Texas comparative responsibility and car wrecks

Bedford car accident lawyerThe Dallas Cowboys are having a pretty good season so far. I was at the Saints game where the Dallas Cowboys gave the Saints the same beat down the Saints treated the Cowboys to last year. Unfortunately, I’m a Jets fan and we are having a really rough go. This is shaping up to be one of our worst seasons in a long time.

Everybody from fans to sports commentators are trying to figure out who to blame. Some people blame the head coach. Others point to the general manager and still others point to the quarterback.

There’s also disagreement over how to apportion blame between the parties. Is one party so at fault that he should bear all the responsibility or should they share blame? Everybody has their own ideas. There is no clear formula to assign blame and everybody looks at the facts a little differently.

This is surprisingly similar to how jurors deal with car wrecks and other personal injury lawsuits. The jurors have to decide who is at fault and how much each party was at fault to assign liability for the injuries in the car wreck.

Each juror has his or her own idea about the facts and that view of the car wreck certainly affects how that juror believes blame should be assigned.

One major difference between the sports fans and jurors is that Texas law provides a formula for how the percentage of responsibility the jury assigns to each party translates into financial liability.

f you suffered injuries in a car crash, you should contact Texas car accident lawyers.

Responsibility in a Texas car accident lawsuit

In Texas this formula is based on comparative negligence and limits who can recover in a personal injury lawsuit. Specifically, Texas follows a modified comparative negligence formula that we call proportionate responsibility.

Just like it sounds, this formula compares the fault of each party. Then the amount of recovery awarded by the jury decreases by the percentage of the winning party’s own negligence.

For example, let’s say there is a car wreck between driver A and driver B. Driver A is injured and sues driver B. The jury awards $100,000 to driver A and finds driver A was 40% responsible for the accident. The jury finds driver B was 60% responsible.  Driver A gets $60,000 because driver A caused 40% of his injury and does not recover against the other party for his own action.

Under a pure comparative negligence formula, driver A could recover for any percentage of driver B’s fault. Let’s take our same example and say driver A is 90% at fault and driver B is 10%. In a pure comparative negligence system driver A could recover $10,000 (driver B’s 10% liability).

However, Texas follows a modified comparative negligence formula. This modified formula includes the 51% bar rule. The 51% bar rule states if a party is 51% (or more) responsible for his or her injuries then that party cannot recover anything. 50% is ok but 51% equals no recovery. Even if the jury awards $1,000,000 in damages to the plaintiff, the plaintiff gets nothing.

Other rules in Texas personal injury cases

There are other rules at play in other states.

Thirteen states follow the pure comparative negligence formula and twenty-one states follow the modified comparative negligence formula with the 51% bar rule.

Twelve states follow a modified comparative negligence formula with a 50% bar rule which bars any recovery if a party is 50% (or more) responsible for his or her injuries.

Just four states and the District of Columbia follow the contributory negligence rule. This is the older rule that used to be the majority rule. Under contributory negligence, a party can recover the full jury award as long as his or her portion of blame is below the jurisdiction’s set percentage of fault. That percentage can be at 1%. If a party is in any way partly responsible for his or her injury then there is no recovery.

There is no reduction in the award due to comparative fault. It is all or nothing and very easily nothing. There are also a few rules that can avoid the harsh effects of contributory negligence, but that is a deeper discussion of contributory negligence than we need to make for Texas because we do not follow contributory negligence.

Each system is with its benefits and drawbacks for each side of a lawsuit. In a comparative negligence system, like the Texas proportionate responsibility system, more plaintiffs can recover something from defendants but they are likely to recover less when they do because the jury award is reduced by the proportion of the plaintiff’s own fault.

On the other hand, the reduction due to the comparative system may be so significant that it will cost more to get to trial than what the case can be worth.

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