Comparative Negligence Laws in Texas

A legal scale and a gavel with the words, "comparative negligence laws in Texas."

Personal injuries frequently occur across the state of Texas. Whether caused by slipping and falling or a car collision, the resulting injuries cause pain, suffering, and often long recovery times. Most of these accidents are the result of poor decisions, unsafe working conditions, or blatant disregard for another person’s safety.

While accidents can often be linked to one person’s fault, sometimes the liability can be a bit more complicated.

Consider the following story. A driver stopped at the local bar to drink with his coworkers. As he was driving home, the slight buzz from the alcohol gave him a carefree spirit, and he sang loudly with the radio and missed the upcoming intersection. The light, which was yellow as he was approaching, turned red right before he went through. Another driver, who had also run the light, crashed into the side of the first driver’s car. Airbags deployed, the car was totaled, and the first driver is now seeking a personal injury claim. However, his claim is more complicated since he had a blood alcohol level of 0.10%, which is above the legal limit. Therefore, he is also considered partially liable for the accident.

The State of Texas handles the liability under its modified comparative negligence laws for accidents like this. Many individuals are unaware of Texas’s comparative negligence laws and how they can affect their claims. In this article, the dedicated personal injury attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C. will review Texas’s comparative negligence laws and explain what they could mean for their case.

What Is Modified Comparative Negligence in Texas?

A woman is holding her neck after a car accident.

Comparative negligence, also known as comparative fault, is a legal principle that describes “proportionate responsibility” for an accident. The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 33.001 describes comparative negligence as the following:

  • A claimant (injured party) may not recover damages if their percentage of fault (responsibility) is greater than 50%.
  • If their percentage of fault is not greater than 50%, the claimant is eligible to recover damages, but their award will be reduced by the amount of fault they are responsible for.

For example, in our story from earlier, driver A was involved in an accident at an intersection but was found, due to driving under the influence, to be 30% at fault. This means that their compensation would be reduced by 30% of their fault. If they were going to receive $100,000 but their fault was 30% then the total award would be reduced by 30% or $30,000. This would bring their award to $70,000. 

Could the Second Driver Sue for Compensation as Well?

No. Under comparative laws, the second driver could not claim compensation because they are liable for more than 50% of the accident.

Does Comparative Negligence Count for Insurance Claims As Well?

This question’s answer is a bit complicated. Technically, the principle of comparative negligence only applies to personal injury lawsuits. The judge and juries that decide these cases define who was at fault for what percentage of the accident. It is not legally binding for insurance companies when they evaluate a bodily injury claim and the possible settlement.

However, many insurance companies try to use a more informal version of the comparative negligence principle when they assign fault between drivers. Insurance companies are well aware that these cases could end up in court, and they do their best to ensure their bases are covered. This is why many of them, while not legally bound to do so, still follow the comparative fault doctrine when deciding how much of a settlement they will give to the individual who filed the claim. 

If the insurance company finds that the insured party is responsible for less than 50% of the accident, they may refuse to pay the injured party any damages. They may also conclude that their client is only partially at fault and try to offer a reduced settlement based on their findings.

A Word of Caution About Insurance Companies

A car has crashed into a motorcycle.

It’s easy to see why insurance companies lean toward the comparative negligence doctrine when deciding settlements. It is in the insurance company’s interest to pay out as little as possible because they are a business trying to protect their bottom line. They may try to shift the blame from their client to the injured party.

DO NOT TALK WITH THE OTHER PARTY’S INSURANCE COMPANY without your car accident attorney present. Even though they may sound nice and caring over the phone, they are trying to get you to either admit partial fault or admit that your injuries are not that bad. Having a personal injury attorney present for these calls ensures that they will not bully you into accepting responsibility that isn’t yours.

How Do I Prove Negligence In My Personal Injury Case?

To prove negligence in a personal injury lawsuit, there must be clear evidence that shows the following:

  • The defendant had a duty: The defendant owed you a duty of care at the time of the accident. For example, all drivers have a duty to keep themselves and others safe on the road by following all traffic laws.
  • The defendant breached that duty: The defendant breached their duty of care by either acting negligently or failing to act. For example, a driver was speeding down the road.
  • The defendant’s breach of duty caused the accident: For example, the driver that was speeding was unable to stop in time for the red light and T-boned a car in the intersection.
  • The accident caused the damages that the victim suffered: The injured party suffered damages as a direct result of the accident. For example, the driver of the T-boned car had terrible lacerations and a concussion from being struck. 

Stand Up for Your Right to Fair Compensation With Branch & Dhillon, P.C. in Arlington, TX

It is so easy to get overwhelmed after an accident. Your entire life has changed in a matter of moments, and now you are left to pick up the pieces while trying to recover from your injuries. It can all be too much with insurance companies hounding you and the stress of mounting medical bills. However, the personal injury attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C. are dedicated to fighting for your right to fair compensation. We help you pick up the pieces by handling the insurance companies and communicating with the liable party. Whether we can settle your case outside of court or need to take the battle to the courtroom, you can trust that our attorneys will be with you every step of the way. Contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Branch & Dhillon, P.C. to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation to review your case.

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