Florida’s Negligence Laws – Then and Now

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Historically, Florida’s negligence laws regarding personal injury cases were a combination of joint and several liability and contributory negligence.

As our video explains with regard to personal injury cases, Florida abolished joint and several liability. This occurred fairly recently (2006) and represented a major policy shift in the State of Florida.

Joint and Several Liability (abolished)

  • Prior to 2006, if more than one person were held liable for an injury, all parties became “jointly and severally” liable, or responsible, for the full amount of damages.
  • In present personal injury cases, a court enters a judgment based on the person’s percentage of fault—and not on the basis of the doctrine of joint and several liability. Instead of each defendant being responsible for the entire amount of the plaintiff’s damages, a defendant is responsible only for the percentage of fault determined by the jury.

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Contributory Negligence (then) vs. Comparative Negligence (now)

Also in the past, Florida courts applied the rule of contributory negligence, based on case law, in personal injury cases. Under this doctrine, a plaintiff who was only minimally responsible in some way for the accident, was completely barred from any recovery from another party.

This hard-line approach was eventually replaced by a more equitable doctrine of comparative negligence. Today, with a few legal exceptions, Florida has made the shift to a pure comparative negligence state. Under comparative negligence, a jury compares the negligence of the plaintiff with the negligence of the defendant and decides damages accordingly.

So, without joint and several liability or contributory negligence, and under the current comparative fault statute, Florida’s negligence laws are now based upon a theory of negligence under the doctrine of comparative negligence, such that:

  • In order to recover financially in a personal injury case, a person must show that another person was negligent, and that negligence caused the injury;
  • A wrongdoer's degree of responsibility is now limited according to his or her own degree of fault, without barring compensation to the plaintiff. If a case goes to settlement, assignment of fault percentages among parties is handled through mediation and negotiation between lawyers and insurance companies; when a case goes to trial, the assignment of fault percentages is by judge or jury.

These statutes apply to negligence in personal injury cases, and most notably in auto accidents and slip and fall injuries. The comparative fault principles do not apply to intentional torts in which a person suffers injury as the result of an intentional, premeditated act.

TK Law understands the hardships you face after a serious accident. We work with your physicians and other professionals to understand all aspects of your injuries, so we can build and present your case in the most compelling manner. Please contact us today with your questions or to discuss your case.

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As the complexities of Florida personal injury law—and all fields of law—are constantly subject to change, your attorney must stay on the cutting edge of the law, both state and federal. Not just to know the law itself, but to develop strategies and insights on how to apply the laws in our client’s unique situations.

We invite you to contact us so you can learn more about our outstanding team of attorneys and how they can assist you, with any legal issue.

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