Rarely is an accident or act of negligence entirely the fault of one person or one entity. Sometimes a negligence victim holds some degree of responsibility for their own injury. But should this mean that someone is not able to recover damages from the party that is mostly at fault for their injury? In Florida, the answer is no. Even if you have some degree of responsibility for your own injury, you may still be able to recover damages under the rule of comparative negligence.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Florida is one of 13 states that applies the rule of pure comparative negligence. The comparative negligence statute (found here) states that when both a plaintiff and a defendant in a case are negligent in some way, the court must make a determination of each party’s percentage of fault and award any damages proportionate to this fault.
For example, a jury in an auto accident case finds that a plaintiff sustained $100,000 in damages. The same jury also finds that the defendant in the case was 80% at fault for the accident (for running a red light and speeding) and the plaintiff was 20% at fault (for not wearing a seatbelt). In this case, the plaintiff would be apportioned $80,000 in damages from the defendant under the rule of comparative negligence.
Florida has a “pure” comparative negligence rule. This means that a plaintiff can recover from a defendant even if the plaintiff was mostly to blame for the injury. Therefore, in the above example, if a jury found that the plaintiff was 99% at fault for the accident and the defendant was 1% at fault, the plaintiff could still recover $1,000 in damages from the defendant.
How is Comparative Negligence Different from Contributory Negligence?
Five jurisdictions in the United States follow the rule of contributory negligence. Under the outdated rule of contributory negligence, an individual who is injured can be barred from receiving any damages for an injury if they contributed to that injury in any way. Even if a jury found that the victim was only 1% at fault for the injury, the victim will not be able to recover any damages against the party that was 99% at fault. The contributory negligence rule is very unfair to injured individuals and makes a personal injury case an uphill battle.
If you’ve been injured by someone’s negligence, you should have an attorney evaluate your case. Contact the trusted lawyers at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk onlineor call us at 1-800-753-5203 to schedule your free consultation.