MODIFIED COMPARATIVE FAULT
Texas is a modified comparative fault state. When an injured person seeks compensation for an injury caused by a motor vehicle collision, the injured person must prove the other driver is at fault. If more than one entity is at fault for the person’s injuries, each entity is responsible for compensating the victim based upon its percentage of fault. If the injured party is at fault, his recovery is reduced by his percentage of fault. If the injured party bears 51% of the fault or more, he is barred from recovering any compensation under the modified comparative fault rule. Thus, an injured party seeking compensation is barred from recovery if he bears more than half of the blame. Thirty-three states follow some form of the modified comparative fault system. Some modified comparative fault states bar plaintiff from recovery if he has half of the fault instead of the majority (50% of the fault).
The modified comparative fault law in Texas prevents plaintiffs who bear most of the responsibility for their injuries from collecting anything from defendants who are partially responsible for the accident. Thus, a driver injured in an accident must have less responsibility for the accident than the other driver in a two-car collision.
A defendant may also escape responsibility if he caused the accident, but the injured plaintiff bears the majority of the responsibility for his injuries. For example, even when the defendant caused the motor vehicle collision, the defendant may still avoid responsibility for most of Plaintiff’s injuries if the Plaintiff did not wear a seat belt. If an injured party does not wear a seat belt, the Defendant may argue that the injuries were more severe because he or she was not wearing a seat belt. Texas Courts routinely allow the jury to know whether the injured party was wearing a seat belt or not. Texas law requires drivers to wear seat belts.
PURE COMPARATIVE FAULT
In a pure comparative fault state, the injured plaintiff may still receive compensation with 51% or more of the fault. For example, in a pure comparative fault state where the plaintiff is 90% at fault and defendant 10% at fault, the injured plaintiff would receive compensation for 10% of his damages from the defendant. Twelve states follow the pure comparative fault system. In motor vehicle collisions where the plaintiff bears some of the blame for the accident, plaintiffs generally recover more compensation in pure comparative fault jurisdictions than any other. There is no risk that the plaintiff will be completely barred from recovery unless he or she bears 100% of the blame or the defendant bears 0% of the blame. California is one of the states that follows the pure comparative fault system.
PURE CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE
The pure contributory negligence rule is followed in only four states. This rule prevents an injured party from recovering any damages if he or she bears even 1% of the fault. Thus, a defendant may avoid all responsibility even when he or she is 99% at fault for the accident. There are a few exceptions that will allow the plaintiff to recover in these jurisdictions even with some percentage of fault. One exception is if the defendant intentionally injured the plaintiff. The plaintiff could pursue an intentional tort against the defendant such as assault and battery. The pure contributory negligence rule has grown out of favor over the last few decades because it is oppressive to the plaintiff. Many states have adopted the pure comparative and modified comparative fault rules.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision, contact The O’Hara Law Firm for a free consultation. Patrick O’Hara is a car accident attorney that handles motor vehicle collision cases in Houston, Baytown, Humble, Spring, Cypress, Jersey Village, Bellaire and other surrounding areas. The O’Hara Law Firm represents clients on a contingency fee basis. Call us at 832-956-1138.