Calculating damages after an accident is no easy feat. Not only are you focusing on healing, but you're also trying to deal with insurance adjusters and car mechanics and doctors and missing work and everything else on your plate. It's exhausting.
Many websites offer free calculators that claim to get you into the ballpark of a settlement, but those are obviously very vague and don't take comparative negligence into account.
Comparative negligence (also called comparative fault or shared fault) is the factor that determines the percentage of which both parties were at fault – in other words, were you entirely blameless in this scenario? Each state follows a different system of fault, so while you could recover 99% of damages in one state, you could be barred from recovery in another.
Today we're going to talk about Florida. But first, a few things to know...
There are a few types of damages for which you could recover:
Attorneys use "the multiplier" to figure out how to add up damages. An insurance adjuster will multiply that by a number between 1.5 and 5. That number will be low or high depending on specific facts:
You will argue for a higher multiplier, while the adjuster will argue for a lower multiplier. Sometimes the ceiling (5) will be increased depending on the severity of injuries, but that is for cases in which there is permanent disability and so on.
When a value for general damages is calculated, that is added to the rest of the damages for an estimated settlement value.
This number is what your attorney will negotiate for.
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<a href="https://www.enjuris.com/personal-injury-law/shared-fault-rules.html" target="blank"><img src="https://www.enjuris.com/infographics/fault-systems-by-state.jpg" alt="Fault Systems by State" title="Fault Systems by State" style="width: 100%; max-width: 987px; display: block; margin: 15px auto;" /></a>
Florida follows the pure comparative negligence recovery system. This means that your recovery is reduced by your amount of fault in the accident.
The rough version of a settlement formula in a Florida personal injury case is a function of your damages, how likely you are to win, and your fault in the accident.
Meanwhile, the full value of your damages is generally your out-of-pocket medical bills, lost wages and pain & suffering. These are called economic and non-economic damages.
As mentioned above, Florida uses a pure comparative fault system. This means that some percentage of fault will be assigned to the plaintiff during settlement negotiations, and unless you were rear-ended during a car accident, this will likely not be 0% fault.
Think about it – you and the defendant were both trying to get the parking space at the same time and crashed cars. Were you really without fault here? In your calculations, be conservative and plug in a number that's higher for your own fault so you won't be shocked later on when the real number is revealed.
There are so many factors in personal injury cases that plugging just any number into a formula is difficult to do.
They can range from the predictable (whether you're married, because you can add a loss of consortium claim to your damages) to the bizarre (such as the county in which the accident happened, because Miami-Dade and other big-city counties in Florida tend to have higher verdicts than the northern Florida districts).