In Florida, the doctrines of comparative responsibility and contributory negligence share liability of a car crash on more than one driver. If liability is shared between the at-fault and injured driver, the injured driver’s ability to collect damages is reduced in accordance with his percentage of liability.
In Florida, if you sustained injuries in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, the negligent party must compensate you for your injuries and damages. However, using the comparative negligence doctrine, their lawyer can argue that you contributed to the accident in some way.
What Is Contributory Negligence or Comparative Responsibility?
These terms, sometimes also called comparative negligence, contributory fault, or comparative fault, refer to the legal standards that Florida uses to determine which party has liability in an accident and, if so, how much liability.
In some states, you cannot collect any damages for an injury accident if you contributed at all to an accident. Other states use a modified form of contributory negligence, wherein a party must have at least 50 percent fault in order to be liable for damages.
In our state, you can collect from an at-fault party even if you did contribute to the accident – if you had comparative negligence.
Florida’s standard, called pure comparative negligence, holds each party in a negligence action, such as a car accident claim, liable for their contribution to the damages and injuries. The details are outlined in the Florida comparative fault statutes.
Who Determines Whether I Have Comparative Responsibility in a Car Accident?
In most cases, a jury determines contributory negligence in a Florida car accident case.
For example, if you sustained serious injuries in a rear-end collision, the driver who hit you from behind typically has full liability. However, that driver’s car accident lawyer may assert that, because you did not have your seat belt in place, your injuries were made worse. If this is the case, your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit and allowing the jury to determine whether you did have some responsibility.
If your attorney believes the at-fault driver may convince a jury that you did have contributory negligence, he may recommend that you accept an offer that represents a slightly smaller settlement, rather than take the risk of going to court and getting next to nothing.
If your car accident attorney has confidence that you can prevail over the other side’s argument, you may prefer to take your chances at trial. If so, your lawyer will build the strongest possible case to prove the other driver’s negligence.
How Does Comparative Responsibility or Contributory Negligence Influence a Car Accident Claim?
Pure comparative negligence apportions accident damage to the parties. If one driver’s negligence alone caused the accident and your subsequent injuries, that driver has full liability for your damages.
If you sustained injuries in a three-vehicle accident, wherein one of the other drivers was 70 percent at fault and the other was 30 percent at fault, each of them has liability to pay for that portion of your damages.
If you sustained injuries in a car accident caused by another other driver’s negligence, but you were also speeding at the time, you may have made the accident, the damages, and your injuries worse than they would have been. The court may deem you to have ten percent fault for your damages.
In that case, the court will reduce your award, whatever it may be, by ten percent. For example, if your award was $50,000, you would be entitled to 90 percent of that sum, or $45,000.
How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Prove I Had No Contributory Negligence?
In many car accident cases, the parties to the accident may dispute the events that led up to the crash. Consequently, lawyers may call upon the services of accident scene reconstruction specialists.
In addition, your lawyer may interview and take statements from witnesses, utilize accident scene photographs, and obtain any surveillance video that may exist. In court, your attorney may use visual aids, photographs and other relevant evidence to recreate the scene.
Ultimately, your lawyer will use the resources, witnesses, technology and techniques necessary to make the strongest possible case for you. A lawyer also protects your legal rights and helps you make the best choice for your future.
The Florida lawyers of the Law Firm of Anidjar & Levine help injured clients obtain compensation for injuries sustained in car accidents. Call us today at 800-747-3733 to schedule a free consultation and case review.