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Comparative Negligence in Texas

Comparative Negligence in Texas

How Comparative Negligence Affects Injury Claims

How Comparative Negligence Affects Injury Claims in Texas

Very few things in life are black and white, and that includes the law.

Texas is an at-fault state for motor vehicle accident claims. This means that, when someone is injured in a car or truck accident, the insurance company of the person who caused the accident is responsible for paying their medical bills, lost wages, and other losses. But what if the injured party also contributed to the accident?

In Texas, an injured party can share blame for an accident and still recover compensation—as long as their share of the fault does not exceed 50%. This is a legal concept known as comparative negligence, or proportionate responsibility. Comparative negligence applies to more than just car accidents. Any type of personal injury claim can involve questions about the percentage of fault attributable to each party.

Insurance companies sometimes use comparative negligence as a way to reduce payments to an injury victim, or even deny compensation altogether. If you’ve been blamed for an accident that wasn’t your fault, get in touch with Jim Adler & Associates for a free case review.

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What is Comparative Fault in Texas?

The principle of comparative fault or comparative negligence is known under Texas law as “proportionate responsibility.” According to Section 33.001 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, in a tort action (i.e. a civil action, such as a personal injury claim):

  • A claimant may not recover damages if their percentage of responsibility is greater than 50 percent.
  • If their percentage of fault is not greater than 50 percent, the claimant is eligible to recover damages, but their award will be reduced by a percentage equal to their percentage of responsibility.

Here’s an example to clarify how this could affect a car accident claim:

  • Driver A is involved in an accident with Driver B.
  • Driver A is injured and has losses of $100,000.
  • Driver A files a personal injury lawsuit against Driver B.
  • At trial, the court determines that Driver B is 80% at fault for the accident because they were texting and driving. The court also determines that Driver A is 20% at fault because they were speeding.
  • Driver A has their total award reduced by 20% (the amount of their fault), or $20,000.
  • The total compensation recovered by Driver A is $80,000.

Driver A is still able to recover compensation from Driver B in this example because their percentage of fault is less than 50%. But let’s say the roles are reversed, and the court determines that Driver A is 80% at fault for the crash, and Driver B is 20% at fault. In this scenario, Driver A cannot recover damages from Driver B, because their percentage of fault is greater than 50%.

In fact, if the court finds that Driver A is more at fault than Driver B in any proportion—it could be as low as 51% for Driver A and 49% for Driver B—then Driver A is barred from recovering damages.

Again, comparative fault can arise in any type of injury claims, including not only car accidents, but also truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and slip and fall accidents. However, it does not relate to workers’ compensation claims.

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Comparative Fault and Texas Insurance Claims

Technically, proportionate responsibility law in Texas applies only to personal injury lawsuits and the judges and juries that decide them. It is not legally binding on insurance companies when they are evaluating a bodily injury claim and a possible settlement.

But many insurance companies use a more informal version of comparative fault to assign blame between drivers on a percentage basis. Knowing that the case could end up in court, and making sure their bases are covered if it does, insurance companies take into consideration the laws of the state where the claim arises. So while they aren’t legally compelled to, insurers are likely to follow the comparative fault doctrine, at least to a rough extent.

When a claim is submitted to an insurer, they perform an investigation of the accident and make a determination of fault. The insurance company then makes the injured party an offer based on what they believe is the amount of negligence of its insured. If the insurance company concludes that its insured is less than 50% at fault for the accident, they may not offer to pay the injured party any damages. Or, they could decide that their insured is only partly at fault, and as a result, offer a reduced settlement.

You can probably already see where this line of reasoning leads. It is in the insurance company’s interest to shift blame from the insured to the injured party, because doing so reduces their payout. Insurance companies are always looking for ways to deny and underpay claims. Their business model depends on it. Comparative negligence is part of Texas law, but it can also be a tool in the hands of the insurance company used to shortchange injury victims.

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Don't Take the Blame For An Accident That Wasn't Your Fault

Comparative negligence is an aspect of Texas personal injury claims that cannot be ignored. While some accident cases are completely unambiguous—and fault clearly lies 100% with one party—there is often blame to go around. But the question of who bears how much blame is complicated. And in serious injury cases, even a small percentage of blame that is improperly assigned to you could mean losing out on significant money.

The smallest details can make the biggest difference in an injury case. Our injury lawyers are thorough, tough, smart, and have a proven record of success. You shouldn’t trust your case to the whims of the insurance company. You also shouldn’t trust it to a law firm that can’t back up its promises with results. With more than 40 years of experience, thousands of clients served, and more than a billion dollars recovered, you can trust Jim Adler & Associates to get you everything you deserve.

Get your FREE consultation today.

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