If you have suffered injuries as a result of a car accident, “liability” (as in who is liable, or responsible, for causing the accident) will be one of the most important factors in determining whether and how much you are entitled to recover as a result of the accident. Many clients ask us whether they will be able to recover if they were partly at-fault for the accident. The answer is “yes,” depending on the extent of your liability.
Florida Law on Comparative Negligence
In Florida, we operate as a “Comparative Negligence” state. This means, under the laws governing car accidents in Florida, you are still able to recover if you were partly at-fault in an accident; however, your recovery may be reduced by the portion the jury determines was your fault. For example, let's say in a car accident case, you had the right of way, but you were speeding. If the jury finds you were 30% negligent in causing the accident, and that the other driver was 70% negligent, your recovery would be reduced by 30%. Meaning, if the jury awarded you $100,000 in damages, that amount would be reduced down to $70,000 because the jury found your negligence contributed to the accident.
Florida adopted this law in 1973, knowing the causes of the accident in car accident cases are not always clear-cut and easy to determine. Oftentimes, accidents result from the unsafe or negligent behavior of multiple drivers or parties involved; thus, Florida legislators concluded it would only be fair if each party responsible shouldered their portion of the blame. This is called “apportioning fault,” and it can be incredibly difficult to do, yet is one of the most challenging but important factors in a car accident case. As an injured victim seeking damages, Florida law requires you establish liability; in other words, you must prove the other driver's conduct caused the accident. This can be tough when the other driver's insurance company will work hard to gather evidence they plan to use to show your driving, your conduct, caused the accident. This is especially true when the evidence can be interpreted different ways by different experts and witnesses.
Trying to Handle Your Insurance Claim Alone is Risky
As a victim, acting on your own behalf, it can be incredibly difficult to obtain eyewitness testimony, video footage, photographs, or other evidence that can be used to prove you were not responsible, or at least not entirely responsible, for the accident. In addition, if you are acting on your own, without an experienced attorney advising you, it is possible you may provide answers, evidence, or other records to the other driver's insurance company that help them support an argument that you were responsible for the accident and are, therefore, not entitled to recover. This is why you need a car accident lawyer working zealously on your behalf who can communicate and deal with the other driver's insurance company for you.