What is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is essential in injury cases, as it allows each party to share a percentage of fault in each case and, therefore, some of the damages awarded. According to Cornell Law, comparative negligence is “a tort principle used by the court to reduce the amount of charges that a plaintiff can recover in a negligence-based claim according to the degree of negligence each party contributed to the incident.”
How Does Comparative Negligence Work?
Once the damages are calculated, a total sum is assigned based on the incident. For an easy example, let’s say that $100,000 in total damages were allocated or awarded in a case based on the facts. As the facts are reviewed, a percentage of fault will be placed on each party involved in the incident. If the plaintiff is found to be 40% at fault for the damages, and the defendant was found to be 60% at fault, in our example, the plaintiff would only be able to recover $60,000 rather than the full $100,000, as their share is reduced proportionately to the percentage of fault that they were found to have contributed.
Pure Comparative Negligence vs. Modified Comparative Negligence
Each state will have standards for handling fault in and whether or not they follow comparative negligence. Within the comparative negligence category are both pure comparative and modified comparative negligence.
Pure comparative negligence means that even if the party was found to be 99% at fault for the incident occurring, they could still choose to seek 1% of the total damages. Several states follow this rule.
Modified Comparative Negligence is what Texas follows, and they follow the 51% rule. This means that if either party is found to be more than 51% at fault for the incident, they cannot seek damages from the incident. If they are found to be less than 51% responsible, they can seek damages in the case, reduced by the percentage of fault they were found to have had.
In our example above, the plaintiff could be awarded 40% of the damages, as they were found to be less than 51% at fault for the incident.
Steps to Take After an Incident
As you can see, determining fault after an incident can help or hurt your case tremendously should you choose to pursue damages. You may be responsible for the total damages if you inadvertently admit fault for an incident.
How can you avoid this? One of the reasons you may have heard people say not to share too much information regarding accidents is because of the fault aspect of damages or personal injury suits. If you speak with your insurance provider and share details that prove you were completely or more than 51% at fault for the accident, they may use this to convince you to settle the case and reduce the chances of you recovering any of the damages.
You may not know the whole story. For instance, let’s say you were driving on the highway and attempting to pass a car. You followed laws but still felt you were the sole cause of the accident occurring because you maybe missed your blind spot or were caught up in the stress of the accident. You leave the scene to tend to injuries and find out much later that the other driver was under the influence or texting and driving. This evidence makes them share some of the fault for the incident, and therefore, you may be able to recover some of the damages still even though you were partially at fault.
How is Fault Established?
Several aspects of evidence can be provided to prove fault after an accident. Were there security or traffic cameras that may have caught the incident on video? Did you get pictures or videos immediately following the accident?
Eyewitness statements, police reports, inspections of the damages to the vehicles, or accident recreations are also ways that fault can be established after an incident.
Ensuring that you tend to your medical needs following an incident and that the other parties are OK is essential. Still, once this is handled, it is important to start gathering information to help you establish fault after an accident. It could be the difference in several thousands of dollars if you can provide sufficient evidence that your percentage of fault was less than 51%.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help Me?
Most of us aren’t in situations every day where we need to negotiate with insurance companies or other attorneys or gather evidence. Personal injury attorneys are well-versed in this area and have years of consistent experience helping clients with their cases.
They can handle communication with insurance companies or other parties for you, help gather further evidence to establish fault, and can represent you with solid evidence in court to ensure the best outcome possible.
By choosing a capable and determined team of attorneys who speak the language and have the foresight and experience you may not have in legal situations, you can bolster your chances at the outcome you deserve rather than settling for less.
Contact our office today at (713) 999-6549 for a free consultation to discuss your questions and concerns with skilled and compassionate attorneys ready to become fierce advocates for you and your family.