“IT WAS THEIR FAULT!” BUT…IS IT REALLY THAT SIMPLE?
By: Roman Diveev
Imagine a car accident where it was not clear as to whether one person or the other was at fault. Each party says “it was their fault.” How does the law try to figure out who is to blame and by how much?
There exists several different ways in which blame is allocated. Florida follows the pure comparative negligence rule. This rule establishes that a Plaintiff can recover only that percentage of his or her damages that can attributed to the Defendant. In other words, if the Plaintiff seeks $100,000 in damages, Plaintiff is 50% at fault, and the Defendant is 50% at fault, the plaintiff could potentially only recover $50,000. A few more examples are illustrated below.
|Damages Sought by Plaintiff||Plaintiff’s Fault||Defendant’s Fault||Damages Recovered by Plaintiff|
Be warned, however, that there are states which follow different rules. States such Georgia and West Virginia follow a modified comparative negligence rule in which a Plaintiff can only recover damages if the Plaintiff is 49% or less at fault. In other words, if the Plaintiff is equally liable or more liable than the Defendant, the Plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages. For Plaintiffs who are 49% or less liable, recovery is reduced proportionally.
There exists another variation on the modified comparative negligence rule. States such as Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey follow a 51% rule. This is a slight difference in that if the Plaintiff is 51% or more at fault, they cannot recover damages at all. Like the previous modified rule, any fault at 50% or less is reduced proportionally.
A handful of states such as Virginia and North Carolina follow a pure contributory negligence rule. This rule states that if the Plaintiff contributes in any way, be it 50% or 1%, then that Plaintiff is barred from recovering. This particular rule is the most extreme one compared to the others. Less states have chosen to follow this rule because it has the harshest consequences.
Proving degrees of fault is a rather difficult task. In the end, if a case gets to trial, the jury will have to apportion a percentage of fault to each party. The jury will have to weigh evidence and testimony presented during trial. It is one of the reasons that selecting a good attorney and firm is important. The attorneys at Rue & Ziffra have been handling personal injury cases for 40 years. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident, call 386-788-7700. For more information, please visit: http://www.rueziffra.com/automobile-accidents