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When Does Fault Matter In Auto Accidents?

Car crash Rinaldo Law Group

Most of us grow up learning that if something is our fault, we should be the one to bear any cost or accept any ire for it happening. However, this is not always the case when it comes to law. There are some occasions where fault is immaterial – where in theory, both participants in an accident or a misunderstanding deserve to be compensated for their injuries, or at least not required to forego compensation entirely in order to assist the other person. This is a question often disputed in Florida auto accidents, as the law can be very confusing as to when fault actually matters and when it does not. If you have been in a Tampa car crash, there are some occasions where it does not matter who actually caused the accident.

Florida Is A No-Fault State

Florida is one of the handful of states that uses the no-fault system of auto insurance. This means that instead of bringing civil lawsuits against each other when auto accidents occur, each driver is supposed to be carrying enough coverage to pay any medical bills they might incur on the state’s roads. However, Florida has a long-standing problem where many drivers do not purchase the required insurance (generally $10,000 in personal injury protection and $10,000 in property damage liability coverage). The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimate that in 2015, more than one-quarter of Florida motorists had no auto insurance at all.

In theory, if someone is not carrying auto insurance, it does not change the general statement that no-fault insurance is the way Florida prefers to do business when it comes to auto accidents. However, if you sustain an injury that is deemed to be severe – the law states that if there is the loss of a limb or a “significant and permanent loss” of an important bodily function – then you are permitted to bring suit against the person who caused that injury. At that point, fault may become an issue, because if you can establish that the defendant breached the duty of care that all motorists owe to each other on the roads, they may be held liable for your injuries.

Comparative Fault

The other common occasion where fault is at issue in an auto accident is if you have sustained a serious injury – that “significant and permanent loss” of a limb or an important bodily function – and bring the issue to trial, your case will be adjudicated on the basis of what Florida law calls pure comparative fault. Comparative fault is a common doctrine, adopted in all but a couple of states, which holds that while a plaintiff might be partially at fault for their own injuries, a defendant still may be held liable (and thus owe compensation) for the percentage that they are at fault. For example, if a jury holds that the plaintiff was 30 percent responsible for their own injuries, they may still order the defendant be held liable for the remaining 70 percent.

Florida uses a variant called pure comparative fault, as opposed to modified comparative fault. In Florida, the plaintiff can always recover if the defendant is held liable, even if a jury finds that the defendant was only responsible for a minority amount of damage – in other words, recovery is not barred by a finding that the plaintiff was negligent. Modified comparative fault, by comparison, holds that if a plaintiff is found to be responsible for more than 50 percent (or 51 percent, depending on the state) of their own injuries, they are totally barred from recovery.

Call A Tampa Auto Accident Lawyer

It is somewhat counterintuitive to think that fault often does not matter when you have been in a car crash, but that is the truth in Florida. If you have been injured, consulting an attorney can be the first step toward receiving the compensation you need to get your bills paid and your life back on track. The Tampa auto accident lawyers at the Rinaldo Law Group are ready, willing and able to try and assist you with your case. Call us today at 813-831-9999 for a free consultation.



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