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Understanding Contributory Negligence


Governor Ron Desantis recently passed sweeping tort reform legislation that will impact future Florida personal injury lawsuits. Among the numerous provisions of the new law, the legislation addresses instances in which a plaintiff’s injuries were caused, in part, by their own negligence.

Prior to this legislation, Florida operated on a system of pure comparative negligence. That meant that even if a plaintiff was 99% liable for a claim, they could still file a personal injury lawsuit to recover 1% of their total damages. However, in order to bring a lawsuit under the new rule, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant is at least 50% liable.

Understanding pure comparative negligence in a car accident claim 

Under the old pure comparative negligence rule, when two drivers got into a car accident, they could conceivably each file a lawsuit against the other driver. So, if Driver A was 90% liable and Driver B was 10% liable, Driver A could sue Driver B for 10% of his total damages and Driver B could sue Driver A for 90% of his total damages. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the party who was 10% liable would collect more from the other party. That would depend on the extent of each driver’s injuries. If the individual who was 90% liable sustained more severe injuries, it’s possible that the 90% liable party would actually collect more money.

Understanding contributory negligence 

There’s only one state in the country that bars an individual from filing a lawsuit if they contribute any negligence whatsoever, and that is Alabama. Most states operate on a rule that bars the plaintiff from filing a lawsuit or collecting damages if they are more than 50% liable for their injuries. This is how Florida’s new rule will work. It would prevent a scenario like the one mentioned above where an individual who is 90% liable in an accident could potentially collect more money than someone who is 10% liable.

How will this work for car accidents? 

Under the new rule, there is no presumption that a party that is 90% liable could collect on injuries they suffered during a car accident. If the matter is split 50-50, as happens sometimes in car accidents, then the damages would tip toward whoever was more seriously injured. They would be allowed to collect 50% of their overall damages.

The bottom line 

Insurance companies and defendants do not want to take responsibility for negligence because it costs them a lot of money. So if you are involved in a car accident, you now want to be very sure that you collect information at the scene to preserve the integrity of your claim. It just got a lot harder to successfully sue.

Talk to a Tampa, FL Traffic Accident Lawyer Today 

Palmer | Lopez represents the interests of Tampa residents who have been involved in a serious car accident. Call our Tampa personal injury lawyers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.

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