Although traffic accidents are extremely common, no one actually expects to be involved in one. When a crash happens, it can be difficult to be sure exactly what went wrong. Even if you think the accident was partly your fault, it’s a good idea not to say so at the scene. There are processes for figuring out fault, and it’s best for everyone if they are followed. The good news is that in Florida, if it turns out that you do indeed share the blame, that is not a bar from recovering financial compensation.
In legal terms, any wrongful act that causes injury to someone else is known as a “tort.” Negligence is a subcategory of torts and is a common reason for vehicle accidents. Determining fault is a key part of any claim based on negligent behavior, and the way that liability is assigned varies among the states under three basic principles:
- Pure contributory fault/negligence
- Pure comparative fault
- Modified comparative fault.
Florida follows a system of pure comparative negligence. So, an injured party who is partly to blame for an accident can receive damages, but that award will be reduced by the amount of his or her fault.
Contributory negligence is the rule in only a few states, perhaps because it is so extreme. In those jurisdictions, the general policy is that an injured party (the plaintiff) cannot receive any damages if he or she contributed in any way to causing the accident. Pure comparative fault falls on the opposite end of the liability spectrum, allowing a damage award to a plaintiff who is as much as 99 percent to blame. However, the amount is reduced according to the plaintiff’s degree of fault. The third system is a modification of the second and allows recovery to a partially at-fault party as long as the responsibility is less than a certain percentage. Some states which assign blame this way draw the line at 50 percent; others at 49 percent.
Florida courts follow a pure comparative fault rule. In a personal injury action, percentages of fault are assigned among all the parties and damages are awarded accordingly. Courts examine the parties’ conduct as well as how much the conduct is causally related to the damages that are claimed. For example, if you were injured in an auto accident on South Dixie Highway and are found by the court to be 40 percent liable for the accident, you can still recover 60 percent of damages that you incurred. So, if the court decides that you suffered $10,000 worth of loss, the award would be reduced by $4,000. Splitting up fault and deciding on financial responsibility can also be done in mediation if the parties wish to avoid trial.
Assigning fault is a complex legal process. If a vehicle accident caused an injury or death in your family, you need an experienced attorney to effectively represent your interests – especially one who knows how to investigate accident scenes and reconstruct accident scenarios. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless accident victims, and we are highly experienced in handling a wide range of auto and truck accident cases. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-964-8644-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.