The Thorny Path of Disputed Liability Auto Accident Cases: A Lose-Lose
Auto accidents are a common occurrence, but when it comes to disputed liability cases, they can quickly become a legal and financial quagmire for both law firms and clients alike. Disputed liability cases are those in which it's unclear who is at fault or if the plaintiff bears a significant portion of the blame. In states with laws that say a plaintiff is barred from recovering damages if they're found more than 50 percent at fault, the stakes are even higher. In this blog post, we will explore Florida’s recent comparative negligence law changes and why disputed liability auto accident cases are not good for law firms or clients.
The New Tort Reform
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 837 into law on March 24, 2023. This bill altered the state of litigation on comparative negligence throughout Florida. While the many changes are outlined in the above-linked House Bill, the most notable is the shift to a comparative negligence system to handle shared liability for personal injury claims.
Under the new reform, individuals will be barred from compensatory recovery when they are more than 50% at fault for causing their own injuries. This is HUGE! If an individual is less than 50% at fault, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries; however, the recovery will be reduced by their contribution of fault. This can also be called “disputed liability” verses clear liability.
For example, if a person sustains $100,000 in damages after a car accident caused primarily by the at-fault driver defendant, but the injury victim was found to be 20% responsible due to their actions on the roadway, then they would receive $80,000 instead of the full $100,000. Of course, this is a very simple breakdown purely for the purpose of demonstrating the practical application of the new shift in tort reform.
Now that we have an understanding of how the new system works, why is it less plaintiff (claimant) friendly, and how does it impact the firm and the client alike?
Disputed liability cases are inherently complicated. They often involve contradictory testimonies, complex accident reconstructions, and extensive evidence gathering. This complexity can significantly increase the time and resources required for these cases. Moreover, the risk of losing the case entirely if the plaintiff is found more than 50 percent at fault adds an extra layer of legal complexity.
Financial Risk for Law Firms
In Florida, since the new tort reform law bars recovery if the plaintiff is mostly at fault, law firms face significant financial risk when taking on disputed liability auto accident cases. If the plaintiff is found to be more than 50 percent at fault, the law firm may end up receiving no compensation for their services, despite the considerable time and effort invested.
Uncertain Outcomes for Clients
Clients who pursue disputed liability cases are exposed to a high degree of uncertainty. Even if their case seems strong initially, a jury's decision can hinge on the smallest details and interpretations of the evidence. The risk of walking away with nothing is very real, leaving the injured party in a vulnerable position.
Disputed liability cases can take an emotional toll on both clients and law firms. For clients, the frustration of having their claim denied because they are more than 50 percent at fault can be devastating, particularly if they are dealing with substantial medical bills and emotional trauma. For law firms, investing time and resources into cases that may yield no recovery can be a significant impact on the firm as a whole.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Given the complexities and uncertainties surrounding disputed liability auto accident cases, alternative dispute resolution methods like negotiations and pre-suit settlements become even more crucial. While settling might not always yield the desired compensation, it can provide clients with a guaranteed outcome without the risk of being barred from recovery.
It is essential for clients and law firms to carefully evaluate whether pursuing disputed liability cases is in their best interests, and to consider alternative dispute resolution methods as a means of achieving a more predictable and favorable outcome. Ultimately, the legal landscape surrounding disputed liability cases in these states underscores the need for a thoughtful and strategic approach when navigating these intricate legal waters.
At Moody Law, we are dedicated to helping accident victims in Florida obtain the compensation they deserve. Whether you've been injured in a car accident, truck accident, workplace incident, or any other situation, our experienced personal injury attorneys are here to fight for your rights and can navigate this shifting landscape.
Remember, time is of the essence when it comes to personal injury claims. Don't wait; contact us today, and let us be your trusted partner on the road to recovery. Together, we can navigate the legal process and work toward the compensation you deserve.