Determining Fault In An Auto Accident in Florida

Determining Fault In An Auto Accident in Florida

How Does Florida Address Fault In Personal Injury Claims?

One of the most important aspects of any personal injury claim is determining who was at fault. If someone is not at fault for causing an accident, that person should not be held responsible to pay for any damages that result. However, determining who is at fault is not as simple as might seem.

At Badgley Law Group in Orlando, we represent clients throughout Central Florida in personal injury claims. Our attorneys have a thorough understanding of the law and precedents involved with determining which party is at fault in an accident scenario. We will help you understand your rights and options, and we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

Pure Comparative Negligence

Injury cases aren’t always clear-cut with an obvious at-fault party on one hand and a victim on the other. Reality is often more nuanced and complex. Florida follows the pure comparative negligence principle when it comes to personal injury. This means that damages may be reduced based on the plaintiff’s proportion of contribution to their own injury. In other words, damages are apportioned based on the share of fault and negligence of the two parties.

As an example, let’s say you have been seriously injured following a car accident and have incurred $50,000 in medical costs and property loss. If the jury determines that you partially contributed to the accident by 20%, a ruling in your favor will see your award of $50,000 reduced by 20% to become $40,000.

Fabre Doctrine

In years past, when one party sued another, only the two of them would appear on the verdict form. This however changed after the Fabre v. Martin decision of the Supreme Court of Florida. It meant that if the defendant accused a nonparty of negligence that caused the plaintiff injury or loss, the jury could add the nonparty in the verdict form, assign whatever percentage of fault is attributable to the nonparty and the damages the nonparty should pay.

No-Fault Rule For Car Accidents

Florida has a no-fault system when it comes to car crashes. That means each driver’s insurance company pays for the injuries and property damage experienced following a car crash (as opposed to the victim claiming from the at-fault driver’s insurer). The no-fault principle significantly reduces litigation around vehicle accidents.

You can however seek compensation from the other party if your injuries are serious and likely to outstrip your personal injury protection (PIP) cover. Examples are permanent disability, permanent scarring or disfigurement.

Statute Of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a timeframe within which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit for it to be accepted by the court. Failure to do so automatically nullifies the opportunity for legal action even if the defendant was obviously liable for the injury. It’s perhaps the most tragic way for a claim to die since there may have been a real possibility for compensation but nobody will ever know.

A statute of limitations is actually a good thing and is put in place to safeguard the rights and interests of all parties. As one moves further away from the date of the incident, the quality of evidence collected continues to deteriorate. For instance, a witness may not have a reliable recollection of events 10 years after an accident happened. They could inadvertently end up blaming the wrong person.

Most Florida personal injury lawsuits (including car accidents, product liability, assault and battery) must be filed four years from the date of injury or (in instances where the injury was not immediately apparent such as asbestosis) four years from the date of the doctor’s report confirming injury or illness. Slander, libel, medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits have a two-year statute of limitation.

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