When an accident occurs, you might find yourself partially responsible, which can lead to questions about your ability to pursue damages. An accident attorney in San Antonio, TX is best positioned to advise you in the context of Texas personal injury law and the specific details of your situation.
The Principle of Comparative Fault
Unlike some jurisdictions that apply a stringent “contributory negligence” rule, Texas adopts the more lenient “comparative fault” or “proportionate responsibility” system. This principle is set out in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 33.001 and states that an injured party can recover damages even if they are partially at fault for their injuries.
The comparative fault rule is not exclusive to any specific kind of personal injury case. It applies across a range of circumstances. Whether it’s a car accident, slip and fall case, product liability, or medical malpractice, the same principle of apportioning damages according to each party’s degree of fault is used. This wide application allows for flexibility and fairness in varying situations; however, it is also not without limits and exceptions.
The 51% Bar Rule
Under the Texas proportionate responsibility system, there is a stipulation known as the 51% bar rule. Per this rule, you’re allowed to recover damages as long as you’re found to be 50% or less at fault for the accident. However, if you’re found to be more than 50% at fault, you’re barred from recovering any damages.
While the comparative fault rule applies to most Texas personal injury cases, certain exceptions exist. For instance, if the defendant’s conduct was intentional or grossly negligent, these comparative fault rules also might not apply. A qualified attorney can guide you on these intricate details and how they apply to your specific case.
Exceptions for Certain Criminal Behavior
If the other driver contributed to the accident, and that other driver got into the accident while in the process of committing or fleeing after committing a serious crime, such as murder, aggravated kidnapping, sexual assault, or something similar, you may be able to seek compensation even if you were more than 50% at fault. Visit this page to connect directly with a qualified Texas attorney to find out if this part of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, section 33.013 might apply in your case.
How Damage Awards Are Adjusted
In the comparative fault system, your degree of fault impacts the amount of compensation you can recover. If you’re awarded damages, that amount is reduced by your percentage of fault. For instance, if you suffered $100,000 in damages but were found to be 20% at fault for the accident, your damage award would be reduced to $80,000.
It’s important to note that this rule applies to all types of damages, whether they are economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages, or non-economic damages like pain and suffering. The principle stands; if you’re 30% at fault, all damages awarded to you will be reduced by that same percentage.
The Complexities of Determining Fault
Allocating fault in a personal injury case is a multifaceted process. It involves a detailed examination of all the events leading up to the incident. Various elements like the conditions of the environment, actions of all involved parties, state of mind, and even adherence to traffic laws, if it’s a vehicular accident, are scrutinized. The decision of how much fault is allocated to each party can have significant repercussions on the outcome of the claim.
Comparative Fault in Settlement Negotiations
The concept of comparative fault isn’t only applied in court decisions; it also plays a vital role in settlement negotiations. Most personal injury cases are resolved through settlements rather than going to trial. During these negotiations, both sides will consider their strengths and weaknesses, including their respective shares of fault, to arrive at a fair settlement value. If your level of fault is a contentious issue, it may affect the settlement amount offered by the insurance company.
Insurance companies, like any business, aim to minimize their costs. In personal injury cases, they may attempt to attribute a higher percentage of fault to you to reduce the amount they need to pay out. An experienced attorney is invaluable, as they can contest such assertions and fight for a fair assessment of fault.
The Importance of Finding a Qualified Accident Attorney in San Antonio, TX
The complexity of the comparative fault rules, and the possible exceptions, underscores the importance of having skilled legal representation. An experienced attorney will thoroughly investigate your case, gather compelling evidence, and advocate aggressively to ensure your fault is minimized and your compensation maximized. As you grapple with the aftermath of an accident, remember that being armed with knowledge and having a skilled attorney by your side are both instrumental in safeguarding your rights and ensuring you obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve.