Understanding Comparative Negligence

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Posted By | October 10, 2023 | Personal Injury

In fault-based insurance states like Texas, an accident or injury victim bears the burden of proving liability in an accident. If the victim’s injuries resulted directly from someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing, the at-fault party is liable for damages. “Damages” in personal injury claims refer to the economic consequences of an injury, like medical expenses and lost wages, and the non-economic damages like pain and suffering. But what if liability isn’t as clear as one party being entirely at fault? Can an injury victim still recover compensation for damages if they were partly at fault for their injuries?

A modified comparative negligence state like Texas allows victims to recover a portion of their damages, even if they were partly at fault for an accident as long as they were less at fault than the other party.

Who Determines Fault in an Injury Claim?

Most personal injury claims first go to the insurance companies of those involved. A skilled personal injury lawyer in McKinney will document evidence of the other party’s liability for their injured client and then use the evidence to strongly negotiate for an out-of-court settlement. Evidence includes police reports, incident reports, photos, medical records, and eyewitness testimony. If the claim becomes a lawsuit—which occurs when an insurance company refuses to offer an acceptable settlement amount or denies the claim completely—a judge decides liability, based on the evidence gathered by both sides.

What if I Am Partly at Fault for My Injury?

When liability isn’t clear-cut, both parties may be partly at fault. For instance, in a rear-ending accident, the driver in the rear may be mostly at fault for tailgating, but if the driver in the front didn’t have their lights on in the rain, they could be found partly at fault. Likewise, if a victim suffers a slip-and-fall accident in a store because a leaky water pipe left a puddle, but they were also wearing high-heeled shoes, they could be found partly at fault.

Thankfully, states with comparative negligence insurance laws allow injury victims to recover a portion of their damages even if they’re found to be partly at fault. The amount they recover will be minus their percentage of fault for the injury.

For example, if the driver who didn’t have their lights on in the rain is found to be 25% at fault for the accident and their injury damages amount to $100,000, they’ll recover $75,000.

In a modified comparative negligence state, as long as you are less than 51% at fault you can recover an amount for damages. In the same scenario, the tailgating driver who rear-ended the car without its lights on is 75% at fault. Since that is more than 51% of the fault, they can’t recover any compensation.

Insurance Companies and Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence insurance laws are beneficial to injury victims who share in the responsibility for their injury, but sometimes insurance companies take advantage of a state’s comparative negligence insurance laws in order to wrongfully devalue a claim or deny it completely. They do this through insurance adjusters who protect the company’s profits by attempting to assign a greater portion of blame for an injury than is factual in the case. If you’re facing a personal injury claim, it’s best to hire a McKinney car accident attorney who has years of experience in this area and then direct all communication with insurance representatives to your lawyer.