How Does the Court Determine Who Pays What in A Multi-Car Accident?
According to data collected by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, over 40% of motor vehicle accidents in the United States involve three or more cars. Though a single driver may be at fault for all the injuries suffered in a car wreck, it’s not unusual for the crash to result from the negligence of more than one party. So how will a court determine who must pay for injuries and losses sustained in a multi-car collision in Texas?
The Comparative Fault Approach to Motor Vehicle Accidents
Texas follows the majority of states, taking an “at-fault” approach to automobile insurance coverage, though in Texas it is technically known as “comparative” or “proportionate” fault. Every driver in Texas must carry a valid policy of auto insurance that provides compensation to others when the driver is responsible for an accident that causes injuries.
Texas law requires drivers to have the following minimal amounts of such coverage (though additional coverage may be purchased):
- A total minimum of $60,000 per accident
- At least $30,000 in coverage for personal injury or death
- At least $25,000 in coverage for property damage
If you don’t have enough insurance coverage to pay for the victim’s losses, you can be held personally responsible for the excess.
Comparative Fault in Texas
Like most other states, Texas law applies the concept of comparative negligence or fault. Under this legal concept, the court takes a straightforward approach:
- The jury first determines the full extent of everyone’s losses. This often requires the testimony of expert witnesses, who present evidence of past and future damages.
- The jury then determines what and who caused each party’s losses and the degree to which each party was responsible for the accident. Each party’s degree of fault number is typically stated as a percentage of liability.
- The court then directs each defendant to pay a percentage of the total award based on their degree of liability.
Examples of the Allocation of Fault in A Texas Multi-Car Accident
Suppose there’s a three-car accident in Texas, where one defendant was speeding and another defendant ran a red light. Assuming that the plaintiff (the injured party) was not negligent in any way, the jury determines that the speeding defendant was primarily responsible and allocates 75% of the total fault to that person. If the plaintiff’s losses were $1 million, the speeding defendant will be responsible for $750,000 and the other defendant for $250,000.
Some motor-vehicle-accident cases involve product liability claims alleging that the crash was caused in part by the careless design, manufacture, or sale of dangerous or defective parts or vehicles. In those situations, the jury takes the same approach, establishing the extent to which the dangerous or defective product caused the crash, compared with the negligence of the driver.
The principle of comparative fault can also be applied to reduce an injured party’s recovery, if it can be proved that the injured party had some responsibility for causing the wreck. In Texas, a party who is more than 50% at fault for an accident cannot recover anything.
Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we know the impact that a personal injury can have on every area of your life. If you suffer injury because of the negligent acts of another person, send us an email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.