Comparative Negligence In Florida Post-HB 837: From Pure To Modified

Comparative Negligence in Florida Post-HB 837: From Pure to Modified

In 2023, Florida enacted HB 837, a significant tort reform that fundamentally changed the landscape of personal injury cases in the state by shifting from a pure comparative negligence standard to a modified one. This change has profound implications for plaintiffs in negligence cases.

Comparative Negligence: From Pure to Modified

Pure Comparative Negligence: Previously, Florida operated under a pure comparative negligence system. Adopted in 1973, this system allowed plaintiffs to recover damages even if they were 99% at fault for their injuries. The recovery would simply be reduced by their percentage of fault. This system aimed to allocate damages equitably based on each party’s contribution to the harm​​.

Modified Comparative Negligence: However, HB 837 introduced a modified system. Now, if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault for their own injuries, they are barred from recovering any damages. This represents a significant departure from the past where a plaintiff could be predominantly at fault yet still recover a portion of the damages. Under the new system, crossing the 51% threshold means losing the right to compensation entirely​​​​.

Implications and Examples

  1. Pre- vs. Post-HB 837 Scenario:
    • Before HB 837: If a plaintiff was found 60% at fault in an accident where the damages were $100,000, they could still recover 40% ($40,000).
    • After HB 837: The same plaintiff would now recover nothing because their fault exceeds 50%.
  2. Impact on Legal Strategies:
    • For Plaintiffs: There’s now a heightened need to minimize the percentage of fault attributed to them. This might lead to more cautious approaches in taking cases to trial or increased settlements out of court.
    • For Defendants: They may adopt more aggressive strategies to prove the plaintiff’s fault is 51% or higher, completely barring them from recovery.
  3. Comparative Fault in Accidents:
    • Example: Consider a car accident where both drivers were speeding, but one also ran a red light. Pre-HB 837, if the driver who ran the light was found 70% at fault, they could still recover 30% of their damages. Now, they would be barred from any recovery.
  4. Insurance and Settlements:
    • Insurers might adjust their settlement strategies, potentially offering lower settlements if they believe they can prove the plaintiff’s fault is over 50%. This can lead to more challenging negotiations for plaintiffs seeking fair compensation.

Comparative Negligence in Florida Post-HB 837: From Pure to Modified

Broader Context and Conclusion

With the enactment of HB 837, Florida joined approximately 34 other states with some form of modified comparative negligence. This shift reflects a broader trend in tort reform aimed at addressing perceived imbalances in the personal injury legal landscape. While proponents argue that this change promotes personal responsibility and fairness, critics contend it unduly penalizes plaintiffs who might share a significant portion of the fault but are still victims of another’s negligence​​.

The law’s implications are far-reaching, affecting all negligence claims filed after March 24, 2023, except those related to medical malpractice. As the legal community and plaintiffs adapt to this new landscape, the full impact of these changes will unfold in courtrooms and settlement discussions across Florida. It’s essential for those involved in personal injury cases, whether as plaintiffs, defendants, or legal practitioners, to understand these changes and strategize accordingly​​.

It is even more essential to hire experienced legal counsel who can help you navigate these changes and preserve your case.

That’s why if you’re injured in an accident, call Jaime “Mr. 787Abogado” Suarez today to Get You Paid!

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