In March of 2023, the Florida Legislature changed Florida’s longstanding rule regarding comparative fault. Here’s what that means for accident victims.
Comparative fault rule prior to March 2023
The old rule is exemplified as follows: If Person A while driving, gets rear-ended by Person B, Person A will be allowed to recover damages against Person B minus any percentage of fault attributed to Person A for, possibly, his/her own negligence. This was the rule in all personal injury/negligence cases whether it was a slip/trip and fall, car accident, dog bite, or whatever. This rule has been in place since the Florida Supreme Court case of Hoffman v. Jones, 280 So. 2d 431 (Fla. 1973).
The Hoffman decision (along with the doctrine of pure comparative fault) recognized that injured victims are entitled to the total amount of their damages minus a “self-responsibility discount.” (See Walkowiak, Vincent S., Innocent Injury and Loss Distribution: The Florida Pure Comparative Negligence System; Fla. State. L. Rev., Vol. 5, Issue 1, Art. 2, Winter 1977).
Changes as of March 24, 2023
The new rule is best explained as follows: If Person A while driving, gets rear-ended by Person B, Person A will be allowed to recover damages against Person B minus any percentage of fault attributed to Person A for, possibly, his/her own negligence. However, if a jury were to determine that Person A was more than 50% responsible for his/her own accident, Person A is prohibited from any recovery whatsoever.
New Rule: Modified Comparative Fault
In sum, the new rule, known as a modified comparative fault, absolves tortfeasors for their negligent actions which cause injury so long as their negligence was 49% or otherwise less than that of the Plaintiff’s 51%. Philosophically and practically, this new rule does not hold everyone accountable for their percentage of fault and instead punishes a Plaintiff from recovering the difference of what they otherwise would have received due to the Defendant’s negligence.
What this means for accident victims
Thus, going forward, accident victims need to be cognizant about whether a jury may potentially hold them 51% or more accountable. If so, you may no longer have a viable path to justice.
Despite changing the law and preventing genuinely injured people from obtaining legal redress, there is zero evidence whatsoever that the modified rule will lower or reduce any insurance rates throughout the state of Florida.
Authored by Corey Friedman