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Understanding Comparative Negligence Claims in Florida

Scenario: Someone hits your car with their vehicle. You injure your neck and require long-term hospitalization and miss months of work. You sue the driver of the car that hit you for negligence to recover your expenses, but the driver claims you were on your cell phone and that you are therefore partially responsible for the accident. This is the theory of comparative negligence. If you are partially responsible for your injury and receive a monetary award from the court, your recovery will be reduced by the amount you were decidedly at fault.

The Affirmative Defense of Comparative Negligence

A complaint is the document that begins the legal process in civil litigation cases. The victim, known as the plaintiff, files the complaint, and the defendant, the alleged wrongdoer, has a finite amount of time to answer. The complaint lays out what the defendant allegedly did or did not do to lead to the victim’s injury. In the defendant’s answer, they can assert “affirmative defenses”. Affirmative defenses are a defendant’s way of essentially admitting that the allegations in the complaint are true, but that the defendant nonetheless should not be held responsible due to some other factor. One of the most common affirmative defenses in negligence cases is comparative negligence.

Comparative and Contributory Fault Methods

There are three ways jurisdictions deal with comparative fault:

  1. Contributory Negligence: If the plaintiff contributed at all to the accident, there will be no recovery.
  2. Partial Comparative Negligence: There will be no recovery if one party is found more negligent than the other party (more than 50%)
  3. Pure Comparative Negligence: All negligent parties can recover.

The latter (pure comparative negligence) outlines the current law in Florida. Back to the example: if the matter goes to trial and the judge decides that the plaintiff was 60% responsible for the accident and the defendant only 40% responsible, the plaintiff will still recover for the 40% the defendant was at fault. This is a favorable method for addressing comparative negligence issues since both parties will gain/lose quite literally what they contributed to the accident.

Affirmative Defense Implications

If the defendant asserts an affirmative defense in the answer, it does not mean that the plaintiff can no longer prevail. Even if comparative negligence is a sound legal defense in that particular case, as we saw above, the award will merely be limited, not barred like it may be in some other jurisdictions.

Miami Auto Accident Injury Attorneys

Deciding to file a lawsuit after an accident or injury can be a big decision. At Alan Goldfarb, P.A., our team of experienced auto accident attorneys knows how to strategize everything from filing the initial lawsuit all the way through trial. We have the knowledge necessary to vigorously advocate for our clients with regards to affirmative defenses to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation that you are entitled to by law. If you or anyone you know has been injured or killed in an auto accident in the greater Miami, Florida area, do not hesitate to contact our office to learn more about your legal rights.

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