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The Impact of Comparative Fault in Florida Truck Accident Cases

Trucking Accidents

Florida is like most other states in that a victim can still receive compensation even if they were partially liable for a trucking accident. In early 2023, however, our state adopted a system that is known as “modified comparative negligence.” This change in the law continues to allow a partially liable victim to recover damages but limits the circumstances under which they may do so. This article will discuss the recent change in Florida law and how it applies to those who have been hit by a semi. If you are in need of assistance, contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.

Florida Has Adopted the Modified Comparative Negligence Standard

Florida followed the “pure comparative negligence” standard prior to 2023. Under this old system, a victim could recover damages regardless of their share of fault for an accident. The damages awarded would be reduced by the victim’s share of the blame. This means, for example, that if a victim suffered $1m in damages and was considered 90% responsible for the wreck, the victim would recover $100,000 ($1m – 90%). This standard was especially important in trucking accident cases as the victims in such matters often sustain very serious injuries. 

In 2023, Governor Desantis signed a bill that abolished the pure comparative negligence standard and replaced it with modified comparative negligence. Under this system, a victim may still recover damages if they were partially at fault and the award will still be reduced by their share of the blame. The key difference, however, is that the victim will recover nothing if it is found that they were more than fifty percent responsible for the accident. This means that if a victim suffers $1m in damages, and it is found that they were at least fifty-one percent responsible for the wreck, they would recover nothing. If a case goes to trial, then the determination and allocation of fault will be reached by the jury.

The foregoing is best explained by way of example. Suppose Joe Driver changes lanes without signaling and is hit by a truck that is in the new lane. Joe’s car spins out, slams into a barrier, and Joe suffers $500,000 in damages. Now suppose that the truck driver was speeding and evidence shows that he was looking at his cell phone and not the road at the time he hit Joe. Joe is negligent for failing to signal the lane change. The jury, however, believes that the trucker still could have avoided the accident. The jury finds the trucker 70% responsible for the wreck and that Joe should bear 30% responsibility. Under this scenario, Joe would recover $350,000 ($500,000 – 30%). If, however, the jury finds that Joe should bear fifty-one percent of the blame, then Joe will recover no damages.

Comparative Fault In Trucking Cases Which Involve Multiple Defendants

Truck accident cases often involve multiple defendants. As explained above, Florida recognizes the concept of comparative fault. Our state, however, has also done away with the concept of joint and several liability. It is important to understand how these two legal frameworks impact each other in cases that involve multiple defendants.

Under the concept of joint and several liability, a victim could choose which of the defendants against whom they would collect their damages. Suppose, for example, that a truck driver was found to be seventy-five percent responsible for a wreck. Now suppose that their employer was found to be twenty-five percent responsible and the victim suffered $1m in damages. Under joint and several liability, the victim could recover their entire $1m from the employer or the victim could recover from the defendants in any proportion they wished. This allowed victims to receive their full compensation and protected against a party (the driver in this instance) lacking the assets needed to pay the award.

Florida’s abolition of joint and several liability means that a defendant will not have to pay a share of the damages that is greater than their share of the fault. This means that if a victim is found partially responsible for the accident, then a particular defendant may be required to pay very little. Suppose, for example, that a victim suffers $1m in damages and is 50% responsible for the wreck. The truck driver and his employer are found to be ten percent responsible and a third-party loading company (who improperly loaded the truck) is found to be forty percent responsible. Under this scenario, the truck driver and his employer would only pay $100,000 in damages. If the third-party loading company lacks insurance or resources to pay the judgment, which would be in the amount of $400,000, then the victim will receive no additional compensation.

The Importance of Retaining an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer

Trucking accident cases often involve numerous defendants as well as issues of comparative fault. The allocation of fault can be highly subjective and it is important to present your case to the jury in a way that is clear, concise, and easy to follow. Retaining a firm with experience in such matters can be vital to ensuring that your case is presented to the jury in “the right way.” When you are selecting a firm to represent you, we suggest retaining lawyers who practice solely in the area of personal injury law and who have the resources and experience necessary to handle such a matter.

Contact a Florida Truck Accident Attorney For Assistance

If you have been involved in a truck accident, you need a lawyer with the experience necessary to deal with any issues of comparative fault. Properly presenting your case can make the difference between you receiving compensation or being awarded nothing. Our firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of the injured and we believe that everyone deserves quality representation. Contact us online or by telephone today at 800-780-8607 for a consultation with our Florida truck accident attorney.

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