Most car accidents are not so cut and dry. There is often no clear understanding of which individual is at fault. In fact, some drivers find themselves in a position known as “partial-fault” after a collision. Also called “partial-blame,” partial-fault occurs when both individuals are partially to blame for a car accident. This makes knowing who pays a little more complicated.
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Pure Comparative Negligence in Florida Car Accident Cases
Comparative negligence rules vary by state. Florida adheres to the rule of pure comparative negligence. This means that an accident victim’s compensation is not determined by the individual’s degree of negligence. Instead, an individual may recover some compensation for their injuries even when it is found that their degree of negligence is higher than their counterpart’s degree of negligence.
Establishing the Accident Victim’s Negligence
It is assumed and expected that all motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, and passengers are using reasonable care to protect themselves and others when on the road. When a person does not use reasonable care to keep themselves and others safe, and their actions lead to a car accident, the individual may be deemed negligent. Negligent actions may include driving over the speed limit, jay walking, or spontaneous movement when walking, driving a vehicle that is known to be defective, or a passenger interfering with the operation of a motor vehicle.
Did the Plaintiff’s Negligence Contribute to the Accident?
In order to establish an accident victim’s negligence, an unsafe action must be proved to have directly contributed to the car accident in question.The plaintiff may be found negligent if the following is proven:
- The plaintiff failed to provide reasonable care for the other motorist’s safety.
- The plaintiff did not act in a reasonable manner, or failed to adequately perform their duty. Examples include driving while intoxicated, speeding, or otherwise driving in a reckless manner.
- The plaintiff’s actions directly caused another’s injuries.
- It was reasonable to expect the plaintiff to know that their actions would directly impact another.
- The defendant sustained real injuries due to the actions of the plaintiff.
Who Determines Fault in a Car Accident?
Who determines fault in a car accident will differ according to whether the matter is settled through the drivers’ insurance companies or the case is taken to a court of law. Ninety-five to ninety-six percent of personal injury cases are settled pretrial according to The Law Dictionary. If the matter is settled through the insurance companies, the insurance companies will seek to determine which driver is at fault. A judge and jury determine who is at fault according to evidence presented when a car accident case is taken to court.
At-Fault Car Accident
Currently, no car accidents are considered to be “at-fault” car accidents in Florida. This is because Florida is known as a “tort state,” which means the state requires personal injury coverage in order to operate a vehicle. In states that operate according to an at-fault system, or non-tort states, the driver who is found to be negligent is required to pay for all damages including medical costs and destruction of property.
No-Fault Car Accident
Florida, along with nine other states, requires $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) or no-fault auto insurance. PIP, which is a requirement for driving in Florida, makes each individual responsible for their own injuries regardless of who is found to be at fault. The original intention of PIP was to provide accident victims with the means to receive immediate medical coverage without having to wait to prove the offending driver negligent. Drivers in Florida must also carry $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL). As of this writing, Florida does not require drivers to carry bodily damage liability coverage. However, an individual can sue for compensation if the injuries sustained in an accident are found to be “permanent”.
- Significant or permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury directly caused by the accident in question
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
Otherwise, an individual would turn to their own insurance to cover any related accident costs first. If a driver has no insurance, the individual would turn to the closest relative who does have insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 23.8% of drivers in Florida were uninsured (as of 2012). The recently proposed new law, SB 54, would repeal Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system and require mandatory bodily injury coverage (read more here).
How is the Percentage of Fault Determined in Florida?
If the car accident is being settled through each driver’s insurance companies, both parties will come to an agreement and settlement amount through their insurance companies. In the courts, Florida adheres to a “pure comparative fault rule” when both parties are found to be partially at fault in a car accident. The jury will be asked to consider two pieces of evidence when determining the percentage of fault for each driver – the total dollar amount of the plaintiff’s damages, and the percentage of fault that belongs to each party. According to Nolo.com, the amount awarded to the plaintiff is reduced by a percentage equal to his or her share of fault.
What Should I Do After an Accident that was Partially My Fault?
If you were involved in an accident whether it was partially your fault or not, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately. There is a statute of limitations for car accidents in Florida. Generally, an individual has four years from the date of the crash to initiate the car accident case in the Florida court system.
How Panter, Panter & Sampedro Can Help
Panter, Panter, and Sampedro is a leading personal injury law firm dedicated to protecting Florida’s families. For over thirty years, our experienced trial attorneys have worked one-on-one with clients to successfully get the justice, recovery, and compensation they deserve. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, it’s imperative that you call for a free consultation right away. Call (305) 662-6178 and speak to an attorney today.