Although cases where liability is clear are oftentimes easier to handle, we very regularly make recoveries for our clients when liability is disputed.
Fortunately, Florida is what is known as a comparative negligence state. This means that at the conclusion of each personal injury jury trial, the jury will be asked to assign a percentage of fault to each party. Whatever percentage of fault is assigned to any party other than the Defendant is reduced from the Plaintiff’s recovery.
For example, assume that the Plaintiff has been injured in a car accident with two other cars. The Plaintiff settled with Defendant #1, but the case against Defendant #2 goes to trial. At trial, the jury decides that the Plaintiff has suffered damages in the amount of $100,000.00. In addition, the jury decides that Defendant #1 was 50% responsible for causing the accident, and that Defendant #2 and the Plaintiff were each 25% responsible. In this example, the Plaintiff would only collect $25,000.00 of the jury’s $100,000.00 award. The Plaintiff is not allowed to collect for his own negligence, or that of the Defendant he already settled with.
Disputed liability cases can many times be resolved without the need for a trial, but it is important that the injury victim takes a realistic approach to the case. A case with truly disputed liability is just not going to garner the same kind of result as a case with liability is clear.
It should be noted that many times insurance companies and others will sometimes see a “dispute” in liability where one seemingly does not exist. In cases such as these, it is sometimes beneficial to hire an expert witness to clarify issues as they relate to liability. In cases like these, it is important to have an experienced lawyer who is familiar with the use of expert witnesses.