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Pure Comparative Fault in Florida

January 27, 2017 - Personal Injury

Personal injury plaintiffs – particularly those who are unfamiliar with the process of litigation – often find themselves overwhelmed by concerns of fault, liability attribution, and potential damages.

For example, a personal injury plaintiff may be worried that he contributed in some way to the accident, and that he is therefore rendered powerless to recover damages for the various injuries resulting from said accident.  If you have these or any other concerns, make sure to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney before making a rash decision not to pursue litigation.  Your attorney will be able to assess your claims and determine whether you will be able to recover.

Florida law incorporates a system known as pure comparative fault (otherwise known as pure comparative negligence) wherein the liability of all involved parties is identified and assigned.  This system may seem complicated at first, but in reality, it is quite straightforward.

To better understand how the system of pure comparative fault works in injury cases, let’s quickly touch upon pure comparative fault law and an example case that illustrates its application.

How Pure Comparative Fault Works

Pure comparative fault is governed by Section 768.81 of the Florida Statutes, which sets forth that – in a negligence action – the court will determine the liability of each party depending on their particularly contribution of fault.  As such, in cases involving multiple defendants or plaintiffs who have contributed to their own injuries, Florida pure comparative fault ensures that each party’s liability is proportionately – and fairly – assigned.

How does it work, exactly?  Let’s explore an example case to show how the pure comparative fault standard affects liabilities.

Imagine that you are injured in a motor vehicle accident in which the speeding defendant-driver cut in front of you on the highway.  After the defendant cut in front, you immediately hit the brakes in response, but you could not react fast enough.  To prevent collision, you swerve to the left and hit the median, which results in serious injuries.  You estimate your total damages at $500k.

Later, however, the facts reveal that your own negligence contributed to the accident, at least in part.  The facts reveal that you failed to regularly take your car for inspections.  As a result, your brakes were not operating at peak efficiency at the time of the accident.  The defendant will assert that, had you taken your car for an inspection at proper intervals, then the brakes would have prevented the collision without you having to swerve out of the way.  The court may find – given these new details – that the defendant is still mostly at-fault for your injuries, say 70% at fault, but that you are 30% at fault.

As a plaintiff, the fault you contribute towards the accident cuts into your potential damage recovery.  In this example, if the defendant were 100% at fault, you would be entitled to $500k.  Given your contribution (failing to conduct proper maintenance) of fault, however, you would only be entitled to a maximum of 70% of the total, or $350k.

One of the strengths of the pure comparative fault system is that it applies consistently to a variety of different cases.  In a case with multiple defendants, for example, each defendant would have a percentage of the total fault assigned to them, and you would be – as plaintiff – entitled to recover damages from each defendant consistent with their proportional liability.

In Florida, plaintiffs can contribute to an accident with mistakes of their own and still be entitled to recover damages for their injuries.

If you or someone you love has been injured as the result of someone else’s wrongful acts or omissions, seek the counsel of a skilled Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer at the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs.

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