You are eligible to bring a claim if both you and the other driver were partially at fault. However, your ability to recover all or any of your damages depends on your level of fault. It is important to speak with a Jacksonville Car Accident Attorney to understand your rights.
Florida follows the Doctrine of Comparative Fault. This is a legal principle that applies when both the plaintiff and the defendant are partially at fault for the plaintiff’s injury. The concept ensures the plaintiff’s claim is not entirely defeated by his own fault but rather considers the respective negligence of both parties when assessing damages. For example, if a jury finds the Defendant 60% at fault and finds the plaintiff 40% at fault. The plaintiff will only be able to collect 60% of their damages.
For fifty years, the seminal case on comparative fault was Hoffman v. Jones, 280 So. 2d 431 (Fla 1973). Prior to this case, the Doctrine of Contributory Negligence prevailed which prevented the plaintiff from recovering any damages if they were even partially negligent. The Hoffman Court found that the basis of the doctrine, to protect the essential growth of industries, was no longer needed. Instead, the Court found “modern economic and social customs…favor the individual, not industry”. Id. at 437.
Accordingly, the Florida Supreme Court moved toward the Doctrine of Comparative Negligence where each party’s liability is determined based on their percentage of fault (also known as Pure Comparative negligence). The Court commented the move toward comparative fault created a more equitable system of determining liability and was a more socially desirable method of loss distribution. Id. Although it was recognized that comparative negligence could allow a more responsible plaintiff to recover damages from a less responsible defendant, the Court reasoned that the purpose of comparative negligence was to assign liability based on the damages caused rather than the damages suffered by each party.
The Doctrine of Comparative Fault all changed on March 24, 2023, with the signing of House Bill 837. For all actions filed after that date, a Plaintiff will not be able to recover any damages if they are found more than 50% at fault (except for personal injury or wrongful death arising out of medical malpractice). This doctrine has been referred to as Modified Comparative Fault.
Currently, 33 states follow Modified Comparative Fault. Of those states, some follow a 50% negligence threshold while others abide by a 51% negligence threshold. There are 13 states that still follow Pure Comparative Negligence. There are four states; Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia – plus the District of Columbia that still abide by the old Contributory Negligence where even 1% negligence on the part of the plaintiff serves as a complete bar to the claim.
For select cases with particular facts, Florida’s change in the law regarding comparative fault may affect your claim. For example, slip and fall cases will become more difficult. In almost all slip and fall cases we handle in Jacksonville; our lawyers have to address insurance company claims that our client was to blame. If insurance companies can persuade a jury to return even 51% against the plaintiff, the insurance company wins. We may even see insurance companies accepting partial responsibility in an attempt to gain credibility with the jury, only to argue the plaintiff was more negligent thus barring their claim.
Intersectional collisions, where both parties claim they had the green light, will also be challenging. If the jury cannot decide who is right and they decide to allocate more fault to the plaintiff than the defendant, there will be no recovery.
As your Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer, we have the experience to address the liability issues thrown at us by the insurance industry. Allow us to help you navigate the process and help you obtain all the compensation you deserve.