What is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is a concept under Florida law which, generally, provides that a claimant can be up to 99% at fault for his/her own injuries, and still recover the portion of his/her damages for which he/she was not at fault.
This concept is relatively new in the law (i.e. it has arisen in the last 50 years or so). Prior to that, and historically, most states had laws which provided that any fault by the claimant would completely bar recovery for personal injuries (even if the claimant was only 1% at fault). In the 1960s and 1970s many states began to move away from that concept. Florida is one of 13 states that acknowledges comparative negligence in its laws and assigns personal injury damages based on percentage of fault. There are some exceptions and limitations on this, depending on what type of case is at issue, and depending on what type of fault is at issue.
An example of a case is: you are speeding along a highway when a driver in the next lane cuts in front of you without using a blinker. Both cars collide, resulting in significant damage to both vehicles and injuries to you and the other driver. You could be found partially liable for the damage because you were speeding, but the other driver could also be found partially liable, since he failed to use his turning signal.
In a lawsuit, the court might determine that you are 60 percent at fault, while the other driver is only 40 percent at fault, and thus, you would each be responsible for any resulting damages due to personal injury in proportion to your fault.
Not surprisingly, comparative negligence laws make quality of legal representation even more crucial for those seeking compensation. If you’re injured in an accident in Florida, you need an attorney who knows how to help you obtain compensation, even when you are partially at fault.
Florida personal injury lawyer Steven Combs composed this post with contributions from attorney Shane Hebert.