Understanding Comparative Negligence in a Car Wreck
- August 29, 2014
- Car Accidents
When it comes to determining fault in an auto wreck, there are legal standards that must be met. Finding the party that was negligent is not always a straightforward matter and fault can be apportioned to multiple parties. A common defense that Dallas car wreck lawyers will encounter is that of comparative negligence.
Different states have different laws that are used to assign fault in an auto accident and how the degree of fault will affect the claimant’s ability to receive compensation. Some states use the old rule of contributory negligence while most states use the newer concept of comparative negligence. Even amongst the states that use comparative negligence, there will be some difference as to how it applies to the case.
What is Comparative Negligence in a Car Wreck?
With comparative negligence (which is legally known as proportionate responsibility in Texas), the fault is divided among the parties involved based on percentages. If the party A makes a claim that they were injured in an accident that was the fault of party B, party B might counter by claiming that party A is partially responsible. It basically means that both parties were to some degree responsible for causing the accident.
This is important in regard to car accident law because this can have an effect on the settlement of the lawsuit. If the defense can demonstrate that some of the fault belonged to the plaintiff, it can reduce the compensation or possibly negate the claimant’s ability to receive compensation all together. If the defense can’t avoid paying a settlement, they can reduce the cost of the settlement significantly by proving comparative negligence.
Modified Comparative Negligence
There are also two different kinds of comparative negligence. They are known as pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. The state of Texas works under the modified comparative negligence rule and this also plays a significant role in car accident litigation.
With modified comparative negligence, there is a limit to the percentage of fault that a claimant can have and still be legally entitled to compensation. In Texas, the rule is that a claimant loses the right to compensation if they are found to be at or beyond 51% at fault for the accident. Anything below that level, the claimant can recover damages, but the value of the damages will be reduced in accordance with the level of fault they are found to have had.
As an example, if the claim is found to be worth $100,000 and the claimant is found to be 10% at fault, they will be awarded $90,000. The 10% is subtracted to reflect the claimant’s level of fault in the accident.
This is one of the many legal maneuvers that a defense can employ in a car accident case and if you don’t understand how these laws work, an insurer can really use it to their advantage. In many cases, you don’t just need a car wreck lawyer to make a case to prove the negligence of the other side, but you may also need them to defend you against claims of comparative negligence.