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The changes enacted by House Bill 837 (HB 837) have dramatically changed the comparative fault system in Florida. We’ll explore what that means for personal injury and negligence cases.

Background of Comparative Fault Systems

Comparative fault, or comparative negligence, is a legal doctrine used to apportion damages between parties based on their respective degrees of fault. There are several types of comparative fault systems. 

  • Pure Comparative Fault: Under this system, a plaintiff can recover damages even if they are 99% at fault for their own injuries. The recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault. 
  • Modified Comparative Fault (50% Bar Rule): A plaintiff can only recover damages if they are 50% or less at fault. If they are found to be more than 50% at fault, they cannot recover any damages. 
  • Modified Comparative Fault (51% Bar Rule): Similar to the 50% bar rule, but the threshold is set at 51%. 

Previous System in Florida

Prior to the legislative changes, Florida followed a pure comparative fault system. This system allowed plaintiffs to recover damages reduced by their percentage of fault, regardless of how high that percentage was. For example, if a plaintiff was 80% at fault for an accident, they could still recover 20% of the total damages from the defendant. 

Changes Introduced by HB 837

HB 837, signed into law in 2023, transitions Florida from a purely comparative fault system to a modified comparative fault system. This legislation incorporates the 51% bar rule, meaning a plaintiff cannot recover damages if they are found to be more than 50% at fault for their injuries. The key elements of HB 837 are as follows:

  • 51% Bar to Recover: Plaintiffs found to me more than 50% at fault are barred from recovering any damages. This is a significant change from the prior system that allowed plaintiffs to recover damages even if they were predominately at fault. 
  • Apportionment of Fault: In cases involving multiple defendants, the court will determine the percentages of fault for each party, including the plaintiff. If the plaintiff’s fault exceeds 50%, they will not receive any compensation. 
  • Impact on Joint and Several Liability: The legislation also affects joint and several liability rules. Under the new system, each defendant is only responsible for their portion of fault, potentially reducing the financial burden on defendants with lesser degrees of fault. 

Implications of the Changes

The shift to a modified comparative fault system has several notable implications:

  • Increased Burden on Plaintiffs: Plaintiffs now face a higher burden to recover damages. They must ensure their fault does not exceed 50%, which requires more strategic litigation and potentially higher legal costs. 
  • Insurance and Settlement Dynamics: Insurance companies and defendants might leverage the new fault threshold in settlement negotiations, knowing that they are not required to pay damages if they can attribute more than 50% of fault to the plaintiff. 
  • Legal Strategy Adjustments: Attorneys representing plaintiffs will need to adjust their strategies, focusing more on minimizing their client’s perceived fault and potentially increasing the use of expert witnesses to shift blame away from the plaintiff. 
  • Potential for Increased Litigation: The new fault threshold might lead to more cases going to trial, as defendants might be less inclined to settle knowing that a favorable fault determination could completely absolve them of liability. 

Support Criticism and

The legislative change has sparked both support and criticism.


  • Fairness: Proponents argue that the modified systems promote fairness by ensuring that only plaintiffs who are less than a majority at fault can recover damages. 
  • Reduces Frivolous Lawsuits: Supports believe the new system will discourage frivolous lawsuits where plaintiffs with significant fault might previously have pursued damages. 


  • Access to Justice: Critics argue that the new law disproportionately affects plaintiffs with legitimate claims who might have been slightly more at fault but still deserve compensation. 
  • Increased Legal Complexity: The modified system could lead to more complex and prolonged litigation as parties argue over fault percentages more intensely. 

Contact a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been involved in a personal injury incident, seeking legal advice is essential to protect your rights. Our legal team has more than 40 years of experience seeking justice for accident victims. Our attorneys have sought and won millions of dollars for our injured clients. 

Call 850-601-1111 to schedule a complimentary consultation with no obligations. This consultation will help you explore your legal options. Let us help you fight for fair compensation.

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Mark continued his studies at Florida State University College of Law, graduating cum laude in 2008. While in law school, Mark was a member of the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law and the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy, as well as a certified legal intern with the FSU Public Interest Law Center, where he assisted low-income clients with a wide range of family law issues. He also served as a law clerk intern to The Honorable L. Clayton Roberts of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

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