Have you or a loved one every been involved in an auto or commercial accident, suffered horrendous injuries, did not have a police report, and not able to receive the fair and just compensation you deserve for your damages from the negligent driver’s insurance? Each U.S. state has different personal injury auto insurance laws and are generally categorized as either “no-fault” or “at fault” states. Further, “at fault states” have adopted either a pure comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence standard in determining who pays for damages. Texas, follows the “at fault” system with comparative negligence rules for personal injury auto accidents.
No-Fault vs. Fault States: No-Fault system states require each person’s auto insurance to pay for damages. That is, a person is required to have personal injury protection (PIP) for bodily injuries and collision coverage for any property damage. Contrarily, the “at fault” states also known as “fault” states, require the at fault negligent driver’s auto insurance in an auto accident to be responsible for paying damages incurred by an injured party. Further, “at fault” states use either a “pure comparative negligence” or “comparative negligence” concept.
Proportionate Responsibility: Pure comparative negligence vs. Modified Comparative Negligence: Pure comparative negligence states reduce recovery of damages by any percentage of fault by the injured party. For example, if the injured party was found 10% at fault for an accident, with $100,000.00 total damages awarded, he/she would only be able to recover $90,000.00. On the other hand, modified comparative negligence states allow an injured party to recover damages from the negligent driver’s insurance, if the negligent driver were found equally or greater percentage liable for the accident. States that follow modified comparative negligence standards are further categorized as either (1) modified comparative negligence 50% rule or (2) modified comparative negligence 51% rule.
Modified comparative negligence 50% rule vs modified comparative negligence 51% rule: Under the comparative negligence 50% rule, an injured party must not be found 50% or greater liable for the accident in order to be compensated for their damages. The injured party can only recover damages if found 49% or less at fault. For example, if the injured party is found at 20% at fault with an award of damages for $100,000.00, he/she would recover $80,000.00. Under the comparative negligence 51% rule, an injured party may be compensated for their damages if the negligent driver is found to be 51% or greater at fault for the accident. The injured party cannot be found liable for fault greater than 50%. For example, if the injured party were found at fault for 50% of the accident and total damages were $60,000.00, then he/she would only be able to recover $30,000.00 for damages. Texas follows the 51% comparative negligence rule stating that if a driver is 51% or more liable for an accident, he may not recover any damages. Always, remember, in Texas, if a driver is found 50% liable for an accident, he/she may still recover damages.
In modified comparative negligence states like Texas, liability determination is not always easy especially when there is no police report. Thus, when injured in an auto accident, always get a police report, take comprehensive pictures immediately of both vehicles with all damages, get all witness contact information, keep all medical records with bills, be careful what you say, and always seek the advice of a qualified attorney to help you recover your fair compensation when injured in an auto accident.
About the Author: Mala Sharma has been practicing family law and personal injury with her family at the Law Offices of Sharma & Associates, founded in 1997 with over 42 years of combined experience. Mala is a Board of Advocates for the Houston Trial Lawyers Association, Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association GP Solo YLD, member of the Houston Bar Association, President Emeritus of the Houston Northwest Bar Association, and prior board member of the South Asian Bar Association.
This material is available for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you require advice on any particular legal question, you may contact Sharma & Associates at 281-893-8644 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.