When it comes to car accidents, in some states it's often pretty clear who is at fault. However, in Texas, there's a system in place known as modified comparative fault. But, what is that you ask? Before we dive into its meaning, let's look at an example of how this might be used when determining who is really at fault.
If a driver runs a red light and crashes into another car legally crossing the intersection, the red light runner clearly caused the accident. Similarly, if someone turns the wrong way onto a one-way street and strikes an oncoming vehicle, the driver who turned the wrong way is at fault.
But in plenty of cases, who is at fault for a car accident is less clear cut. Or to put it another way, often both drivers in a two vehicle crash bear some responsibility for the accident.
Here’s another example: You are driving 10 miles an hour over the speed limit on the interstate when a car cuts into your lane without warning. They don’t signal and they make their move when there clearly isn’t enough space for them to slide in front of you safely.
The result is inevitable. The two cars make contact, damaging the rear end of the car that swerved over into your lane and the front end of your car. Who is at fault?
Well, the truth is that you and the other driver both bear some responsibility here. The other driver may have been driving recklessly and may have failed to signal their intentions, but you were speeding. The odds are pretty good that the responding officer will cite both of you.
Now imagine that you were injured in the crash—perhaps seriously. Given that you and the other driver were both cited for the accident, what does this mean in terms of your ability to recover damages from the other driver for your injuries?
Let’s look at the system Texas uses to determine the answer to that question. It’s a system known as modified comparative fault.
What Is Modified Comparative Fault?
Most states—including Texas—use a modified comparative fault system for determining how damages might be awarded in a case involving a car accident in which both drivers were partially responsible. In Texas, that system is governed by what is known as the 51 percent bar rule, which means you may not recover damages if you are determined to be 51 percent or more at fault for the wreck.
So, under this system, it is possible to recover damages if you were less responsible for the accident than the other driver. However, those damages will be reduced by the degree that you were determined to be at fault.
Let’s return to our example above. You were speeding, and the other driver was driving recklessly. It is determined by a jury that you were 20 percent responsible for the accident. If you are awarded, say, $50,000 in damages, that award will be reduced by 20 percent—the same amount as your portion of responsibility. Twenty percent of $50,000 is $10,000. So, you would come away with an award of $40,000.
A Skilled Texas Car Accident Attorney Will Help You Get the Compensation You Deserve
If you have been injured in a Texas car accident and have been assigned partial responsibility for the crash, it is imperative that you get help from an attorney. The car accident attorneys of SJ Injury Attorneys can help you navigate the modified comparative fault system to ensure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.
Your attorney will argue on your behalf concerning the original traffic citation and at the hearing used to determine the degree of fault each party will be assigned. And they will advocate for you during settlement negotiations or in court. Our goal will always be to maximize your compensation.
The lawyers of SJ Injury Attorneys work on a contingency basis—meaning we don’t charge you for our services unless we win your case. That means that regardless of your financial situation you can afford the representation you need if you are injured in a car accident. Schedule a free consultation so that we can get to work for you.