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What Florida’s “Comparative Fault” Rule Means for Your Car Accident Claim

06/16/2021
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If you’ve been injured and/or incurred significant damage to your vehicle in a traffic accident in Florida, you probably want to understand your options for compensation for your losses. There are several laws in Florida that will likely affect your recovery.

If you or a loved one has been injured, seriously injured, or even killed in a car, truck, bicycle, or motorcycle accident in Florida, immediately contact an experienced Florida car accident attorney at Searcy Denney for your free consultation.

Florida’s PIP Laws

Florida has traditionally been a PIP (Personal Injury Protection), otherwise known as a “no-fault,” insurance state for automobile accidents. In other words, after a car accident, you typically needed to file a claim under your own PIP coverage to get compensation for medical bills and other financial losses, regardless of who caused the crash.

The recent passage of Senate Bill 54 would repeal the state’s PIP system and instead would require bodily injury coverage starting at $25,000 for all Florida drivers.

The Status of the PIP Repeal

As of May 2021, both the Senate and the House have approved Senate Bill 54. The bill is awaiting Governor DeSantis’ signature, as he has the final say and can either approve or reject the bill. If Governor DeSantis signs the bill, car accident liability will change. Under the new law, if you are injured in a car accident, the at-fault party and/or their insurance company will be held financially responsible for damages and expenses. This is good news for personal injury victims.

Florida’s Comparative Negligence Law

In any event, if you have suffered property damage or personal injuries as a result of an accident, and can avoid Florida’s PIP insurance scheme, you’re still looking at Florida’s comparative negligence rules.

Under Florida’s comparative negligence rules, if another driver was entirely at fault for your car accident, the other driver’s insurance company should pay to compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you suffered. The complications arise when you were partly at fault for the crash.

Florida follows a “pure comparative fault” rule when both parties are found to share fault for an accident. In most car accident cases, the jury is asked to calculate not only the total dollar amount of the plaintiff’s damages but also the percentage of fault that belongs to each party. Under the pure comparative fault rule, the plaintiff’s damages award is reduced by a percentage equal to his or her share of the fault.

So, for example, say that in your case, the jury decides your total damages award should be $100,000 for your medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, and pain and suffering. However, say the jury also decides you are 40% responsible for the accident. Under Florida’s comparative fault rule, you are entitled to get 60% of the $100,000 total, or $60,000 (100% total fault minus 40% fault), instead of the entire $100,000 amount of your damages.

For another example, say Sam sues Terry and recovers $100,000. However, Sam was found to be 10% at fault for speeding. Terry would owe Terry $90,000 (100% total fault minus Sam’s 10% fault) instead of $100,000.

“Pure” Comparative Negligence

Florida’s comparative fault rule applies even if you are found to be more responsible for the accident than the driver you are suing. For example, if a jury decides you are 90% at fault, you are still technically entitled to 10% of your total damages. However, the downside is that you’ll be responsible for 90% of the other driver’s damages.

Known as “pure” comparative negligence, not many states treat comparative fault this way. Most follow a “modified” comparative fault rule, under which the plaintiff can only receive damages if his or her fault was 50% or less. Once the plaintiff’s fault exceeds 50%, the damages award drops to zero.

What Else Do I Need to Know About Florida’s Comparative Negligence Law?

The Florida Supreme Court explained that comparative fault is designed to avoid unfairly treating defendants in negligence cases with liability that they did not cause. A crucial element of this type of law is a defendant’s ability to show that a co-defendant or nonparty caused and, therefore, should be responsible for some or all of the fault for a plaintiff’s injuries, reducing the defendant’s liability accordingly. 

For relatively simple cases, such as typical automobile accidents, this is a straightforward inquiry into each party or nonparty’s role in causing the plaintiff’s damages. However, in more complex commercial cases, the analysis of comparative fault can get weighed down and slowed down by the complicated relationships between the parties and the often difficult process of sorting through the duties owed by parties to one another across the complicated web of relationships.

Let a Florida Car Accident Attorney Help 

The uncertainty of Florida’s PIP insurance scheme, along with the complexities of Florida’s pure comparative law makes the navigation of any car accident along with the resultant property damage and personal injuries make fighting for your recovery nearly impossible for plaintiffs. We’ll say updated on the fate of Your best bet is to immediately contact a Florida car accident attorney at Searcy Denney, even before you speak to your insurance company. 

We’ll analyze your claim, gather any necessary evidence, provide you with realistic options, and help you decide what your best course of action should be. We will always be current regarding the status of Senate Bill 54, and how it affects your claim. Contact a Florida car accident attorney at Searcy Denney to schedule your free consultation. We’ll make sure you are collecting every dollar of financial compensation you’re entitled to. We work on a contingency fee basis.

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