Florida is a no-fault state. That means every driver is required by law to get $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, and that you are automatically covered up to this amount if you are ever injured or your car is damaged in an auto accident.
However, sometimes the cost of injuries and other damages goes well above that amount. Moreover, everyone knows that in most car crashes, someone is to blame. Someone is at fault.
In our state, those two things align – if your damages are severe, you are allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver and attempt to collect compensation by proving their negligence.
You do this by using our state’s pure comparative negligence law. Ideally, you want to prove that the other driver’s actions caused the accident, and that because of this they should be held responsible for any damage you incurred.
Unfortunately, comparative negligence cuts both ways.
How Comparative Negligence Can Help… or Hurt
Not all auto accidents are black and white. Maybe both you and the other driver were operating your vehicles under the influence of alcohol. Or perhaps the other driver was texting and driving, but you were going a bit over the speed limit.
This is where pure comparative negligence comes in. The amount of compensation that is paid will depend on the percentage of fault assigned to each driver.
Say you file a claim of $10,000 against a driver who hit you while texting. They are found to be 70% responsible for the accident, but because you were speeding, you are found to be 30% responsible. Under Florida law, this means that the other driver only has to pay you 70% of the claim, or $7,000. You will be left $3,000 short because it was decided that you acted in a negligent manner as well.
That may seem unfair, but consider this: in some states, the negligence laws can actually keep you from getting any money at all – even if the other driver acted negligently. These states follow something called contributory negligence.
Under this system, a defendant who is found at-fault for an accident to any degree is barred from receiving any sort of compensation for his or her injuries. In other words, in the above situation where the other driver was mostly at fault (70% versus 30%), you would receive no money.
That’s pretty brutal – even receiving a portion of your compensation is better than receiving nothing at all.
What Does Florida Consider Negligent?
There are a lot of factors that can lead a judge or jury to believe someone is “at fault” for an accident, or that they have been “negligent.” These factors include:
- Whether or not the driver/passengers were wearing seatbelts
- The speed at which the car was driving
- How close the car was driving to the one in front of it
- The maintenance and shape of the car
All drivers have specific duties that are expected of them when they are driving – following traffic laws, keeping their eyes on the road, and so on. Failing to do any of these specific duties could potentially be considered negligence, which could hurt your ability to receive full compensation after a car accident.
Since there is a bit of wiggle room as to who is considered “at-fault” or “negligent” after an accident, the person or entity you’re suing will surely try to fight your claim by attempting to show evidence that you were negligent during the accident as well.
Your best way to protect against this? Be prepared. A Florida auto accident lawyer can help you identify actions you did (or didn’t) take that could feasibly be argued as negligence and work with you to craft a strategy designed to poke holes in the other side’s arguments. Start working on your strategy today by reaching out.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1996. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.