comparative negligence

What is Comparative Negligence and How Will it Affect Your Compensation?

If you’re filing a personal injury claim, comparative negligence may impact your ability to collect a settlement. Comparative negligence is a tort rule that helps allocate damages when both parties in an accident are deemed at least partially at fault. When an accident occurs, comparative negligence means that the fault of each party is based on their individual contributions to the occurrence or severity of the accident.

In Florida, the laws surrounding comparative negligence can be confusing. In this blog, we’ll break the topic down and discuss how it may impact your personal injury claim.

Let’s dive in.

3 Examples of Comparative Negligence

To help you understand the concept of this type of negligence, here are three examples:

  1. The victim of a car accident was not wearing a seatbelt, which contributed to the severity of their injuries. In some cases, this may be considered comparative negligence, since the victim did not take the safety measures needed to protect themselves.
  2. An employee is injured in the workplace because they did not wear safety equipment or follow standard safety procedures. The employer may be able to petition the courts to reduce damages issued to the employee. This decision is based on the employee’s perceived negligence.
  3. A pedestrian steps into the road without checking for oncoming traffic and is hit by a car. The pedestrian may be at fault, although the court may also consider how much time the driver had to avoid the pedestrian.

Comparative negligence is a complex area of the law, and examples of it extend far beyond these three illustrations. If you believe comparative negligence may be a consideration in your claim, hire a skilled attorney. Only a personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate the details of your claims and help you understand whether comparative negligence is present. If this type of negligence is present, a good attorney will help you understand the extent of the negligence, and identify your next steps.

Comparative vs. Contributory Negligence

There is a difference between comparative and contributory negligence. Contributory negligence prevents an injured party from collecting damages after a car accident in which they were partially at fault. Comparative negligence, on the other hand, states that blame can be shared based on each person’s burden of responsibility.

In the next section, we’ll discuss how this all works in the state of Florida.

How Comparative Negligence Works in Florida

If you’re in Florida, it’s essential to understand how this state views comparative negligence.  Florida is what’s known as a “pure comparative state.” The only exception involves alcohol and drugs. In these situations, modified comparative standards may apply.

In virtually all situations, the Sunshine State offers a “pure” comparative negligence system. This means the percentage of liability on the Defendant directly corresponds to how much of the damages award the Defendant pays.

Here’s an example:

A Defendant is 70% at fault for the accident and the jury verdict of $100,000 in damages incurred by the Plaintiff. In this case, the Defendant will pay $70,000 (70% of $100,000) to the Plaintiff in a pure comparative system. Likewise, if a Defendant is found 20% at fault, the Defendant pays $20,000 of the damages to the Plaintiff (even if the Plaintiff is 80% at fault).  In a pure comparative system, this is true, even if the Plaintiff is found to be the one majority at fault.

That said, there is one huge exception to the “pure” comparative fault system in Florida.  In cases where a Plaintiff is intoxicated due to alcohol or illegal drugs, and the Plaintiff is at least 51% at fault, and the intoxication is the reason the person was at fault, Florida abandons the “pure” comparative negligence system. In this situation, the Plaintiff will get no settlement.

This is called “modified” comparative negligence and it only applies if all three of the conditions are met:

  1. The Plaintiff is at least 51% at fault.
  2. The Plaintiff is found to have been intoxicated from alcohol or illegal drugs.
  3. The intoxication was the reason the Plaintiff was at fault.

In the above examples, if the Plaintiff is intoxicated but the Defendant is 70% at fault, the Defendant still pays $70,000.

However, if the Defendant is found 20% at fault and the Plaintiff is found 80% at fault, then the Plaintiff gets $0 if he/she’s intoxicated and the intoxication is the reason the Plaintiff is to blame. If the Plaintiff is intoxicated, OR if found to be intoxicated, but the intoxication is not the reason for their negligence, the Plaintiff still gets the $20,000.

How Defendants Prove Comparative Negligence

When it comes to asserting comparative negligence claims, the Defendant is the one who must lead the charge. Generally, Defendants must prove the following:

  • That the claimant owed a “duty of reasonable care” to avoid injury.
  • The claimant did not act reasonably or that he or she breached his or her duty of care.
  • The breach contributed to the injuries the claimant suffered.

If the Defendant is successful in proving comparative negligence, the Defendant (or Defendants) will still have to pay their share of the damages to the claimant, proportionate to their level of negligence. Additionally, the claimant’s damages will be decreased based on the degree of negligence.

If comparative negligence cannot be determined, the Defendant and claimant may both be held at fault.

Ward and Barnes: Your Pensacola Accident Attorneys

If you’re dealing with comparative negligence, either as the Plaintiff or the Defendant, our team is here for you. The Pensacola accident attorneys at Ward and Barnes specialize in helping people like you get compensation for an insurance claim after a car accident.

Since accident settlements and negligence can be such a complex topic, you need an attorney to help walk you through it. Our team of skilled and compassionate attorneys will be with you every step of the way, helping you understand comparative negligence and how it may impact your settlement. To learn more about our team or services, or to request your initial consultation today, contact our offices now.

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