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Comparative Fault in Florida Semi-Truck Accidents: How It Affects Your Compensation

semi truck accident compensation

If you’ve been injured in a collision with a semi-truck in Florida, you may be wondering whether you can recover damages, who may be responsible for those damages, and how much your claim is worth. The answers to those questions depend in part on whether and to what extent you share responsibility for the accident. Here’s what you need to know about Florida’s comparative fault statute and how it plays out in truck accident cases.

Who is Liable for a Florida Semi-Truck Accident?

The general rule in Florida is that a party whose negligence causes or substantially contributes to an accident is responsible for the damage caused by that accident. In the case of a commercial vehicle accident like a semi-truck collision, that may be the truck driver or someone else associated with the truck. Some possible examples include:

  • The truck driver, if their actions were negligent
  • The truck driver’s employer, if they are an employee operating the vehicle for work
  • The party responsible for maintenance of the truck, if faulty maintenance caused or contributed to the accident
  • Another party whose negligence caused or contributed to the accident, such as a shipper who negligently loaded the truck
  • The manufacturer of the truck or a component part, if defective equipment caused or contributed to the accident

This isn’t a complete list. The best way to ensure that you have identified all possible responsible parties in a truck accident case is to consult one of our experienced Florida truck accident attorneys as soon as possible after the accident. When your attorney assesses who may be responsible for your injuries, one of the possibilities may come as a surprise: you.

Sharing the Blame for a Truck Accident

It’s not unusual for both drivers in a motor vehicle accident to bear some responsibility for the crash, and truck accidents are no exception. Imagine, for example, that a semi-truck driver is speeding and the driver of a car cuts in front of the truck without signaling. The truck driver can’t slow down quickly enough and hits the car.

The truck driver was operating negligently by not obeying the speed limit. And, that negligence likely at least partly caused the accident, since the trucker would have been able to slow down or stop sooner if the vehicle hadn’t been traveling so fast. However, the driver of the car was also negligent, both in failing to signal before changing lanes and in cutting too close in front of the truck. Here’s how Florida law assigns liability in a case like this.

Florida’s Comparative Fault Statute

For decades, Florida was one of the few states in the U.S. that used a pure comparative fault model in injury cases. Under that model, an injured person could recover damages for their injuries even if they were partly responsible. However, those damages were reduced by the amount of responsibility they bore. So, if the injured party was 50% responsible for the accident, they could only recover half of their damages. If they were 80% responsible, they could only recover 20%.

That changed in 2023. Now, Florida follows a modified comparative fault model. Under the modified comparative fault model, damages are still apportioned as described above. There’s one very important difference, though—if the injured party was more than 50% responsible, they can’t recover any damages at all. What that means for someone injured in a truck accident depends on how blame is apportioned.

Damage Awards Under Florida’s Comparative Fault Law

Consider the collision between a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle described above. The truck driver was speeding, and the driver of the car cut into the truck’s lane without signaling. Since both drivers were violating traffic safety laws at the time of the accident and both of those safety violations likely contributed substantially to the collision, a Florida jury might find this case a close call.

If the driver of the car had $100,000 in damages and the jury found that they were 30% responsible, they could recover 70% of their damages—$70,000. They would be responsible for the remaining 30% themselves, since they were 30% to blame.

If the driver of the car had $100,000 in damages and the jury found that they were 50% responsible, they could recover 50% of their damages—$50,000. They would be responsible for the remaining 50% themselves, since they were 50% to blame.

If the driver of the car had $100,000 in damages and the jury found that they were 51% responsible, they could recover nothing. Since Florida law doesn’t allow an injured party who was more than half responsible to recover damages, they would be 100% responsible for absorbing their own losses.

The extreme impact of that additional 1% of liability is one of many reasons it’s important to work with an experienced Florida truck accident lawyer. A personal injury lawyer who has extensive experience with Florida truck accident cases and other motor vehicle accident and negligence-based cases can investigate your case, talk to witnesses, gather evidence, consult experts, and construct the strongest possible case on your behalf.

Talk to an Experienced Florida Truck Accident Attorney Today

You may know that you have up to two years after a Florida semi-truck accident to file your claim. But, that doesn’t mean you can afford to delay. Choosing a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after your accident gives your attorney the best opportunity to speak to witnesses while memories are fresh, obtain physical evidence that could be lost or destroyed over time, preserve video from security systems or traffic cameras that may be deleted at intervals, and otherwise ensure a strong foundation for your case.

The truck accident attorneys at Harrell & Harrell are dedicated to fighting for fair compensation for Florida injury victims. Every day, we put decades of combined experience to work to get the best possible result for our clients. To learn more about how we can help, call 904-251-1111 right now, or fill out our contact form. The initial consultation is free, and there’s no obligation.