Understanding Texas’ Modified Comparative Negligence Law
Each state has negligence laws that apply to personal injury cases and impact how much compensation injury victims can recover. In Texas, the courts follow a modified comparative negligence system. Under this rule, each party to a lawsuit is assigned a percentage of fault which factors into settlement discussions and jury verdicts.
What is Modified Comparative Negligence in Texas?
Texas’s modified comparative negligence law can reduce or eliminate an individual’s compensation in a personal injury case. Each party to a lawsuit is assigned a percentage of fault for their contribution to the accident, and their compensation is reduced accordingly. However, if you cannot be 51% or more to blame, or else you cannot recover any compensation. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 and found 40% at fault for your injury, you will receive 60% of the award or $60,000. Under Texas law, the 40% of your award that you forfeit represents your contribution to causing your injury. On the other hand, if you are found to be 51% or more to blame, you will not receive any part of your award.
What Happens If Several Parties are Involved?
In personal injury cases involving several parties who are liable, each one will be assigned a percentage of fault and responsible for their share of the blame. For instance, if one party is 40% to blame, another is 35% at fault, and a third is 25% responsible, each will have their compensation reduced accordingly.
Who Determines Fault?
Initially after an injury accident, insurance companies determine fault after reviewing the facts and evidence of the case. For instance, the police report, photos, surveillance footage, witness statements, etc. The police report can weigh heavily in their decision and they will also likely ask you and the other parties involved for a statement about what occurred and answers to any questions they have about the incident. After their investigation is complete, they will identify who caused the accident or whether both parties contributed and assign percentages of fault.
If you disagree with the adjuster’s decision on fault or their settlement offer and you decide to take your case to court, then a jury will determine fault. Each side will state their argument and present evidence, then the jury will deliberate to agree on which party is to blame and the amount of compensation that should be awarded.
Other Types of Comparative Negligence
Most states follow a variation of the comparative negligence rule, for instance:
Pure Comparative Negligence
The plaintiff’s (victim’s) award is reduced by their percentage of fault but can still recover compensation even if they are 99% to blame.
Modified Comparative Negligence (50% bar)
Some states follow a modified comparative negligence system with a 50% bar rule rather than Texas’s 51% rule. The courts will subtract the plaintiff’s percentage of fault from their award as long as they are found either 50% or less responsible or less than 50% responsible.
Only four states still follow a harsh law referred to as contributory negligence. Under this rule, injury victims cannot recover compensation if they contributed to their accident in any way, even if they are only 1% to blame.
If you have more questions about how negligence laws pertain to your case, contact our Waco personal injury lawyers for help.