Comparative Negligence in Texas Auto Accident Cases: Assessing Damages Based on Fault

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If you have been injured in an auto accident in Texas, your first thought may be to wonder if your expenses will be covered, particularly if you know that the accident was at least partially your fault? For example, you turned into a busy intersection after stopping at a stop sign, and you are suddenly hit by a car driving down the road as you entered it. You file a claim with your insurance company. You hope that the insurer will determine that the other driver is at fault, and will compensate you for your injuries. You know you should hire a personal injury lawyer to protect your rights and make sure you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries and your costs of recovery. The insurers determine you were 40% at fault. Your first reaction is dismay. Does this mean you cannot receive compensation for your injuries and all related expenses?

Such accidents, and questions about liability and compensation raised by auto accident victims, occur daily in Texas. It is the type of accident scenario that personal attorneys deal with every day, representing auto and other vehicle injury victims. Our first advice after learning all of the facts is to assure the injured party that they have not lost their right or ability to recover for their injuries despite the fact that they were partially at fault, because Texas is a "modified comparative negligence" state.

Determining Fault

In some cases, blame, or 'fault' for an accident is clear. If you are sitting at a red light and a car suddenly turns and hits your car, it is pretty clear-cut who is at fault. In many other cases, fault is not as clear. It is then the role of a court to determine which party is at fault, and how much of the fault, or blame, lies with each of the parties that it caused the accident.

Under Texas law, injured parties can recover damages if they are found to be less than 51% at fault (also known as 'modified comparative fault', or the "51% rule." Under this rule, an injured party can recover as long as it is determined that his or her fault does not reach 51%.

When an injured accident victim does recover, his or her compensation (damages) are reduced by the degree of his or her fault based on the evidence submitted to the court, which will determine the amount or percentage that each party was negligent.

For example, Mary, as driver of car A is injured in a car accident with John, the driver of car B when John hits her as she turns and exits an intersection and enters a road, not seeing John's vehicle approaching. Mary's car is hit on the side by John's car. Mary sues John in court for compensation for the injuries she suffered as a result of the accident. These include her direct expenses including medical care, and her lost work time, as well as her emotional 'pain and suffering'. A court determines the total damages to make Mary whole and cover all her expenses and other costs (including emotional pain and suffering) is $10,000. If Mary is 40% at fault, her total compensation will be reduced by 40%, to $6,000.

If Mary is found to be responsible for 51% or more of the accident, then she may not receive any damages as the defendant, John, has no liability.

If you are injured in an auto accident, you should contact a personal injury attorney at the Burleson, Texas law firm of Lovelace Killen. An experienced legal expert will evaluate the facts of your case.

If you have any additional questions regarding a personal injury claim, please call our office at 817-447-0053 to make an appointment with Koy Killen or fill out the form on the right for a free consultation.