Understanding Car Accident Liability to Secure the Best Compensation for Your Injuries

The basis of any personal injury claim is proving that your injuries were caused as a result of someone else’s negligence. Although this may seem pretty straightforward, the more complicated the accident, the more confusing it can be to distinguish liability. In fact, in some cases it may not be a clear black and white case of negligence, but rather an algebraic mess of negligence ratios: you were 10 percent at fault, he was 60 percent at fault, they were 30 percent at fault…

Are you beginning to see how it can get confusing?

Let’s simplify things a bit. Let’s say you were driving along a country road and you approached an intersection surrounded by overgrown cornstalks. You could see that the left side had a stop sign and—although you couldn’t see it nor the road itself because of the corn—you assumed that the right side had a stop as well. Now, you didn’t have a stop so you continued through without slowing down. As you entered the section, BAM!: you’re broadsided by a truck from the right.

Who is to blame? The truck driver for failing to stop? You for failing to slow down to check if the road was clear? Or, perhaps the farmer who failed to cut down his corn? Maybe all of you are to blame, but how can you tell?

Determining Liability and Compensation in an Injury Claim

When dealing with a negligent injury claim, the judge or jury evaluating the claim will review all the evidence from the accident that your attorney presents. Once the evidence has been assessed, the court will decide how liability will be distributed by assigning injury-negligence degrees. These degrees, expressed as percentages, shows how much the jury found you and the defendant to have been responsible for your injuries. Once the liability ratios have been calculated, they will be used to determine damage compensation. However, depending on your state, this determination can be governed by one of two different laws.

  • Contributory negligence. Contributory negligence laws state that if the victim (you) can be proven liable for any of his own injuries (in our example, you failed to check the road was clear in both ways), his injury settlement could be greatly reduced, or he may even be completely barred from receiving any compensation at all.
  • Comparative negligence. Texas follows this rule. Comparative negligence laws state that liability can be shared by multiple parties (you, the truck driver, the farmer, etc.), and as such, the percentage of liability will reflect the amount of compensation awarded. The determined percentages will adjust awarded compensation in one of two ways— by the pure approach or by the modified approach.
  • Pure approach. The pure comparative negligence approach is simple. If the judge finds that you were less than 51 percent responsible for the accident, the total agreed-upon damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault in which you were responsible. For example, if the damage amount was $20,000 and the judge found you to be 20 percent at fault, you would be rewarded $16,000 (the original $20,000, minus 20 percent of that amount [$4,000], which equals $16,000).
  • Modified approach. The modified comparative negligence approach allows you to be up to 51 percent liable and still receive damages. However, if you’re found to be more than 51 percent responsible, you’re not entitled to recover any damages.

Obviously, you want the court to find you less than 51 percent at fault in order to secure the best possible compensation. This can be difficult when the defendant’s lawyers are doing their best to prove the opposite. However, a seasoned attorney can help argue your case with more authority, as well as help convince the court that your negligence degree was significantly lower than 50 percent. The lower your degree of fault, the higher your final awarded settlement will be.

With over 35 years’ worth of experience, we can help you get the percentage of damages you rightfully deserve. For help in reviewing your case, contact us today at 713-921-4171 or 1-800-232-3711.

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