How Auto Accident Negligence Laws Differ Between Florida and Its Neighboring States
In some cases, it is easy to find one driver solely responsible for causing an auto accident. Consider a drunk driver who runs a red light and plows into a minivan that is lawfully in the intersection. But other accidents are not so easy to place blame. Maybe both drivers entered the intersection illegally, but one of them was also speeding, in which case that driver might be more “at-fault” than the driver who was not speeding.
Because two or more parties may be at-fault for a given accident, Florida law recognizes a principle known as “comparative fault.” Basically, this means that when presented with the facts of an accident in a personal injury lawsuit, the jury must apportion fault among all of the parties it deems responsible. So for instance, the jury might look at a two-car accident and decide the defendant was 60 percent at-fault and the plaintiff 40 percent.
How does this affect the final verdict? Well, Florida practices what is known as a “pure” comparative fault rule. Under this rule, the jury still determines the full measure of the plaintiff’s damages, but the amount actually received by the plaintiff is reduced to account for their comparative fault. In other words, let’s say in our 60/40 hypothetical the jury calculates the plaintiff’s total damages at $50,000. That award is then reduced by the plaintiff’s comparative fault of 40 percent, so the defendant only has to pay $30,000 in actual damages.
Where Your Accident Happens Can Matter a Great Deal
Personal injury cases are a creature of state law. This means different states in the U.S. can–and do–adopt different rules when it comes to comparative fault. About one-third of all states follow Florida’s pure comparative fault rule. But there are two different models followed by several other states.
The first is “modified” comparative fault. This is the rule followed by most states. It is similar to Florida’s pure comparative fault in that a jury will apportion fault among all parties. The key difference is that if the plaintiff’s share of the blame exceeds a certain threshold–usually 50 or 51 percent–then they recover nothing from the defendant.
For example, Georgia follows a 50 percent modified comparative fault. So if the plaintiff is found 50 percent or more responsible for an accident, the defendant does not have to pay any damages whatsoever. This is in stark contrast to Florida, where the defendant would still have to pay based on their share of fault, regardless of the plaintiff’s degree of responsibility.
The second model is what is known as “pure contributory negligence.” This is the harshest rule when it comes to filing a personal injury claim. Essentially, if the jury finds any fault by the plaintiff–even just 1 percent–they recover nothing. Only five states, including Alabama, follow this rule.
Speak with a South Florida Car Accident Attorney Today
As you can see, personal injury law can vary greatly between states. That is why if you are involved in a Florida car accident, you need to work with an experienced Boca Raton personal injury lawyer. Contact the Leifer Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.