Can You Receive Compensation if You Contributed to Your Accident?
Car accidents are rarely black and white. Sometimes, one vehicle is clearly to blame, such as when a car is parked at a red light and another comes up behind it and rear ends it.
But in others both vehicles involved might have made errors that contributed to the crash. For example, one motorist might have been speeding but the other made an illegal left-on-red turn. Or one motorist rear ends another but the car ahead neglected to use its turn signal. In these examples, both drivers were negligence since neither one was following the law.
Can a driver who was negligent receive compensation in a Florida lawsuit? The answer is “yes,” though the amount of compensation they receive could be reduced by their percentage of blame.
Florida’s Comparative Negligence Law
In some states, like North Carolina, if a victim was in any way negligent, he or she cannot receive compensation. This is called “contributory negligence,” and it is a complete defense to a lawsuit. So if a person is 1% responsible, they can’t sue.
Many years ago, Florida also followed the contributory negligence rule, but we have since changed our laws. Now, Fla. Stat. § 768.81 explains that Florida follows “comparative fault” principles. Under our law, a lawsuit isn’t barred because a victim contributed to it. However, the amount of compensation is “diminished proportionately” by the plaintiff’s contributory fault.
Interestingly, some states have modified the contributory negligence rule but cut off the ability to sue if the victim was more negligent than the other party (51% responsible) or as equally negligent (50% responsible). Florida, however, has no threshold, so a plaintiff could in theory be 99% responsible for an accident and still sue for compensation.
Although contributory fault won’t bar a lawsuit, it is still important because it can reduce the amount of compensation our clients receive. For example, imagine you suffer $100,000 in damages in a car accident. However, a jury finds that you are 50% responsible. In this example the maximum you can receive is $50,000.
But if you can convince the jury you were only 25% responsible, then the amount of compensation you can receive jumps to $75,000. For this reason, we work closely with our clients to fully understand what they were doing in the moments leading up to an accident or collision. The more we can minimize our own client’s contributory fault, the more we can maximize the amount of money they take home.
Comparative fault also matters in settlements. Even if you don’t end up in court, insurance companies will aggressively try to push some of the blame onto your shoulders to reduce the amount of money they pay.
Contact Us after an Accident
The moments following a car accident are confusing. Fortunately, you do not have to navigate Florida’s complex legal system alone. Let one of the Florida car accident lawyers at Halpern Santos & Pinkert, P.A., assist you.
We have decades of combined experience and understand Florida’s liability laws inside and out. To get started, contact us to schedule a free consultation.