What the New Florida Comparative Fault Reform Means for Your Personal Injury Case

Injured woman hands removing bandage from arm. Concept of What the New Florida Comparative Fault Reform Means for Your Personal Injury Case 1

The recent comparative fault reform in Florida brings changes that impact individuals involved in personal injury cases. This reform introduces changes to the state’s legal framework regarding shared fault in accidents. Under the new law, if a plaintiff is found to bear some degree of responsibility for the accident that led to his or her injuries, the ability to recover compensation could be impacted. The Florida comparative fault reform emphasizes the concept of proportionate fault, meaning that the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive will be adjusted according to his or her percentage of fault. Determination of fault and its impact on compensation now carry even greater weight under the new reform.

Tort Reform and Personal Injury Laws in Florida

Tort reform refers to changes in the legal system that aim to control the liability of individuals and businesses for wrongful acts or negligence that lead to harm. Advocates of tort reform argue that excessive liability can stifle economic growth and increase insurance costs, while opponents assert that it can curtail victims’ rights to fair compensation.

Florida has experienced its own share of challenges and reforms in the realm of personal injury laws. The state’s unique demographic composition, including a large elderly population and a thriving tourism industry, makes personal injury cases a crucial element of its legal landscape. With attractions ranging from theme parks to beaches and nightlife, accidents are unfortunately bound to happen. Key aspects of personal injury laws in Florida include:

1.      Comparative Negligence: Florida now follows the doctrine of “modified comparative negligence.” This means that if a plaintiff is partially responsible for his or her injuries, he or she can still recover damages proportionate to the defendant’s level of fault. This applies as long as the victim does not bear more than 50% of fault.

2.      No-Fault Auto Insurance: Florida operates as a “no-fault” auto insurance state, requiring motorists to carry personal injury protection coverage. This coverage helps to ensure swift payment of medical expenses and lost wages after a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. This system aims to reduce the burden on the court system by resolving smaller claims outside of court.

3.      Statute of Limitations: In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is typically two years from the date of the incident. This means individuals have a limited timeframe within which to file a lawsuit.

4.      Caps on Damages: Florida has faced considerable debate regarding caps on damages in medical malpractice cases. While the state’s Supreme Court declared these caps unconstitutional in 2017, the issue remains contentious, with proponents of caps arguing that they help control insurance costs and opponents contending that they unfairly limit victims’ compensation.

5.      Premises Liability: Due to its tourism industry, premises liability cases are significant in Florida. Property owners have a duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions for visitors. However, Florida has a legal concept known as the “open and obvious danger doctrine,” which means that property owners might not be liable for hazards that are clear and easily visible.

Tort reform efforts in Florida aim to strike a balance between protecting individuals’ rights to seek compensation for their injuries and preventing excessive litigation that could stifle economic growth. The state’s approach reflects the complexity of this challenge, as lawmakers struggle to find ways of ensuring that victims receive fair compensation while not burdening businesses and insurers with undue legal costs.

What Are the New Florida Comparative Fault Reform Measures?

Florida personal injury laws have undergone several changes in 2023. The new laws modify the current legal framework in several ways.

Major changes signed into law include:

  • reducing the statute of limitations for personal injury suits from four years to two years
  •  moving to a modified comparative fault system, rather than pure comparative fault

What Does the New Comparative Fault Reform Mean for My Case?

These changes mean that pursuing civil cases and collecting adequate damages in Florida may be harder. Florida previously had a standard of pure comparative fault. This meant that you could still collect damages for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, even if you shared the majority of the blame. Under this system, damages were proportionately reduced by the victim’s amount of fault. Under the new laws, if you are 50% or more liable for your own injuries, you are completely barred from collecting any damages.

The reduced statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim means that the time you have to file your claim is shortened from four years to two years. On top of this, most suits get bogged down by months of negotiations. Reducing the statute of limitations from four to two years could lead injured folks to settle for less than what they deserve. As the two-year deadline approaches, parties might try to settle rather than obtain a better outcome and more compensation. It is important for anyone involved in a personal injury case in Florida to be aware of these changes and how they may affect their legal rights and options.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence, also sometimes referred to as comparative fault, is a legal principle used in personal injury cases to allocate responsibility and determine the amount of compensation an injured party can recover from a defendant when both parties share some degree of fault for the underlying incident that caused the injury.

Under comparative negligence, the court or the jury assesses the percentage of fault assigned to each party involved in the case. The compensation awarded to the plaintiff is then adjusted based on his or her own level of responsibility for the injury. There are two main types of comparative negligence:

1.      Pure Comparative Negligence: In states that follow the pure comparative negligence rule, the plaintiff can recover damages even if he or she was mostly at fault for the incident. However, the compensation received is reduced by his or her percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is found 40% responsible for an accident and awarded $10,000 in damages, he or she will receive $6,000.

2.      Modified Comparative Negligence: A modified comparative negligence rule sets a threshold beyond which the plaintiff cannot recover compensation if his or her fault exceeds a certain percentage. For example, under the 50% bar rule, a plaintiff cannot recover damages if his or her fault is determined to be 50% or more responsible for the incident. Under the 51% bar rule, the plaintiff cannot recover damages if their fault is 51% or more.

Comparative negligence allows for a more nuanced approach to distributing liability and compensating injured parties based on their actual level of contribution to the incident. It’s designed to ensure that individuals are held accountable for their actions but still have the opportunity to seek compensation if they were not the primary cause of their injuries.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help With Your Case

A Florida personal injury lawyer can provide valuable assistance and guidance throughout the entire process of pursuing a personal injury case.

Personal injury laws can be complex and vary by state. A Florida personal injury lawyer is well-versed in the state’s laws, regulations, and statutes that pertain to personal injury cases and has experience with the four types of negligence and how they might apply to your case.

An experienced lawyer can assess the strength of your case by reviewing evidence, medical records, accident reports, and other relevant documentation. He or she will determine if you have a viable claim and the potential value of your case. Lawyers have the resources and expertise to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of your injury. This may involve gathering evidence, speaking to witnesses, and reconstructing the accident scene, if necessary.

Many personal injury cases are resolved through negotiations with insurance companies or the at-fault party’s legal representatives. Lawyers are skilled negotiators who can advocate for your best interests and work to secure a fair settlement that covers your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

If negotiations do not lead to a satisfactory resolution, your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf. He or she will guide you through the complex litigation process, including filing legal documents, attending court hearings, and representing you during trial if necessary. Your lawyer will work to gather medical records, accident reports, expert testimonies, and any other evidence necessary to support your claim. Your lawyer can handle the paperwork and ensure that all necessary documents are properly completed, filed, and submitted within deadlines.

A skilled lawyer will strive to maximize the compensation you receive. He or she understands how to calculate the full extent of your damages, including economic and non-economic losses, to ensure you are adequately compensated for your injuries.Since most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you win your case, your lawyer is motivated to obtain the best possible outcome for you.

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James (Jim) Magazine is a Florida Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer who has spent his career helping injured victims. Jim is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida since 1990 and is also admitted to practice at the Appellate level and admitted to the United States Supreme Court.