One of the more common ways that would-be defendants discourage injured victims from pursuing their right to financial recovery in court is by shifting some or all of the blame for an accident to the victim considering bringing suit. Sadly, many wrongdoers are successful at using this strategy, and victims who might have won significant settlements or verdicts walk away from financial recovery without ever speaking to an attorney who can inform them of their actual rights under the law. In Texas, injured victims can successfully pursue personal injury claims against negligent defendants even where they were partially at fault in causing the accident, subject to some limitations.
Texas Modified Comparative Negligence Rules
Our western system of law has long dealt with the issue of a victim’s own negligence/fault in causing an accident through the concept of “contributory negligence.” In previous eras, a victim who was found to be negligent in causing the accident that injured him could not recover anything from the defendant, even if the defendant was 99% at fault in causing the injuries and the victim was only 1% at fault.
That rather harsh system has been replaced in most jurisdictions, and Texas employs what is called a “modified comparative negligence system.” Under this type of system – which is codified at Section 33.001 of Texas’ Civil Practice and Remedies code – a plaintiff who was at fault can still bring a case against a liable defendant so long as the plaintiff’s percentage of fault in causing the accident was not higher than 50%. That said, the plaintiff’s total recovery will be reduced by his percentage of fault.
The Texas Rules in Practice
This modified comparative negligence system is best explained by two hypothetical examples of what this looks like in practice.
Let’s say a bicyclist was riding the wrong way down a peaceful one-way residential street, when a drunk driver blows past a stop sign and speeds around the corner onto the street and barrels into the bicyclist causing $300,000 in total injuries. The drunk driver was clearly negligent for driving while drunk, running a stop sign, and speeding. But the bicyclist was also negligent for going the wrong way. If a jury decides the bicyclist was 10% at fault and the driver was 90% at fault, the bicyclist can still recover, but minus the 10% for his own fault, meaning he would recover $270,000.
Taking a different example, let’s say that, instead of a bicyclist, a different drunk driver (Drunk Driver A) was going the wrong way down a one-way street when the same drunk driver from the first example (Drunk Driver B) turns the corner and smashes into Drunk Driver A, causing $300,000 in injuries. If a jury finds that Drunk Driver A was 55% at fault and Drunk Driver B was 45% at fault, then Drunk Driver A could not recover anything from Drunk Driver B because he was more than 50% at fault.
Of course, as a victim, you should not attempt to conclusively determine your own percentage of fault in an accident but should instead work with an experienced personal injury to determine your options.
Work With Experienced Dallas Personal Injury Attorneys
The Kelley Law Firm PC in Dallas, TX represents the rights of people seriously injured through the negligence or wrongdoing of others. We have successfully recovered numerous 7-figure settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients, and are passionately committed to obtaining the maximum financial recovery that our clients deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation regarding your injuries.