Determinig Fault After An Accident
When a Florida resident gets into a car accident, several state laws affect the insurance claims and lawsuits that might result. In this article, we’ll examine a few of those laws, including Florida’s status as a no-fault state, how long drivers have to file court cases after a crash, and how Florida’s “pure” comparative fault rule might affect the case.
Florida is a No-Fault State
The most important thing to note about Florida law if you’ve been in a car accident is that Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. That means, if you’ve been injured in a car accident in Florida, you’ll need to first turn to your own car insurance coverage to get compensation for your injuries and other losses stemming from the accident, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
Only in certain cases can you step outside the no-fault system and try to hold the other driver liable for your injuries — meaning you can file a liability claim with the other driver’s insurer or file a personal injury lawsuit against him or her. In Florida, only car accidents that result in permanent injury, or significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, will take a claim outside of the no-fault system.
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Florida’s Statute of Limitations After a Car Accident
A “statute of limitations” is a law that sets a deadline for filing certain kinds of lawsuits. In Florida, the statute of limitations for personal injury and property damage cases related to traffic accidents is four years (Title 8, Ch. 95, Sec. 95.11).
Remember, you can’t usually file a lawsuit over a car accident in Florida unless your claim qualifies under the states “serious injury” threshold. But if your claim does qualify, this four-year window “opens” the day of the accident. Weekends and holidays are included in the count. After four years, you may be barred from bringing your case to court, no matter how strong your arguments are.
Florida’s Comparative Fault Rules
In Florida, your options for settlements after a traffic accident depend in part on who was likely “at fault” for causing the accident. If your case goes to court, a judge or jury may decide that both you and another driver were partially to blame for the crash. If this happens, how does it affect your ability to receive damages?
Florida uses a “pure” comparative fault rule in car accident cases. The rule works like this: Suppose that, in your case, the jury decides the total amount of your damages is $100,000. The jury also decides that you are 20 percent at fault for the accident, and the other driver is 80 percent at fault. Under the “pure” comparative fault rule, you will receive the total damages amount minus a portion equal to the percentage of your fault. In this example, therefore, you would get $80,000: the $100,000 total, minus the 20 percent ($20,000) that represents your share of the fault.
The “pure” comparative negligence rule remains the same even if you are found to be more at fault than the other driver. So, in the example above, if you were the one found to be 80 percent at fault, you could still recover $20,000 (the $100,000 total minus your 80 percent, or $80,000). Not all states’ comparative negligence rules work this way. In states that use “modified” comparative negligence rules (like Florida’s neighbor Georgia), you would not be able to recover any damages at all if the jury found you were 50 percent or more responsible for the accident.
In any accident case, you want to be sure that you are represented by the right personal injury attorney to ensure that you get everything that you are entitled to, whether it be from your insurance company, or anyone else involved in the accident.