what your case is worth before you settle your case.
Remember: Initial consultations are free with most car accident lawyers, so take advantage of them and find out if you have a case or not and whether it is worth pursuing. My advice is to do this as soon as possible so evidence is not lost and mistakes made that can forever change the course of your accident case. I also suggest you read my book, The Seven Biggest Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Florida Accident Case, based on my 37 years of helping accident victims throughout North Florida including Gainesville, Ocala, Lake City and Inverness. You can contact my office for your free copy or request it on this site.
We at Meldon Law strongly believe that public education is the first step in the prevention of an accident or in the recovery from one.
We are experienced personal injury attorneys, trial lawyers, negotiators, litigators, paralegals, and staff that have been proudly working to get accident victims the justice they deserve for over 40 years in Gainesville, Ocala, Lake City, Inverness, and the rest of North Central Florida and North Florida. Accidents involving a car crash, truck wreck, and motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian accidents, dog bites, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and criminal defense are all included in our practice.
Based on Jeffrey Meldon’s, founder of Meldon Law, over 40 years of helping accident victims get justice and a fair shake from the insurance companies, he has written the consumer guide book, Seven Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Florida Accident Case. You can request your free, no obligation copy right now, or contact our office for your complimentary copy sent to you today.
Contact Meldon Law at (800) 373-8000 or (352) 373-8000 immediately if you have been involved in a serious auto, truck, or motorcycle accident. We are in your community, have the experience and resources required to work towards obtaining a fair settlement for you – we are here to help you.