What If I'm Partially to Blame for a Car Accident in Texas?
Even if you bear some responsibility for an auto accident, you will most likely still be able to recover for your losses under Texas’ modified comparative fault rule.
Car accident claims are rarely straightforward. In many situations, the underlying causes of a collision are surprisingly complex. Perhaps you failed to signal a turn, but the other driver was distracted because he was texting and driving. The other driver was more at fault than you were, but you still were negligent. Can you still recover compensation for your losses if you were partially at fault?
In many cases, the other driver’s insurance company will attempt to deny your claim, arguing that you were responsible for the accident because you failed to signal. Yet as an experienced Dallas car accident lawyer can explain, Texas law allows drivers who are partially at fault to recover for their losses, as long as they were 50% or less at fault under Texas’ “modified comparative fault” rule.
Don’t Take the Insurance Company at Its Word
Most people are fortunate enough to only be involved in a car accident once every few years at most. However, this put them at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with the insurance company. Insurance companies have teams of adjusters and on-staff attorneys who’s sole job is to fight your claims. Their role is to minimize the amount of money that they pay out on every claim — so they often attempt to deny valid claims or give low-ball offers to settle claims early on in the process (before you know the full extent of your damages).
This is frequently the case when it comes to car accidents where both drivers share some fault. The insurance company may try to convince you that because you were also to blame for the accident, they do not have to pay you for your losses — but this is not true in Texas. Remember that insurance companies are businesses, and their goal is to make a profit by tasking in more in premiums than they pay out in claims.
Rather than taking the insurance company at its word, it’s important that you call a personal injury attorney in your area for a free consultation. An attorney can explain your rights and fight for what you truly deserve. Depending on the facts of your case, you should be able to recover for your losses — even if your total damages award is reduced based on your own degree of comparative fault.
Texas’ Modified Comparative Fault Rule
In civil law, there is a concept known as “comparative fault” which means that a percentage of fault can be assigned to each party. A person’s recovery in a lawsuit will then be reduced by the amount that they are considered “at fault” for an accident. For example, if you were deemed 30% at fault for a car crash and were awarded $100,000 by a jury, the award will be reduced by 30% to a total of $70,000.
Texas uses a modified comparative fault rule. If a party is 51% or more responsible for an accident, then he or she is barred from recovering monetary damages in a case. Under this rule, you could be awarded anywhere from 100% of your damages (if you are found 0% at fault) to 0% of your damages (if you are found 51% or greater at fault).
In car accident cases, there are a number of factors that a jury may consider when determining who is at fault. Typically, a jury will look at dangerous or negligent driving behaviors, such as speeding, driving the wrong way, texting while driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or ignoring traffic signs.
Based on evidence presented at trial, such as the police report, cell phone records and accident reconstruction, the jury will assign a percentage of fault to each driver. This percentage of fault is then used to determine how damages are awarded. For example, consider a case where you are driving to work, going slightly over the speed limit (5 to 10 miles per hour) in the left lane of traffic. Suddenly, a driver attempts to make a left turn from the right lane. You can’t stop in time, and you collide. The jury may decide that you are 10% at fault, because if you hadn’t been speeding, you could have stopped in time. The other driver is 90% at fault for making an illegal turn and cutting you off. If your award is for $50,000, you will receive $45,000. The other driver will not be entitled to damages because he or she was more than 51% at fault.
The Value of Hiring an Attorney
Car accident cases can be complex, and recovering money damages often requires knowledge of complicated legal concepts and relevant case law. It’s important to speak to an attorney who understands how to challenge the insurance company’s underhanded tactics, and who has experience handling personal injury cases in your state.
Insurance companies don’t want to to hire an attorney for obvious reasons. They handle claims like your on a daily basis, and are well aware that statistically, victims are likely to recover substantially more money when represented by an attorney.