After an accident, it's easy to assume one party is completely at fault. However, personal injury claims aren't always that simple. That’s because there are situations when an injured defendant may have actually contributed in some way to their accident. When this is the case, injury attorneys have to grapple with comparative fault.
Comparative fault is a legal concept used in civil liability cases that directly addresses accidents where victims were at fault to some degree. Texas, as well as the majority of U.S. states, utilize a "Modified Comparative Fault" rule, which allows victims who do contribute to their own accidents to recover at least some compensation from the party who is more at fault (with some exceptions).
Comparative fault, as well as modified fault, is considered one of the fairest and most equitable legal doctrines for liability, as it recognizes the needs of victims and places an emphasis on holding at-fault parties (or at least the most at-fault party) accountable for causing preventable accidents and injuries. This is opposed to legal doctrines such as pure contributory negligence (recognized by only a few states), which prevents victims from recovering damages if they contributed to an accident in any way – even if they were just 1% at fault.
Comparative fault is an important concept in personal injury cases and by its very nature, can even make or break a case.
The 51% Bar Rule & Reduced Damages
Texas’ modified comparative fault rule follows a 51% bar rule. This means an injured victim (plaintiff) cannot recover compensation if they are found to be 51% or more at fault for causing the wreck. Essentially, the other party must be mostly responsible for an accident in order for injured victims in Texas to seek a monetary recovery of their damages.
The modified comparative fault rule also means that when victims are found to be 50% or less at fault for contributing to an accident, their recovery will be reduced by their percentage of fault. If, for example, a victim was found to be 20% at fault for an accident, and the other driver 80% at fault, their recovery would be reduced by 20%. For example, this means that an award of $100,000 in damages would be reduced to $80,000.
While modified comparative fault allows victims who contributed to their own wrecks to recover compensation, it can also provide at-fault parties and their insurance providers with the opportunity to reduce their payouts, or even avoid paying altogether, by arguing the victim’s degree of fault. This is why it becomes essential for victims to work with proven personal injury attorneys who know how to provide convincing evidence as to the degree of fault and liability and ensure clients secure the compensation they need.
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At Stern Law Group, our Houston personal injury lawyers focus exclusively on personal injury law, which means we're highly experienced when it comes to handling comparative fault matters in a range of cases, including those involving car accidents, defective products, trucking wrecks, and more. In every case we handle, we fight for the maximum compensation possible for our clients.
If you were in an accident that you think you may have contributed to, don't automatically assume that you're ineligible for compensation. There could be any number of factors that could have caused your accident, including an auto or road defect, the actions of another driver, and more. It takes a thorough investigation by a seasoned personal injury attorney to determine exactly who was at fault, who can be held accountable, and how much you may be owed.
If you would like more information about comparative fault or wish to discuss a potential case with a member of our team, contact us for a FREE consultation. Stern Law Group serves clients throughout Houston and the state of Texas.