In Florida, if you have been injured in an automobile accident, bicycle accident, motorcycle accident,by a dangerous product, or in virtually any other negligence action, your damages will be reduced by your own percentage of fault. This is called “comparative fault,” and is set forth in Florida Statutes.
The concept of comparative fault is fairly basic. A jury is able to award an injured person his or her damages, but the Court will reduce it by the injured victim’s percentage of fault. For example, let’s assume someone was hit by a car on his or her bicycle, and a jury found that the the full measure of damages was $100,000.00. However, the jury also found that the injured bicyclist was 40% at fault. Under Fla Stat §768.81, the Court would reduce the judgment to $60,000.00 (subtracting the Plaintiff’s percentage of fault from the jury verdict).
The other day, I had my passenger take a photo at a red light in Tarpon Springs, specifically with the idea of doing a short blog on comparative fault. As you see, the passenger in the car in front of us had his legs hanging out of the window (all the way from New Port Richey – Pasco County – to Clearwater, in Pinellas County). I am not sure you could find a better example of what would be comparative fault if the car in front of us was in an accident, and the passenger suffered injuries. If this car was rear ended (due to absolutely no fault of the driver of the car in front of us), and the passenger suffered a compound fracture of the tibia – fibula, then he would likely be able to recover zero dollars for those injuries. Why? Because, rear end collisions don’t typically cause fractures of the lower extremities, which would be easy to prove. Therefore, 100% of the injuries to his legs would be due to his own negligence.
A far more common example of comparative negligence is the “seat belt defense.” This is when one is hurt in an automobile accident, and a defendant can prove that had the injured person been wearing a seat belt, all or a portion of the losses claimed would not have occurred.