Proportionate Responsibility: How It Can Impact a Personal Injury Case

Accidents are a daily occurrence. From vehicle collisions to slip-and-fall accidents, Texas has specific laws regarding negligence, and this means determining fault can be crucial in proving liability. However, navigating Texas’s proportionate responsibility statute can be tricky. 

Also known as comparative negligence, the statute can impact the value of your personal injury claim. A basic understanding of comparative negligence law can help protect your legal rights if you’re an accident victim.

What is Comparative Negligence

Currently, around 12 states follow comparative negligence laws and Texas is one of them. So, what is comparative negligence?

The definition of the statute is pretty simple, it only gets complicated when you apply proportionate responsibility to your personal injury claim.

Comparative negligence basically means more than one individual can be responsible for an accident. Under the statute, a percentage of blame is assigned to each involved party, and this can affect the value of your accident claim. Your claim amount is reduced by the percentage of your blame.

For example, suppose you fail to check for oncoming traffic before turning right and are hit by a vehicle running a red light. In that case, both you and the other driver may share responsibility for the resulting accident. In other words, the actions of both drivers contributed to the vehicle crash.

How Proportionate Responsibility Can Affect Personal Injury Claims

Texas follows the 51% rule, also known as modified comparative negligence. This simply means that as long as you’re not found to be more than 51% responsible for the accident, you can file a personal injury claim and potentially receive compensation for your damages.

judge working on his laptop

So, how does this affect your personal injury claim? Well, if you’re found to be partially responsible for causing the accident, your settlement amount is reduced by your percentage of the blame. A quick example is if your settlement totals $100,000 but you’re 50% at fault, your claim’s value is reduced by half. Instead of receiving $100,000, your settlement check is only for $50,000.

Who assigns blame? A judge or jury is responsible for assigning blame in a comparative negligence personal injury claim.

If your percentage of the blame is more than 51%, you can’t file a personal injury claim in Texas. However, others involved in the accident may be able to file a damages claim against your insurance carrier.

Types of Personal Injury Cases Impacted by Comparative Negligence

If you’re injured in an accident due to someone’s negligence, there’s a good chance comparative negligence will come into play. Some common examples include the following types of personal injury cases:

  • Slip and fall accidents: A slip-and-fall accident can happen almost anywhere. You may slip and fall on someone’s property, on a sidewalk in front of a business, or inside a store. If you prove the plaintiff is negligent in their actions or behavior, you can usually file a personal injury claim. A judge or jury may decide your inattention is a contributing factor and assign you part of the blame.
  • Car accidents: As mentioned earlier, all, one, or some of the drivers involved in a car accident can be assigned some or all of the blame.
  • Medical malpractice: Comparative negligence rules can also apply to a medical malpractice claim. An example is if a medical procedure results in injuries but you (as the patient) fail to follow all of your physician’s instructions. Your failure to follow the doctor’s advice can make you partially responsible for your resulting injuries.

These are only a few examples of the common types of personal injury claims. Before you file a claim after an accident, it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. After all, you don’t want to be assigned any more than your fair share of the blame.

How Comparative Negligence is Determined in a Personal Injury Claim

Okay, so you know a judge or jury is responsible for assigning fault in a personal injury claim under proportionate responsibility laws. However, this doesn’t mean the judge or jury randomly decides who’s at fault and their percentage of the blame. 

A few key factors go into determining negligence. Some factors you have no control over like evidence of negligence. Other factors you may be able to use to help support your claim such as bringing in expert witnesses.

Here’s a quick look at the factors that go into determining comparative negligence:

  • Evidence of negligence: The evidence a judge or jury uses to determine negligence typically includes reviewing a copy of the official accident report. Your accident report typically contains a lot of valuable information that can help support your version of events. Most reports even include diagrams of the accident scene. The responding law enforcement officials may also be called to testify.
  • Witnesses: Not all accidents are witnessed by others, think bystanders. However, if there are witnesses to your accident there’s a good chance they’ll be called to testify. Before you start canvassing the area searching for supporting witnesses, credibility is something to consider. You want credible witnesses testifying, especially when it comes to establishing the facts of the accident.
  • Expert opinions: Expert witnesses are not the same as the individuals testifying to the accident events. These witnesses are often medical professionals and accident reconstruction specialists. Medical professionals can testify to the extent of your injuries. Accident reconstruction specialists can make it easier for the court to understand the contents of the official report.
  • Contributing actions: These are the actions taken leading up to the accident. These can be both your actions and those of the other involved parties. The court will look to see if these actions play a role in the cause of the accident.

Once the court has reviewed these factors, blame is typically assigned to one or all involved parties.

Talk to an Attorney About Comparative Negligence

Trying to navigate modified comparative negligence rules can be confusing, especially when you’re pretty sure the accident isn’t your fault. Before allowing the court to decide your percentage of the blame, if any, talk to a personal injury attorney about your legal rights. 

An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance and help ensure that your side of the story is accurately represented, potentially minimizing your liability and maximizing your compensation.

Author - Aleksandra Djurdjevic
Aleksandra Djurdjevic          

Senior Content Creator

Aleksandra Djurdjevic is a senior writer and editor, covering snowboarding, skiing and trends in outdoor winter activities. She has previously worked as ESL teacher for English Tochka. Aleksandra graduated from the Comparative Literature department at the Faculty of Philosophy in Serbia. Aleksandra’s love for the mountains, getting out in the snow on her board, season after season, seeking wild snow adventures across the globe helps her continue to be a top expert at CSG.


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