Every single day, there are an average of 1,050 Florida car accidents, according to the Florida Department Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Almost always, the cause(s) of a crash can be traced to driver error. Common Fort Myers car accident catalysts include things like speeding, failure to yield, improper turning, following too closely, driving carelessly or recklessly, disregarding traffic signs or signals, failure to maintain proper lane, and driving while distracted or impaired.
But what if both drivers were at-fault in a crash?
As longtime Fort Myers car accident lawyers, we know it’s fairly common that both drivers shoulder some degree of responsibility for the collision. But what truly influences the dollar amount outcome in a Florida car accident case is not so much whether the injured plaintiff (the person filing the claim) shares any blame at all, but rather: How much?
This is because Florida follows a system of pure comparative negligence (referred to in F.S. 768.81 as comparative fault).
What is Pure Comparative Fault – and Why Does it Matter in Fort Myers Car Accident Cases?
Pure comparative fault means that in any negligence action – including car crash claims – the at-fault parties are only responsible to pay for their own portion of the blame. So in a two-car crash with both parties sharing some measure of fault, the damage award (legalese for financial compensation aka money) that is available to the plaintiff will be proportionally reduced by how much of the blame they share.
For example, if Driver 1 was 30 percent at-fault, Driver 2 was 70 percent at-fault, and total damages topped $100,000, the most that Driver 1 could collect as a Florida plaintiff would be $70,000. Conversely, the most Driver 2 could collect as a plaintiff would be $30,000.
“Pure comparative fault” means that even a person who is 99 percent at-fault for a Fort Myers car accident could still collect on 1 percent of their total damages from the other at-fault driver. That said, collecting only 1 percent of damages (ex: $1,000 on a $100,000 claim) isn’t a desirable outcome for any plaintiff. Skilled South Florida injury lawyers know how to make effective legal arguments to help minimize assertions of comparative fault – with the end goal of maximizing your damage award payout.
It should be noted that Florida is in the minority of states for its pure comparative fault law. Most other states with comparative fault laws impose a 50 percent or 51 percent “bar.” That means each person or entity is only financially responsible to cover their own percentage of fault. BUT if the plaintiff is 50+ percent to blame, they will be barred from collecting anything at all. Some states take it even further, holding that if a plaintiff shares just 1 percent of fault, they are barred from collecting anything at all.
So Florida is actually one of the most plaintiff-favorable states in this regard. However, that doesn’t mean your car accident case will be easy or that you should cede much ground on this issue if you can help it.