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Comparative Negligence in Florida

Every year, thousands of Americans file lawsuits across the state, and each case is unique. In fact, according to the Florida State Courts Administrator’s Office, there were 171,575 civil cases that reached a disposition in 2018. These cases consist of several different types of civil claims such as medical malpractice, auto negligence, premises and product liability, nursing home negligence, etc., but this statistic is more than a simple number. It represents thousands of Floridians who had their lives changed by the actions of another person, and the most shocking aspect of this data is that many of these disputes could have been avoided. For example, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were an estimated 1,098 car crashes per day in our state in 2017, with 2,924 of these crashes involving one or more fatalities. Moreover, the car accidents that year resulted in 254,310 injuries.

How many of these accidents do you think could have been avoided had it not been for a wreckless or drunk driver? How many premises liability cases could have been avoided if a landowner would have properly maintained their property? These are the questions that legal professionals and litigants ask themselves every year. Unfortunately, accidents can and do happen on a daily basis, and in some instances, both the negligent and injured party in a civil case can be responsible for causing an accident to occur. This concept of shared responsibility between both a plaintiff and a defendant is known as comparative fault pursuant to Fla.Stat.§768.81, but it is more commonly referred to as comparative negligence. However, before you can understand the finer points of comparative negligence and the effect it can have on your civil claim, you need to understand how negligence is defined in our state.

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What is Negligence in Florida?

Every state defines negligence in their own way, and in Florida, the Florida Supreme Court defines negligence in part as the failure to use reasonable care, which is the care that a reasonably careful person would use under like circumstances. The second half of the definition elaborates on the meaning of the first half by stating that negligence is doing something that a reasonably careful person would not do under like circumstances or failing to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under like circumstances.

Even with the definition in mind, negligence can be a hard concept to define for both lawyers and common citizens alike, but a more simplistic general way to view a negligent act is to understand that, as you live your life, you have a duty of care to the people around you to act in a manner that doesn’t cause them harm. You fulfill this duty when you complete actions within the confines of the law such as stopping at a stop sign or a red light or by completing a task that simply keeps others safe from harm such as placing a sign on your property that notifies visitors that you have a dog or maintaining your home by ensuring that there aren’t any hazards that could injure a visitor. When a person fails to fulfill their common obligation to act in a manner that does not bring harm to those around them, they are said to have committed an act of negligence.

Comparative Negligence Laws in Florida

So, in light of this information, you might be able to imagine a scenario where both parties were negligent and thus, caused an accident to occur. This could occur in a host of different ways, and it is often open for debate. For example, if a car accident occurred due to one driver improperly changing lanes while another driver was texting and driving, can one driver be completely responsible for that accident? Obviously, the answer to this question will depend on a host of different factors, but the point is, both drivers could conceivably be found to have acted negligently in this scenario, and this logic was used by the Florida legislature and many other governing bodies across the U.S. when they were enacting their respective comparative negligence statutes.

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What Types of Cases can a Comparative Negligence Claim be Used In?

Pursuant to Fla.Stat.§768.81(2), comparative negligence can be raised in any negligence action, and Fla.Stat.§768.81(1)(c) defines a negligence action as a civil action for damages based upon a:

  • Theory of negligence
  • Strict liability
  • Product liability
  • Professional malpractice or
  • Breach of warranty and other like theories

This means that comparative negligence can be raised in the vast majority if not all civil negligence cases in Florida. The fact that this provision of Florida law applies in most cases, and the negative impact comparative negligence can have on a personal injury case are two of the main reasons why most people employ the services of a personal injury attorney to assist them with their claim.

How Does Comparative Negligence Affect my Claim?

When a jury or judge determines that a you are partially responsible for causing an accident, the jury assigns both you and the defendant a percentage that quantifies the degree to which each of you were responsible for having caused the accident to occur. The percentage assigned to you is then used to proportionally diminish or reduce the amount of economic and non-economic damages awarded to you. For example, if you are found to be 20% responsible for having caused an accident and you are awarded $100,000 in economic and non-economic damages, your $100,000 award will be reduced by 20%, and you will ultimately be awarded $80,000 in damages.

Do I Need an Attorney for my Civil Case?

Claiming comparative negligence is a common tactic used by insurance companies and their attorneys, which is why you should always consult with a personal injury attorney if you have been involved in any type accident. 1800-Injured is a lawyer and medical referral service that connects accident victims with local personal injury attorneys in their area, and we are ready to help you. Don’t face this difficult time alone. Call 1800-Injured today to be connected with a personal injury attorney near you.

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Paola Tangarife

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