What Happens If You Caused an Accident Where You Suffered an Injury?
You’ve been injured in an accident, and it seems clear to you that the other party was entirely responsible for causing your injury. Don’t be surprised, though, if defense attorneys allege that you share some of the blame. What will that mean? If defense counsel can prove that you were careless, too, and that the accident wouldn’t have occurred if you hadn’t been negligent, will you be barred from recovering anything for your losses? In Texas, as in other states, that depends.
Contributory and Comparative Negligence in Texas
If you were hurt in any type of accident before 1973, and the defendant could show that you shouldered some of the blame, chances were pretty good that you’d be unable to recover anything. That’s because, until that year, Texas followed the common law rule of contributory negligence. Under the legal theory of contributory negligence, if an injured person “contributed” in any way to causing the accident, he or she could not seek compensation for any losses. A common strategy amongst defense attorneys in those days was to look for and show any way that you, as the injured party, had been careless—even if your carelessness was insignificant and the defendant’s carelessness was egregious or reckless.
Because of the unfair results that often resulted, the Texas legislature replaced the common law principle of contributory negligence with a comparative negligence approach.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
Under a comparative negligence approach, the court first makes a determination of all losses suffered by the plaintiff (the injured party seeking compensation). Next, the jury will identify the extent to which the injured party caused the accident, generally stated as a percentage of liability. Finally, the jury will apply that percentage to the total damage award and reduce it accordingly.
For example, the jury may find that the plaintiff suffered losses of $1,000,000, but also conclude that the plaintiff was 25% responsible for causing the accident—maybe the defendant ran a stop sign, but the plaintiff was speeding at the time of the collision. The jury will reduce the damage award by $250,000 (25% of $1,000,000) and award the plaintiff $750,000.
The Different Types of Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence has been adopted in all but five states—Maryland, Alabama, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. As the law has evolved, two distinct forms of comparative negligence have been imposed: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence.
Pure comparative negligence simply applies the percentage of liability to the total damage award. Under this approach, a plaintiff will still receive some damage award, even if he or she was primarily responsible. With the modified comparative negligence approach, there’s a threshold for liability. If the plaintiff exceeds that threshold (usually 50%), there can be no recovery. Texas is a modified comparative negligence state—an injured party who is more than 50% responsible for causing an accident may not recover compensation.
Contact the Proven Accident Injury Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we understand how a personal injury can change your life. We’ll be your advocate throughout the legal process, helping you take the right steps to get full and fair compensation for all your losses. We can also be your liaison with insurance companies as well, so that you get all the benefits to which you are entitled. Contact us by e-mail or 844-402-2992 call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.