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Spencer Morgan Law, Spencer G. Morgan, Attorney At Law Miami Personal Injury Lawyer
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Contributory Versus Comparative Negligence


Determining who is at fault for an accident is often a complex and lengthy process. It begins with the person filing the claim (typically the accident victim and referred to as the plaintiff) proving that the other party was negligent. However, even if the plaintiff can prove that negligence exists, the defendant still has an opportunity to build a defense. If successful, the defendant can avoid partial or even full liability for the accident. He or she may do this by proving that the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident as well.

There are two types of systems that are designed to deal with shared fault in car accident cases: comparative and contributory negligence. How liability is treated when both parties have contributed to the accident all depends on where you live and by which system your state abides.

Comparative Fault

Comparative fault has been adopted by most states, Florida being one of them. In a comparative fault system, the deciding parties assign percentages of fault to both parties. The plaintiff’s recovery is then reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to him or her.

That said, there are two types of comparative fault systems: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence.

In pure comparative negligence states—which include Florida, California, and New York—accident victims may recover compensation despite how negligent they were in their own driving. This is the case even if the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff is greater than that assigned to the defendant.

In modified comparative negligence states, a plaintiff may not recover compensation if his or her fault exceeds a certain degree. In some states, such as Colorado and Georgia, a plaintiff may not recover compensation if the percentage of fault assigned to him or her is equal to or greater than the defendant’s. In these states, a plaintiff may only recover compensation if the percentage of fault assigned to him or her is 49 or less. However, in other state, such as Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, an accident victim can be 50 percent responsible and still recover compensation.

Contributory Negligence

Some states, including Alabama, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia, bar victims from recovery if they share any degree of fault whatsoever. This is the case even if the percentage of fault assigned to a plaintiff is as low as one percent. The theory behind this system is that the accident would not have occurred had at least one party been abiding by the law.

How Compensation is Determined Once Fault is Assigned

In Florida, once fault is assigned, the victim’s recovery is reduced by the amount of fault assigned to him or her. So, for instance, if the plaintiff assumes 30 percent liability for the incident, his or her recovery will be reduced by 30 percent. If the plaintiff is 60 percent responsible for his or her accident, his or her recovery will be reduced by 60 percent.

To learn more about negligence and liability as it applies to your car accident case, contact the Miami car accident attorneys at Spencer Morgan Law today.


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