Coming Changes to Florida’s Comparative Fault Statute

Among other changes to the state’s civil justice system that the Florida Legislature has made recently in what is being billed as “long-overdue” tort reform in Florida, one legislative action was to change the method of apportioning fault in civil lawsuits in Florida. Florida currently has a pure comparative fault statute system, meaning that a person can be found more than 50% responsible for the incident in which he or she was injured, but still recover against whoever else bore the remaining responsibility for that incident for his or her injuries. However, with this change, Florida will be moving to a system under which a plaintiff in a personal injury case will need to be found 49% or less responsible for whatever incident in which he or she is injured to be able to recover any damages whatsoever related to that incident.

The Comparative Fault Statute Change

Florida’s Legislature recently passed legislation known as House Bill 837, which would make an array of changes to the state’s civil justice system as well as to shorten the period for suing a defendant for negligence. Instead of a pure comparative fault system, the state will now have a modified comparative fault system, meaning that an injured person who is found to be more than 51% or more responsible for the occurrence of whatever incident in which he or she was injured is barred from recovering anything for any injuries and other damages they may have suffered in the incident in which the person was injured, even if someone else is found to be 49% responsible for that incident.

So what Is The Real Effect of the Change?

Although there has been a lot of panic over the changes that will be made by HB 837 once the governor signs the legislation as he is widely expected to do, the real effect of this particular change will be for cases in which the injured person’s fault may be fairly high. Under the new system, someone who is injured in an accident which he or she may have had a large role in causing, then there may be a justified fear that the courthouse doors will be shut to that person.

However, it is ultimately up to a jury to determine who is at fault and what percentage of fault each party in each scenario bears for the incident occurring as well as the resulting injuries. There is not a single personal injury scenario or accident where the defense and its attorneys do not blame the injured person for whatever circumstances led to that person suffering injuries. While many attorneys are rightfully concerned about the effects these new changes to Florida’s civil justice system may have, juries are unpredictable and insurance companies and defense attorneys are notoriously bad at predicting how a jury will decide a particular case. This means that defense attorneys and insurance carriers are likely to use these new changes to Florida’s system of apportioning fault to try to low-ball plaintiffs in personal injury cases, but, as they often do, they very well could use these changes to overplay their hand and blow an otherwise winnable case for the defense.

Contact Schwed, Adams & McGinley

At Schwed, Adams and McGinley, P.A., our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 200 years of experience representing individuals who have been injured by someone else’s negligence. Regardless of what changes the Legislature makes and/or is considering to Florida’s civil justice system, victims of someone else’s negligence will always be entitled to seek redress through Florida’s courts for injuries they may have suffered as a result of someone else’s negligence. Our attorneys have represented over 15,000 satisfied clients during their collective 200 years of practice and we know how to present a client’s case to a jury in a way that will minimize any fault the client may have in connection with the incident in which that client was injured. If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence in Florida, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams and McGinley, P.A. today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com to schedule a free consultation regarding your situation.