Understanding Comparative Negligence in Texas

2024-05-10, Kyle Herbert

Texas, like other states in the United States, maintains a unique set of legal principles to manage personal injury cases. One of the most significant of these is the concept of comparative negligence, also known as proportionate responsibility.

To fully understand this principle, one must look into Texas negligence laws. Moreover, it’s important to understand how it influences the outcome of personal injury lawsuits in the Lone Star State.

The Principle of Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a system of assigning fault in personal injury cases. The system looks into the actions of both the plaintiff and the defendant, considering whether each party has acted negligently and to what degree their negligence contributed to the accident.

The core principle of comparative negligence is to ensure fairness in settling claims, allowing for a distribution of responsibility that mirrors the actions that led to the accident or injury.

Comparative Negligence in Texas: The 51% Rule

In Texas, the legal principle of comparative negligence follows a ‘modified’ approach, more specifically, the 51% rule. This means if a party is 51% or more at fault for an accident, they cannot recover damages. In simpler terms, if you are primarily at fault (51% or more) for an accident, you cannot claim damages in a Texas court.

The judge or jury determines the percentage of fault in a given case, considering the totality of the evidence presented. Each party’s negligence is weighed and quantified into a percentage that denotes their contribution to the accident.

If the plaintiff’s fault is less than 51%, they can still recover damages. However, these damages decrease by the percentage of their own fault.

For example, suppose a plaintiff is determined to be 30% at fault for an accident. The total damages amount to $100,000. In that case, the plaintiff would only be eligible to receive $70,000 (100% – 30% of $100,000) in compensation.

Is Modified Comparative Fault Different?

Yes, the comparative fault law is different from pure comparative fault. However, it’s important to note that modified comparative fault is the principle at play in Texas.

Under a system of pure comparative fault, a plaintiff can recover damages even if they were 99% at fault for the incident, with their recovery reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff suffered $100,000 in damages but was 99% at fault, they could still recover $1,000. This system is used in a minority of states.

On the other hand, modified comparative fault puts a limit on a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages. This limit is based on the degree of fault they possess.

The plaintiff’s damage recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault under modified comparative fault. This reduction is up until the threshold of either 50% or 51%.

In a state with the 51% rule (like Texas), a plaintiff can recover $70,000 if they suffered $100,000 in damages. They must also be less than 50% at fault.

Implications for Personal Injury Claims

The principle of comparative negligence in Texas plays a crucial role in personal injury cases. It ensures that the allocation of responsibility is fair and proportionate. However, it also means that the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant was more at fault for the accident than they were.

Plaintiffs, therefore, need to have substantial evidence to support their claims. Evidence includes a range of materials, such as the following.

  • eyewitness testimony
  • surveillance footage
  • accident reports
  • any other piece of evidence that demonstrates the defendant’s negligence and fault

Final Thoughts on Comparative Negligence in Texas

Understanding the concept of comparative negligence is vital for anyone in a personal injury case in Texas. The principle shapes the outcomes of these cases, directly influencing the amount of compensation a party can claim. Those involved in such cases must understand their rights and the laws that apply to their situation to navigate the complex landscape of personal injury law in Texas effectively.

Were you involved in a personal injury case? Seek the guidance of a legal professional. A lawyer can help clarify how Texas’s comparative negligence law might apply to your specific situation, help gather necessary evidence, and guide you through the legal process.