Close Menu
Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Personal Injury > How Does Comparative Negligence Affect My Personal Injury Claim in Florida?

How Does Comparative Negligence Affect My Personal Injury Claim in Florida?

Comparative Negligence in Florida Injury Claims

If you were hurt or lost a loved one in an accident, you may realize that you have legal remedies under Florida personal injury laws. From the perspective of an injured victim, you must show that the at-fault party caused your harm through careless, reckless, or intentional acts. You may qualify to recover compensation for your losses when you have sufficient proof of the relevant facts. However, there is a catch when the tables are turned and the laws focus on the victim’s conduct. If your own actions contributed to your injuries, the concept of comparative negligence could affect your personal injury claim in Florida.

The context behind comparative fault is that a victim should not receive a huge windfall when their own careless acts were a factor in causing the accident. All US states have a version of contributory negligence in personal injury laws, and Florida’s was just recently amended. Because the law has become tougher for victims, experienced legal guidance is crucial.


When you retain a Florida personal injury lawyer to assist with the legal process, you can feel confident in overcoming contributory negligence and other defenses. An overview about the relevant concepts shows the challenges that you could encounter.


Fault in Personal Injury Cases

Though the exact causes may vary, most accidents happen because of negligence. This term means more than just carelessness in the practice of laws, since there are legal requirements you must meet. You need to prove the essential elements of a negligence case, which are:


  1. Duty: You need to show that the at-fault party had a duty to exercise reasonable care, so as to avoid causing a risk of accidents.
  2. Breach: You must have evidence proving how that person or entity breached the duty of care.
  3. Causation: There must be a causation link between the breach of duty and the accident in which you were injured, such that you would not have been hurt but for the breach.
  4. Damages: You need to show that you suffered losses because of being hurt.


In addition, though it is not an essential element, you must also comply with the Florida statute of limitations. In a personal injury case, you have 2 years to file a lawsuit. The clock starts to run on the date of the accident, and your case will be dismissed if you miss the deadline.


Common Causes of Accidents

To better understand how negligence and comparative negligence works, you can review some examples of how injuries happen. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 24.8 million people visit the ER for unintentional injuries every year, and another 25.5 victims seek medical treatment at physician’s offices. The most common types of accidents and personal injury claims include:


  • Car, light truck, and passenger vehicle crashes;
  • Semi, 18-wheeler, and commercial truck collisions;
  • Traffic accidents involving vulnerable road users, such as motorcycle riders, bicyclists and pedestrians;
  •  Slip and falls and other accidents that place due to negligence by homeowners, businesses, and property owners;
  • Surgical errors, medication errors, birth injuries, and other medical errors;
  • Construction site and workplace accidents; and,
  • Many other incidents.


Personal injury laws also cover injuries caused by dangerous, defective products, holding manufacturers liable for the harm they cause. However, these claims are often based upon strict liability, in which you do not need to prove fault.


How Comparative Negligence Works

With a personal injury case, there are laws that allow a look at how the victim’s misconduct had an impact on causing the accident. All US states have a form of comparative fault rule, ranging from the harshest law of pure contributory negligence. In these jurisdictions, any amount of negligence by the victim will lead to a ban on compensation. 


Under Florida’s comparative fault statute, there are three important factors to note:


  1. Your compensation will be reduced if you are up to 50 percent at fault in causing the accident in which you were injured.
  2. If you were more than 50 percent to blame for the incident, you are barred from recovering any compensation for your losses.
  3. The amount of fault attributable to you as the victim is determined by the finder of fact, typically the jury. However, comparative fault will come up when you are discussing settlement before trial.


This statute was recently changed, with unfavorable results for victims. Prior to the amendment, victims could recover compensation even if they were up to 99 percent at fault. 


Damages for Injured Victims and Families

Because comparative negligence may have an impact on your compensation, you should understand how damages work in personal injury cases. The concept of compensation aims to make the victim whole after an accident and as if the incident never happened. There are two types of damages available for personal injury claims:


  1. Economic Damages: This classification includes losses that are measurable and identifiable. Examples include your medical costs, where you can receive compensation for emergency care, surgery, hospitalization, and other services. Economic damages may also cover lost wages if you were unable to work because of your injuries.


  1. Noneconomic Damages: Some losses are hard to measure in dollar value because your injuries have very personal, subjective consequences. Still, you do endure hardship, and noneconomic damages intend to compensate you for diminished quality of life. Examples include pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and emotional distress.


Note that you may also recover damages as a surviving family member after a fatal accident, so you have rights through a Florida wrongful death claim. 


Steps in the Legal Process

Issues related to comparative negligence could arise at different points after an accident, even in the immediate aftermath. When parties point the fingers at each other for being careless, they are raising claims of comparative fault. However, when it comes to the legal process, the concepts come up at different, very critical stages.


  • Filing a Claim: In most accident cases, the at-fault party carries liability insurance to protect against losses. Homeowners, businesses, motorists, and property owners have policies that pay compensation to injured victims. Therefore, your first step is filing an insurance claim. The insurer will fight your claim when there is evidence of comparative negligence.
  • Settlement Discussions: An insurance company may respond to your claim with an offer to settle for a lower amount, especially when you are partly to blame.
  • Mediation: When the parties are still in dispute over the claim, they may be required to participate in mediation. This process involves discussions with a trained mediator, who attempts to resolve conflicts and help the parties reach settlement. 
  • Litigation: If the insurance company refuses to pay fairly, you may need to go to court to get the compensation you deserve. The insurer will argue comparative fault to the jury in an attempt to avoid paying. 


Benefits of Settling a Florida Personal Injury Claim

A trial in court is the final stage in the initial legal process, but many cases settle before they ever get to the jury. Both sides benefit when they reach an agreement on a personal injury claim, and the advantages for the victim are significant. Importantly, you have certainty in the outcome of your case. A settlement involves drafting a written, legally binding agreement, so you have confidence that you will get paid. Plus:


  • Settlement avoids risk, since you can never expect how a jury will decide. Not only does comparative negligence play a role in reducing your damages, but you could be barred from recovering any compensation.
  • When you settle, you do not have to go through the stress of trial. Being on the witness stand and dealing with intense cross-examination can be intimidating for victims.
  • Going to trial is time-consuming. With a typical case in court, you could go several months or even years before your trial date is even scheduled. With a settlement, you can complete the paperwork and receive payment promptly.
  • Litigation is expensive, even though you do not pay upfront for contingency fees in personal injury cases. You will need to invest in the costs and expenses of going to trial, hiring court reporters, engaging in discovery, and other tasks.


Legal Help from a Florida Accident Lawyer

Even though there are benefits, it is critical that you avoid settling your personal injury case too soon. Insurers will pressure you to agree right away, before you know the full extent of your losses. You risk leaving money on the table without skilled representation. Your Florida personal injury attorney will aggressively promote your interests in settlement discussions to ensure you receive top compensation allowed by law.


Your accident lawyer will also develop a strategy for trial and defending any claims of comparative negligence. You can count on litigation support with:


  • Preparing the complaint to initiate a lawsuit, along with all supporting documents;
  • Attending all court dates for status conferences and other appearances;
  • Raising and defending motions;
  • Using written discovery tools to obtain evidence for trial;
  • Representing you at a deposition and taking depositions of other parties and witnesses; and,
  • Presenting evidence and arguments at trial.


Set Up a Consultation with a Florida Personal Injury Attorney


While comparative negligence has a critical effect on your personal injury claim in Florida, there are many other factors and challenges to expect with the process. Without a legal background, you put your rights at risk and may not receive full compensation. For quality support with your case, it is wise to trust our experienced team at Rosen Injury Law, P.A. To learn how we can assist with the process, please contact us to set up a consultation. After reviewing your circumstances, a Florida personal injury lawyer will explain how the laws apply to your case.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Table of Contents