If you’ve been in an accident in which multiple defendants are potentially involved in having contributed to your injuries, you may be confused as to how the possibility of multiple defendants being brought into the case affects your various injury claims. Fortunately, Florida law is rather straightforward with regard to multiple defendants in a personal injury case.
Florida implements a system known as pure comparative fault – otherwise known as pure comparative negligence – where every party (all relevant plaintiffs and defendants) has their fault assessed and assigned to them as a percentage of the total fault. Each defendant is therefore rendered liable for their assigned percentage of total fault.
Suppose that you are injured in a multi-car collision involving three defendants. As additional details of the case are revealed, however, it is clear that the defendants are not equally liable. Defendant #1 may be deemed most at-fault, at 60% of the total, while Defendants #2 and #3 may each be found to be 20% at-fault. If the case is worth $100k, then Defendant #1 would be liable for $60k, while Defendants #2 and #3 would be liable for $20k each.
Pure comparative fault also influences the outcome when the plaintiff has contributed to the accident. If you are partly at-fault for your injuries, then under pure comparative fault, you will have your potential damage recovery reduced by your assigned percentage of the total fault. For example, if you are found to be 20% at-fault for your injuries (perhaps you failed to seek immediate medical care after the accident, enhancing your injuries), then your potential damage recovery will be reduced by 20%.
Claims against multiple defendants are not necessarily simple to litigate, however, particularly if the court’s apportionment of fault between the defendants leads to conflict. As such, you will need the aid of a qualified personal injury attorney in order to successfully pursue your claims against multiple defendants.
Since 2006, Florida has applied pure several liability in injury negligence cases involving multiple defendants, which creates an additional layer of complication for the plaintiff.
Pure several liability means that you must separately recover damages from each defendant – the damages must reflect the specific liability of that defendant as well. Unlike joint and several liability states, in Florida, you may not sue one defendant for the total damages you’re owed.
When there are multiple defendants, each defendant is unlikely to agree on how much fault they are responsible for. Remember, the percentage fault assigned to a particular defendant is a reflection of their damage liability – the lower, the better. As such, cases involving multiple defendants frequently lead to conflict and disagreement between the defendants, which can hinder the possibility of a favorable, early settlement.
For example, if a defendant believes that they contributed significantly less fault than other defendants, that will lead to a lower settlement (unless and until you can provide such evidence that more clearly demonstrates their liability).
Conflict may further escalate if the existing defendants assert that there are other liable defendants who have not been named in the lawsuit. You and your attorney should first work to identify all potential defendants, so that they can be brought into the lawsuit. Unless all the relevant defendants are present, compromise is unlikely.
Success in injury lawsuits involving multiple defendants requires the efforts of a personal injury attorney who has experience litigating against multiple defendants and dealing with the issues inherent to such lawsuits.
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 South Florida personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs.