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The basics of comparative negligence in Texas

If you suffered an injury or loss in an automobile accident in Texas that was not your fault, you are likely wondering how you can receive compensation for the damages you incurred. While you have to prove the other driver was negligent in order to secure compensation, you also need to be aware of another aspect that could affect the amount of compensation you receive. When calculating the amount of damages to be awarded, Texas uses a concept known as modified comparative negligence to determine the percentage each party will have to pay.

Damages you may receive

First, you should understand the types of damages you can receive after successfully navigating a personal injury claim. If you file a personal injury suit against another party after a motor vehicle accident and successfully prove that the other party was, indeed, liable for your injuries and losses, the court may award you any or all of the following types of damages:

  • Economic damages will help cover the out-of-pocket expenses you incurred. These damages will help you pay for any vehicle or property damages as well as any current or future medical expenses you may need. Economic damages also include compensation for any time you missed work as a result of the accident or any decrease in your overall earning capacity.
  • Non-economic damages encompass areas such as pain and suffering and loss of companionship. These types of damages are not based on certifiable costs associated with your injuries and are instead usually regarded as punitive damages that aim to punish the at-fault party.
  • Exemplary damages are also punitive in nature and may be awarded in cases where you prove the accident was caused by another driver's willful act or gross negligence.

Modified comparative negligence

Many states use the concept of comparative negligence when determining fault and resulting damages. In simplest terms, comparative negligence recognizes that each party involved in the accident shares some amount of responsibility for the accident.

Texas uses the concept of modified comparative negligence, also called proportionate responsibility. This means that if the court finds you are 51 percent responsible for the accident, you will receive no compensation for any damages. If the court determines that you and the other party were equally responsible for the accident, you will receive half of the amount awarded. The jury in the case usually determines the percentage of each party's responsibility.

An attorney can help

While it may seem unfair that you would have to share responsibility for an accident that you believe was entirely the fault of someone else, you must keep in mind that the other party's defense team will fight for that person's rights as well. Having an attorney experienced in personal injury claims on your side will be invaluable as you seek to prove your case in court. Your attorney will also be able to fight on your behalf to contest any evidence that suggests you had any responsibility for the accident. Sometimes this can make a huge difference in whether the court awards you any compensation at all and how much compensation you ultimately receive.

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