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Can You Sue When Both Parties are at Fault for an Accident?


When we are in accidents, we think of things in very simple terms: who is liable for the accident? It’s either them (the Defendants), or you, the victim. Both will blame each other, and whomever the jury believes in court, will win.

But that’s not exactly how real life works. Real life has grays, and ambiguities, and in reality, in many accidents, both sides may play some role in causing the accident.

Examples of When Both Parties Bear Some Fault

Victims can still recover in accidents even when both parties are at fault. However, Florida’s comparative negligence statutes, and recent changes to that law, have made that even harder.

A classic case is when a pedestrian is hit by a car. Often, pedestrians may bolt out in front of traffic, or cross where there is no crosswalk. When they are hit by cars, the pedestrian understandably blames the car driver, but the driver also blames the pedestrian.

There are other examples, such as accidents at intersections where there may be no traffic control signals (such as in parking lots), or in cases where there is a lane change accident, and it is unclear who went into whose lane first.

Why Dual Liability Cases are Difficult

One reason that cases are more difficult when both parties share some fault, is the difficulty in settling the case. Insurance companies and Defendants will often not offer much in settlement, when there is the sense that the victim contributed in some part to causing the accident.

Often, these kinds of cases end up being a process whereby both parties point out what the other did wrong, with a “back and forth” of accusations of carelessness.

Dual liability cases can get expensive, as accident reconstructionists may be needed to recreate the accident, or vehicles’ data recorders may need to be analyzed, to see what each car was doing at the time of the accident.

The New Comparative Fault Laws

When both parties are liable, the victim (the Plaintiff or party suing) will have their percentage of fault, reduced from the overall verdict. So, if the victim was 40% responsible for the accident, the verdict awarded to the Plaintiff will be reduced by 40%.

But as of last year, a new law was put into place. If the victim’s liability or fault is more than 50%, the victim recovers nothing. If the jury hypothetically finds the injuries are worth $1 million, but the victim is 51% liable for the accident, the ultimate verdict will be 0.

This is a harsh result, caused by a change in Florida law just last year. But it alters the answer to the fundamental question of whether a victim can recover compensation when both parties are at fault.

Whereas the answer used to be a definite yes, today the answer is more like, “it depends if the victim isn’t too much at fault.”

Are you being blamed for causing your own accident?  Contact the Tampa personal injury lawyers at Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian and schedule a consultation today.


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