Businesses have a responsibility to keep their floors safe, clean, and
free of hazards for their customers and anyone else who is on their property.
This is Florida law. While some people might think of a
slip and fall case as a frivolous or silly lawsuit, these cases are very serious.
One of the ways a Jury determines how much of a slip and fall is the fault
of the business, and how much is the fault of the person who fell, is
a legal doctrine called "Comparative Negligence". A Jury in
a trial is asked to split up the fault by percentages. For example, a
Jury could find that the business is 50% responsible, and the person who
fell is 50% responsible.
Comparative negligence is applied in cases that go to trial (which includes
general negligence, auto accidents, and slip and fall injuries). Good
lawyers will rarely accept a case where it's not apparent that the
accident was substantially the fault of the Defendant.
How comparative negligence works
Comparative negligence is determined by the Jury during deliberations at
the end of the trial. The Jury uses a standard Florida verdict form to
render their decision. The Jury's job while in deliberation is to
determine which of the parties in a lawsuit is at fault, and to what degree.
They also determine the monetary award to the Plaintiff.
There is no "most of the time, this happens" or rule-of-thumb
when it comes to how a Jury decides the allocation of fault. Every single
case is different. Over the 20 years we've been representing many
thousands of clients, some Juries in our trials have determined our client
to be 0% at fault, while other Juries have determined them to be more
than 50% at fault. The bottom line is that there is simply no way to predict
how a Jury will interpret the facts.
How comparative negligence reduces monetary rewards
After the Jury determines the percentages of fault, they then determine
the monetary compensation for the Plaintiff. Then the Judge (not the Jury)
reduces the monetary award by the percentage of fault allocated to the
Here's an example of how this actually plays out:
Jane suffered injuries at a big-box grocery store after a jar of pickles
fell off the shelf, smashing on the floor. Before a store clerk could
clean it up, she slipped and fell on the mess. At trial, she sought recovery
for economic and non-economic damages of $500. After deliberations, the
Jury returned a verdict: they awarded her $500, but determined that she
was at fault for 20% of the accident. The Judge applies the calculations
to the award, and awards the $500, less the 20% comparative fault (which
is $100), for a total net recovery of $400.
Analyzing comparative negligence is an important part of slip-and-fall
cases. It is a consideration our lawyers must keep in mind while preparing
for trial. If you are a client of our firm currently in litigation, our
lawyers are here to explain in much greater detail how comparative negligence
works at trial. If yours is one of the cases that we have set for trial,
you will learn more about comparative negligence from your lawyer as the
trial draws closer.
If you are not a client, but have a question about comparative negligence,
or you have a potential slip and fall accident case, call our office at
(561) 697-4440. You can speak to one of the
personal injury lawyers in our firm.