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Joint and Several Liability in Florida Car Accidents

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Whenever more than one person is responsible for causing injuries, the injured party may seek compensation from each of the people or entities responsible and make a case against each of them. This is applicable in a car accident case where more than one driver is responsible for causing an accident that results in serious injuries to another. However, the injured person is limited in how he can claim any compensation awarded against one or more negligent parties.

In some jurisdictions, once a jury or a court awards an injured person compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident caused by multiple defendants, the injured person can collect the compensation based on joint and several liability. This generally means that he can seek the full amount of compensation from one defendant only. This eliminates the trouble a plaintiff may go through trying to get compensation from all the defendants, especially if a defendant is unlikely to pay.

For example, if the jury awarded the injured person $1,000,000 against two defendants, the injured person could collect the whole $1,000,000 from defendant A. Alternatively, the injured person could seek $500,000 from defendant A and the rest from defendant B. The choice is up to the injured person.

In other jurisdictions, such as Florida, the joint and several liability approach is not seen as being particularly equitable. In Florida, when a jury or judge finds that more than one person is responsible for the injuries caused to another, the jury or judge has to also apportion the responsibility for the accident in terms of percentages. For instance, defendant A in the example above can be found seventy percent liable with defendant B being found thirty percent liable. The plaintiff has to collect compensation according to these percentages, that is, $700,000 from defendant A and $300,000 from defendant B.

If one defendant refuses to pay or is unable to pay, the injured party loses out on the rest of the award. If the injured person is also found partially liable, this reduces the percentage amount he can receive. In this way, the injured party may end up only receiving enough compensation to cover some but not all of his costs.

When a person sues multiple defendants, one defendant may agree to a settlement to avoid the risk of trial. The settling defendant could still have percentage liability attributed at trial, except the plaintiff will not be able to get more from the defendant who already settled. Additionally, the defendant who goes to trial instead of settling may be limited in arguing that the plaintiff’s award should be reduced because of a prior settlement. 

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

If you are injured in a car accident involving multiple drivers, it is not automatically impossible to prove liability and seek compensation, even if you were partially at fault. For more information on how you can seek compensation after being injured in a multi-car accident, contact an experienced car accident injury lawyer at Vocelle & Berg, LLP, in Vero Beach, Florida for a free consultation.

Resource:

leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0768/Sections/0768.81.html