Up until 1973, Florida handled recovery in tort claim actions using a system of contributory negligence. In that same year, the Florida Supreme Court heard and decided the case, ‘Hoffman’, which had an effect of replacing the existing system with a more “pure form”, referred to as comparative negligence. The court felt it was necessary to change how Florida handled tort claims, especially when it came to auto accidents, because the previously used system barred any recovery by a plaintiff if they were in any way responsible for their injuries, even minimally.
SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN THE LAW
The holding by the Florida Supreme Court in the ‘Hoffman’ case in 1973, was a clear change in the substantive law that governed tort claims. What the court found was that denying plaintiffs any recovery in a personal injury claim based on their partial negligent conduct, seemed to be unfair.
If a plaintiff and a defendant both contributed to the cause of an injury, it made more sense to portion the liability between the parties, and allow for recovery of damages based on the other party’s contribution of fault. The area where the court saw a serious need for this change in the law was in that of auto accidents. The ruling in ‘Hoffman’ declared that tort claims involving auto accidents were “one of the most pressing social problems”, and a big reason for the change.
COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE VS. CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE
Before Florida used a system of Comparative Negligence, tort claims were all decided by a Contributory Negligence system. Much of the reason for which Florida felt that a change in systems was necessary, because, previously, any person who was at all negligent in causing their injury, was completely barred from receiving compensation from a party who was more at fault.
The Florida Supreme Court felt that eliminating a plaintiff’s ability for recovery all together if they had a hand in causing their injury was extremely harsh. Additionally, creating a new way of handling recovery in tort claims would provide a defendant a way to reduce the amount of damages that they were facing if a plaintiff was at all at fault for their injuries.
Comparative negligence would allow a jury to assign a percentage of Personal Injury liability to all parties to the lawsuit, and in turn, apportion an amount of damages to a plaintiff, minus what their percentage of negligence was in the act. The court felt that liability of an accident needed to be assigned based on a party’s contribution of fault to that accident.
COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE INVOLVING REAR-END AUTO ACCIDENTS
Auto accidents in Florida are governed by comparative negligence principles and elements of a negligence claim. In order for a person to be held liable for another person’s injuries in a rear-end collision, it must be shown there was a duty of care owed, there was a breach of duty, and that the person’s negligent act was the proximate and legal cause of the any damages. There are many factors that a jury, or court, will look at when deciding if someone is in fact the reason why another person has suffered the injuries they have.
Comparative negligence laws can be complex to follow and understand. If you have questions concerning a rear-end auto accident, and who is liable, contact Madalon Law today for your free consultation.