What Is Contributory Fault?

It’s not uncommon for more than one person to be at fault in an accident. If an injured victim is partially at fault in an accident or is being blamed for an accident, it may impact the compensation they can recover for their injuries. This is referred to as contributory fault. 

Consider, for example, if you slip and fall on a slippery floor in a grocery store while running down an aisle. The store is probably partially at fault for having a slippery floor, but you may also be at fault for running through the grocery store. 

Each state, including Florida, has a framework for dealing with contributory fault. The three main approaches to contributory fault are contributory negligence, pure comparative negligence, and modified comparative negligence. Florida uses a modified comparative negligence approach. 

To understand Florida’s modified comparative negligence approach, it’s important to understand all three approaches to contributory fault.

Three Categories of Contributory Fault

Three Categories of Contributory Fault

Contributory fault laws determine whether someone who is partially at fault in an accident can recover compensation for their injuries and how much compensation they can recover from other at-fault parties.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is the strictest of the three approaches to contributory fault. Under this approach, an injured party cannot recover any compensation if they share any amount of responsibility for the accident. Thus, if a jury (or other factfinder) determines that the injured party is even 1% at fault, they will be barred from recovering any compensation from the other at-fault party.

The only states that follow the contributory negligence approach are Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C.

Pure Comparative Negligence

In contrast, pure comparative negligence is the most generous approach to contributory fault. Under the pure comparative negligence approach, an injured victim is not barred from recovering compensation from other at-fault parties based simply on sharing responsibility for the accident.

However, partial responsibility will impact the amount of compensation the injured party can recover.

To illustrate, imagine that John is injured in a car wreck accident when a driver of another vehicle runs a stop light and hits his car in an intersection. The driver of that car is clearly at fault in the accident. However, imagine that John was driving recklessly, and if John had been driving at a safe speed, the other driver could have avoided the accident.

In this scenario, both drivers share some responsibility for the accident. While John can still recover compensation for his injuries, his overall compensation will be reduced in proportion to his percentage of fault. If the jury decides that John is 20% at fault and the other driver is 80% at fault, then John’s damages will be reduced by 20%. Thus, if John suffered $100,000 in damages in the accident, he could recover up to $80,000 from the other driver.

In addition, under the pure comparative negligence approach, an injured party may also be liable to other accident victims. In the above example, John could be liable for up to 20% of the damages suffered by other victims in the accident, as he was 20% at fault in the accident.

Several states still follow this approach, including: Alaska, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. Florida followed the pure comparative negligence approach until March of 2023. It no longer follows this approach.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Modified comparative negligence falls somewhere in between contributory negligence and pure comparative negligence. Being partially responsible for an accident is not an automatic bar to financial recovery under this approach. Instead, an injured party may be able to recover compensation if they are less than 50% or 51% responsible for the accident, depending on the state.

Modified comparative negligence with a 51% bar is the dominant approach to contributory fault among the states, including Florida. Under this approach, you can recover compensation if you are up to 50% responsible for the accident. The other 21 states that follow this approach are: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The remaining states follow a modified comparative negligence framework with a 50% bar. These states include: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. Under this framework, you can recover compensation if you are up to 49% responsible for an accident. 

Under either modified comparative negligence framework, you are barred from any financial recovery if your responsibility exceeds the bar set forth by law. Additionally, as with pure comparative negligence, your recovery will be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault.

Florida’s Modified Comparative Negligence Approach

The text of Florida’s modified comparative negligence law states: “any party found to be greater than 50 percent at fault for his or her own harm may not recover any damages.” 

Here are the key points to understand about comparative fault in Florida:

  • You can recover compensation if your portion of fault does not exceed 50%. 
  • Your financial recovery will be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault.
  • If you were partially at fault, you may be liable to the other accident victims in proportion to your percentage of fault.

Florida’s modified comparative negligence law applies to personal injury cases filed after March 24, 2023.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help if You’re Being Blamed for an Accident

Under any of the three contributory fault frameworks, being blamed in part for a personal injury accident can have a huge impact on your ability to recover compensation for your injuries. That’s why it’s crucial to have an experienced personal injury lawyer handling your case.

The other at-fault parties and the insurance providers will try to shift blame away from them and onto you. A skilled personal injury lawyer will fight on your behalf and gather evidence to limit the extent of blame you bear for the accident. 

Contact an Experienced Orlando Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If the contributory fault is at play in your personal injury case, your financial recovery will depend, in part, on how much blame you are assigned for the accident. Our skilled Orlando personal injury lawyers at Payer Law Personal Injury Lawyers are here to help you navigate the personal injury claim process and disprove or limit any claims of contributory fault. 

To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Orlando personal injury lawyers, contact us online or call us at our office today at (407) 648-1510.