For many personal injury cases, it is clear there is one party to blame for the accident.
However, in more complex accident cases, there may be more than one person or entity at fault, including the plaintiff themselves.
When multiple parties may be at fault, it is important to know which negligence doctrine your state adopts.
Contributory vs Comparative Negligence
There are two main doctrines that govern the ability of parties to recover damages based on their percentage of fault: contributory and comparative negligence.
The principal difference between contributory negligence vs comparative negligence is the ability of a victim to recover damages when they share fault for an accident.
Under contributory negligence, the plaintiff is barred from recovering damages if they are found even partially at fault.
On the contrary, under comparative negligence, a plaintiff may still recover damages. However, damages are generally reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault.
For example, if the plaintiff is found to be 30% at fault for the accident, then their maximum recovery will be reduced by 30%.
So if they were awarded $100,000 in damages, then their maximum award will be $70,000.
Contributory vs Comparative Negligence: Which Rule Does Texas Follow?
Along with most other states, Texas is a comparative negligence state.
Texas does not follow the contributory negligence doctrine, which would bar anyone with partial fault from recovering damages.
There are two types of comparative negligence standards:
- Pure comparative negligence allows a plaintiff to still recover damages no matter their level of fault (e.g., a plaintiff can be 99% at fault and still recover 1% of damages).
- Modified comparative negligence allows a plaintiff to recover damages only if their fault is less than a certain percentage (50% or 51% depending on the state).
Texas follows the modified comparative negligence standard.
Texas Modified Comparative Negligence Standard
Texas follows a modified comparative negligence standard, specifically, the 51% rule. This means if you are found to be 51% or more at fault for the accident then you cannot recover damages.
In other words:
- If plaintiff is 0% to blame = may collect 100% of damages;
- If plaintiff is 50% at fault = may still collect 50% of damages; and
- If plaintiff is > 50% at fault = cannot collect any damages.
Simply put, if you are more at fault than the other party you will be barred from recovering damages.
Texas Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
Dealing with contributory vs comparative negligence can be complicated, especially if you are in a comparative negligence state such as Texas.
If you were in an accident and are considering a personal injury lawsuit in Texas, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before proceeding.
It could mean the difference between recovering an award for 100% of damages and recovering no damages at all.