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What Does Comparative Negligence Mean in Personal Injury Law?

Often times personal injury law, deals mostly with the law on negligence. Negligence means that a party failed to exercise the level of due care towards others that a reasonable person would have exercised in similar circumstances. In laymen terms, if you had a responsibility to care for others and you acted in a way that was unreasonable or careless, which then caused injuries to those other people, then negligence law says that you should be liable for their injuries.

What if it’s not completely your fault? For instance, what if you made a mistake and caused a car accident but the person you hit also acted carelessly? In Florida, is only one of you at fault? Is no one at fault? Are you both at fault?

It turns out every jurisdiction handles these questions differently. In states like Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, if a person contributes to their own injury through their own negligence, then they may be completely barred from recovering damages from another negligent party. This is known as contributory negligence.

For instance, if you are texting and driving and end up getting hit by someone that has run a red light, under a contributory negligence standard you may be barred from recovering any money from the other driver because you yourself were partially at fault.

Most jurisdictions have abolished the pure contributory negligence standard because the results are often unfair and unjust. Most states including Florida have opted instead for some form of comparative negligence. Under a comparative negligence standard, you may recover damages but your recovery is reduced based upon the percentage of your own fault.

There are different versions of comparative negligence. Under modified comparative negligence, for the plaintiff to recover, the plaintiff’s negligence cannot be greater than the defendant’s. So, if the cause of an accident is 51 percent your fault, then you cannot succeed on a suit to recover damages in a modified comparative negligence state.

However, Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. In Florida, if you are suing a party in a personal injury claim, your damages are simply reduced by the amount of fault you are responsible for. For instance, if a jury finds that you were 20 percent responsible for an accident and your resulting injuries, then the most you could recover is 80 percent of your losses.

As an example, let’s say you were jaywalking across a street when you were hit by a distracted driver and you sustained $100,000 in damages. If a jury determines that you were 10% at fault due to your jaywalking then the most you could recover in Florida is $90,000 or 90 percent.

Personal injury suits can be time consuming and complicated. After sustaining a serious injury due to someone else’s negligence, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel immediately to understand your legal rights. Take pictures and be sure to document all of your injuries, as soon as practicable.

An injured party deserves experienced litigators to guide them through the legal process, so that they can focus on medical treatment and getting their life back to normal. The attorneys at Abrams Justice are veteran trial attorneys who have a passion for representing injured parties in Florida. Call (305) 709-0880 to speak with an attorney for free about your case.