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What is "apportionment of fault" in a Florida car accident claim?

Legal doctrines often have names that sound complicated, which can be intimidating for non-lawyers to deal with. In old legal traditions, "laymen" were not expected to be able to understand such things, even though many of the doctrines really were just rules that apply what may be relatively commonsense standards of justice. In modern times, however, there has been a trend towards the "demystification" of legal concepts, and an attempt to make the legal system a bit easier for the average person to understand. Still, the language of the law can be confusing to people attempting to navigate their legal cases.

On example of this is the concept of "joint and several" liability in an injury case. Basically, at common law, when this doctrine was applicable, everyone who had any fault at all for an injury was responsible for the entire injury. That is, even if a party had only been a tiny part of the cause of the injury, that party could be ordered to pay the entirety of the compensation due to the victim. While, in certain circumstances, there may be a sound policy behind this method, in many cases it just seems unfair. Because of this, many states, Florida included, have modified the way damage awards work in negligence cases.

Florida has a law that specifically repudiates joint and several liability in a negligence action. Instead, this law institutes the concept of "apportionment of fault." This may be a mouthful to say, but all it really means is that each party who had some responsibility for the accident that caused an injury is responsible only for the percentage of fault he or she can be shown to have had. This means that determining who to sue in a car accident case that had multiple people at fault may be very important to the amount of damages that can be awarded.

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