Most U.S. states apply some form of comparative negligence system to deal with accidents that are the fault of more than one party. Of course, this situation is common in car accidents. Although different states apply different forms of the comparative negligence system, if you are involved in a car accident in Texas, Texas law will apply to you no matter where you are from and no matter where your car is registered.
The Concept of Comparative Negligence
State legislatures have long struggled with the problem of how to apportion damages when more than one party was at fault. Decades ago, most states applied a “contributory negligence” system in which a defendant would be completely exonerated if he could show that the complainant was even slightly at fault for the accident.
Today, only a handful of states still apply a contributory negligence system. Elsewhere, the contributory negligence system has been abandoned in favor of one of the following three systems, to be applied after the court assigns a percentage of fault to each party:
- Pure comparative fault: Each party pays the other party’s (or parties’) damages in direct proportion to their own percentage of fault – if you are 70 percent at fault in a two-party accident, for example, you will pay 70 percent of the other party’s damages, and he will pay 30 percent of your damages. Even if you were 99 percent at fault, you can still collect one percent of your damages.
- Comparative fault with a 50 percent bar: Each party pays for the other parties’ damages in proportion to his own percentage of fault, except that a party 50 percent or more at fault is not eligible to receive any damages at all. In an accident with three or more parties at fault, of course, it is possible that no party’s percentage of fault will equal or exceed 50 percent.
- Comparative fault with a 51 percent bar: The same as comparative negligence with a 50 percent bar, except that you must be at least 51 percent at fault to forfeit your eligibility for damages. Texas is one of about 20 states that apply this system.
Special Case: The 50/50 Split
If a Texas court rules that each party was equally at fault in a two-party accident, then each party must pay half of the other’s damages. Although that might sound like the two parties can just call it even and walk away, this is not the case if one party suffered more damages than the other. If you suffered $10,000 in damages and the other party suffered $100,000 in damages, for example, you would pay out $50,000 while receiving only $5,000 in return, leaving you $45,000 in the hole.
Now is the Time to Take Action
Houston car accident attorney Mario Madrid has been practicing law for two decades, not only as a lawyer but also as a prosecutor and a judge at various points in his career. Unlike the vast majority of Texas lawyers, he is board-certified as a specialist in Criminal Law. Regardless of where you are from, if you have been the victim of a car accident in the Houston metro area, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial consultation.