What is Comparative Fault in a Car Accident?

An insurance adjuster and a driver discussing fault in a car accident where he was partially at fault.

Comparative fault allows people who suffered injuries in a car accident to recover compensation for their damages, even if their own negligence contributed to the accident. However, the amount that they receive will be reduced to reflect their percentage of fault.

For example, if the other driver was driving under the influence and driving erratically, but you were speeding, then you could be found to be 15% at fault for the accident. If your claim is worth $100,000, your settlement would be reduced by 15%, and you would receive $85,000.

Comparative negligence laws are complex and differ between states. The best way to protect your right to compensation is to seek the help of an experienced car accident lawyer.

At Chris Morrow Law, PLLC, we are proud to offer compassionate and comprehensive support to personal injury victims in Texas. We work on a no-win, no-fee basis and offer a free consultation so that anyone who has suffered a car accident can seek legal advice.

Once you agree to representation, we will investigate your case, calculate your damages, and negotiate a fair settlement. With our help, you can focus on your own health and well-being with confidence that your case is in safe hands.

Call us at 512-520-8100 for a free consultation.

What are the 3 Basic Systems of Comparative Fault?

When a car accident involves more than one at-fault party, then it is important to establish each individual’s degree of fault and whether their compensation should be reduced.

There are three main types of rules that are used to deal with shared fault: 

  • Contributory Negligence – In a contributory negligence state, an injured party cannot recover damages if they are found to be partially at fault for an accident.
  • Pure Comparative Negligence – Under a pure comparative fault doctrine, if a party is found to be partially at fault for an accident, they can still claim compensation. However, their settlement will be reduced by the amount they are determined to be at fault. If they are found to be 80% at fault for an accident, they can still claim 20% of their damages.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence – Texas uses a modified comparative negligence system. Under this system, only victims who are found to be less than 50% at fault for an accident can claim compensation. Still, their settlement will be reduced by the percentage that they are deemed to be at fault.

Texas Modified Comparative Negligence Rules Explained

Under Texas’s modified comparative fault rules, you can claim compensation even if you were partially at fault for the accident. However, if you are determined to be more than 50% at fault, you will not be able to claim anything. This is known as a 51% bar.

What Does it Mean to be At Fault For a Car Accident?

In order to establish fault after a car accident, your attorney will look to establish that the other party behaved negligently. If you also behaved negligently, then it could be necessary to determine the percentage to which your negligence contributed to the crash.

In order to establish negligence in Texas, five elements must be proven, they are:

Duty of Care Owed

First, it is necessary to prove that the at-fault party owed a duty of care, which is a legal duty to behave or not behave in some way. In car accident claims, this is relatively straightforward. All road users owe a duty of care to others on the road and must behave in a reasonable way to protect those around them.

Duty of Care Breached

Next, it is necessary to establish that the at-fault party breached their duty by failing to exercise reasonable care. For example, driving under the influence, speeding, or running a red light is a breach of the duty of care.

Cause in Fact

Cause in fact means that the at-fault party must have been the actual cause of the injuries that the plaintiff is claiming.

Proximate Cause

Proximate cause means that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would have been aware that their actions could cause injuries. For example, a reasonable person knows that they should not drive their car intoxicated because it increases their risk of causing an accident.

Damages Suffered

The last element of negligence is that the actions of the defendant must have caused compensable losses, known as damages. Damages could include medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional pain and suffering.

Types Of Car Accidents That Commonly Involve Comparative Negligence

Sometimes establishing that one party is at fault is easy, such as in rear-end accidents or DUI car accidents. However, proving negligence is often much more complex. Types of car accidents that commonly involve more than one at-fault party include:

  • Speeding – Although speeding is a negligent act, if another car pulled out in front of them, then both drivers could be partially to blame.
  • Distracted Driving – Distracting driving, such as when a driver looks at their phone, is a common cause of car accidents. Another driver may have also behaved negligently, but the distracted driver may have failed to take appropriate action.
  • Lane-Change Accidents – If a driver swerves to avoid a hazard and hits another car, then multiple parties could be to blame.
  • Tailgating Accidents – If more than one vehicle follows too closely to a slower-moving vehicle and this causes a tailgating accident, then the tailgating cars could be to blame.
  • Truck Accidents Crashes that involve trucks often involve multiple liable parties, such as the trucking company, loading company, and truck driver.

Whose Insurance Pays For Damages If Multiple Parties Are At Fault? 

Following a car accident where liability is straightforward, you will likely claim compensation from the other driver’s insurance company. However, when multiple parties share liability it is often more complex. While you may be able to claim compensation from multiple people, insurance companies may try to use comparative fault to reduce the amount they are required to pay.

In a multi-car accident, each insurance company will have a different choice when it comes to assigning the level of fault they believe should be applied to each party. They will likely try to reduce the amount that they owe you by exaggerating the degree to which you or another party was at fault.

Insurance companies are big businesses that are driven by profit; they will try to exploit ways to reduce the amount they are required to pay out, even if that means leaving victims with less than they deserve. Your car accident attorney will be your advocate and will fight against insurance companies and their legal teams so that you have the best chance at a fair outcome.

In addition, cases that involve multiple parties are more likely to go to court and be decided by a Judge and jury. If this happens, your attorney will be prepared to present evidence to support your case.

What Types of Damages Could I Be Owed After a Car Accident?

If you have been injured in a car accident in Texas, you can still claim compensation for your damages if you were less than 50% at fault for the accident.

These laws can be a lifeline for many victims whose damages can quickly exceed the limits of their insurance policy. Medical bills are notoriously high in the United States and when paired with lost wages and property damage, the financial consequences of a car accident can be difficult to deal with without compensation.

A car accident lawyer will establish the value of your damages so that they can negotiate a fair settlement. The damages involved in your case may include the following:

Medical Expenses

When calculating what you are owed in medical expenses, all expenses related to your medical care should be considered, including hospital bills, prescription costs, physiotherapy, and more.

If you have suffered ongoing injuries, then it is also important that your future medical expenses are considered. It can be difficult to establish your future costs, but your attorney will draw upon expert testimony so that you have strong evidence to support your case.

Lost Wages

If your injuries resulted in time away from work, you have probably had to contend with lost income on top of mounting medical bills. This can be incredibly frustrating. However, your lost wages should be reflected in your settlement.

If your injuries are likely to prevent you from returning to work in the same capacity as before your accident, you should also be compensated for the loss of earning potential.

Property Damage

Your vehicle was likely to have been damaged if you were in a car accident, and you should be owed compensation to cover the repair or replacement of your vehicle. If you had any other possessions that were damaged in the accident, such as a phone or laptop, then these should also be considered.

Pain and Suffering

Car accidents are traumatic for those involved and can leave victims with mental scars as well as physical ones. Physical injuries also often lead to a lot of emotional distress. The disruption to your life can be incredibly difficult, especially if you are left unable to participate in hobbies you once enjoyed, such as yoga or running.

You deserve to be compensated for your pain and suffering. Although these types of damages can be highly contentious, when you have experienced representation, they could make up the largest percentage of your settlement.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the defendant acted with malicious intent or gross negligence. They are designed to punish the defendant and discourage similar behavior in the future, as opposed to compensatory damages such as medical expenses which are designed to compensate the victim.

Punitive damages can only be awarded by a Judge, and so they are only awarded in cases that are settled in court.

Claiming For Wrongful Death After a Car Accident in Texas

If you have lost a loved one in a car accident in Texas and they were partially at fault for the accident, then you may still be able to claim compensation. The same comparative negligence rules apply, and as long as they were less than 50% at fault, you may still have a valid claim.

Losing a loved one is incredibly emotional, and no amount of compensation can begin to heal your grief. However, compensation can ensure that you do not suffer financially as a result.

In Texas, the spouse, children, or parents of a deceased person may be eligible to claim compensation in a wrongful death claim.

Shared Fault in and Out of Court

Most car accident claims settle outside of court. If you were partially to blame for an accident that settles outside of court, then the insurance adjuster will keep modified comparative negligence laws in mind when negotiating your settlement.

If your case does go to court, then a Judge or a jury may determine the percentage of fault for each party.

Court cases are expensive and time-consuming, and it is usually in both parties best interests to avoid them. However, cases that involve more than one liable party are more complex and have a higher probability of being settled in court.

It is important that you have representation from a lawyer who is prepared to take your case to court, otherwise, you could be left vulnerable. Insurance companies know which lawyers are capable litigators and which are not and this can have a big impact on their willingness to offer you a fair settlement, rather than risk losing more in the courtroom.

At Chris Morrow Law, PLLC, our attorneys are experienced litigators and will always be prepared to take a case to court if necessary to achieve a fair outcome. However, we will also push for a quick and fair settlement where possible. We will keep you informed at every stage and allow you to make decisions that direct your case.

What is Comparative Fault in a Car Accident FAQs

Yes. The best way to determine if you could be owed compensation is to contact a personal injury law firm for a freeCan I claim compensation even if I contributed to an accident in Texas?consultation. At Chris Morrow Law, PLLC, we will review your case and advise you on your next steps.

It is common for insurance companies to use underhanded tactics to reduce their liability, such as getting you to admit fault in some way. Fortunately, once you have representation, they should not speak to you at all, and all correspondence should go through your attorney. Therefore, if they contact you, simply tell them that your attorney will be in touch.

The first settlement offer and any quick-fire settlement offers should be treated with caution. The other insurance company will often know their party is liable and use tactics like this to lower their eventual payout. They will come to you with a quick-fire offer that is a lot lower than they expect they will have to pay out.

They play on the fact that it may seem like a large amount of money to you in your current situation.

You should always discuss any settlement offer with your attorney, as once you accept it, you forgo the chance to seek any more compensation after that point.

With the number of variables and complexity of personal injury cases, the amount of time your case will take to complete will depend upon a number of things.

In cases where the liability is clear, the other party may decide to take the loss and pay your settlement out of court. They could, however, decide to fight in the hopes of avoiding a payout.

Simple cases that settle out of court could be over in under a year, but complex cases can take several years to finish.

Call Chris Morrow Law, PLLC – The Attorney That Works

Cases that involve more than one at-fault party are complex and require the support of an experienced car accident lawyer.

At Chris Morrow Law, PLLC, we handle car accident cases in Texas on a daily basis and have a wealth of experience that can benefit your case. We will build a robust strategy and will fight to secure the best possible settlement in your case.

We offer a free consultation and work on a no-win no-fee basis, so you will never be left out of pocket for securing experienced representation.

Call us at 512-520-8100.

Talk to Attorney Chris Today

Free & Confidential Consultation