You are driving down Clematis Street in West Palm Beach after work. You glance down to briefly look at your phone and respond to a text. Out of nowhere, a drunk driver veers into your lane from the opposing direction. You suffer serious and lasting physical injuries as a result of the car accident.
Does the fact that you were texting and driving mean you can’t pursue damages from the drunk driver?
In Florida, the answer is “no.” The reason is because of Florida’s adherence to the negligence standard of pure comparative fault.
What does that really mean?
As our West Palm Beach injury lawyers can explain, per F.S. 768.81, it means that whatever percentage you were negligent, your financial recovery will be reduced by that amount.
So let’s take the above hypothetical car crash scenario. If you filed a personal injury lawsuit and the jury found you 25 percent negligent for the crash because you were texting and driving, your total damages would be reduced by 25 percent. So let’s say the court decided the case at your favor and determined you incurred $200,000 in damages. The drunk driver was 75 percent at fault. Your total damage award would be reduced by $50,000 (25 percent), so the most you would receive is $150,000.
Because we are a pure comparative fault state, that means you can collect damages no matter how high your percentage of fault.
Plaintiffs in most other states don’t have this advantage. The majority of other states use a different type of contributory negligence standard known as modified comparative fault. These states usually follow the 50 or 51 percent bar rule, meaning if you are half or more than half responsible for the accident or your injuries, you’re barred from collecting anything at all. In a small number of states, if you are found even 1 percent responsible for what happened, you can’t collect anything at all (pure contributory negligence standard). But that’s not the case in Florida. If you were 99 percent liable for the injuries you suffered, you can still collect that 1 percent in damages.
Florida Injury Case Defendants Frequently Argue Comparative Negligence
It is very common in South Florida personal injury cases for defendants to argue comparative negligence. A defendant claiming comparative fault asserts that the facts mitigate when the plaintiff alleges is unlawful conduct, and reduces a defendant’s liability to pay.
As West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers, one of our primary goals is to eliminate or at least mitigate and minimize any assertion of a comparative negligence finding because that is ultimately going to cut into your damages (the amount of compensation you can receive for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence). We do this by carefully investigating the facts of your case and the details of what led to your injuries. We may undermine the defense’s assertion of the role your actions played in the accident or harm caused. We may also challenge their allegations of your conduct outright, depending on what the evidence reveals.
If you have questions about comparative negligence or how our West Palm Beach injury lawyers can help, we offer free initial consultations.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
F.S. 768.81, Florida Statutes
More Blog Entries:
Why a South Florida Injury Lawyer May Decline Your Case, Dec. 8, 2020, West Palm Beach Injury Lawyer Blog