Whenever an accident occurs and a personal injury case is filed, there must always be a determination of who was at fault and whether any other parties were also at fault. In the simplest example, in a two-vehicle accident, one person may be 100% at fault and the other 0% at fault. However, these situations are rare. Often, there are multiple parties involved in the accident, and each party has some percentage of fault that can be assigned to them.
In Florida, the legal doctrine that helps courts figure these situations out is called “comparative negligence.” Under a comparative negligence analysis, anyone injured in an accident can recover compensation from anyone else who was at fault. However, the person’s available damages will be reduced by their own percent at fault. So, for example, if a pedestrian was determined to have suffered $500,000 in damages but was 10% at fault for the accident that caused their injuries, the pedestrian’s total available recovery amount would be $500,000 minus $50,000 (10%), or $450,000.
Comparative negligence is seen as a “plaintiff-friendly” doctrine, since it still allows plaintiffs to recover for their injuries even if they are partially at fault, albeit at a reduced amount. Other jurisdictions across the U.S. employ much harsher rules. For example, consider the case of Bertsch v. Mammoth Community Water District, in which a father was prevented from receiving compensation for the death of his son because his son was engaging in the “dangerous activity” of skateboarding at the time of his fatal accident.