Comparative Negligence in a Texas Personal Injury Claim

May 22, 2012 by

In a Texas personal injury trial, the first question that must be answered by the jury is who was at fault.  If the evidence at trial shows some negligence on the part of the plaintiff, the jury will be asked to assign a percentage (%) of negligence to the plaintiff and a percentage (%) of negligence to the defendant.  Those two percentages must add up to 100%.  Only then will the jury be asked to decide the dollar amount of damages to award to the plaintiff and only if the defendant’s percentage of fault was at least 50%. If the defendant in your lawsuit can prove to the court that plaintiff’s own actions contributed to the accident, the court will reduce the damages awarded to the plaintiff by the jury by that percentage. It will establish a percentage of responsibility for you and reduce your award by that percentage. This is known as your comparative negligence.  For example, if a jury in an intersectional red light auto accident in Houston, Texas found the plaintiff 50% at fault and the defendant 50% at fault and found the plaintiff damages to be $1000, then the judge would reduce the plaintiff’s verdict to $500 based on the comparative negligence finding by the jury.  If the jury found 10% negligence on the plaintiff and 90% on the defendant, then the plaintiff would get $900 under the same circumstances.  However, if the jury determines the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault, then the plaintiff would receive no monetary award at all.  The jury is not told of the comparative negligence reduction in the damage award and is told only to answer the questions.  Lawyers often complain that juries do not understand their instructions not to reduce the award based on the plaintiff’s negligence and do so anyway.  The net effect is that both the jury and the court will end up reducing the plaintiff’s damage award and the plaintiff will not be compensated properly for their injuries. 

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