Comparative Negligence: What It Means for Your Case

Photograph of a man & woman standing near their cars after having a car accident. One cars hood has damage after crashing.

In personal injury law, the concept of comparative negligence can have a big impact on your case. What does it mean for you and your potential to collect damages? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Often, the party at fault in a personal injury case is very obvious. If you’re sitting in your car at an intersection for a red light and the car behind you hits yours because the driver is checking their phone, they’re clearly at fault. If you’re in your backyard, minding your own business, and your neighbor’s dog bounds over and bites you, the blame lies on your neighbor, not you.

Sometimes cases are not that simple, though. If you’re backing out of a parking space and hit a car that’s behind you because the driver of that car isn’t paying attention, both of you bear some of the responsibility because both drivers should have been more careful. Going back to the dog bite scenario, if you’re bitten by your neighbor’s dog while you’re in their backyard without permission, is the fault yours or theirs? Often, courts will decide both parties should take some of the blame.

Slip and fall negligence cases, as well as car accidents, often involve comparative negligence.

How Comparative Negligence Impacts Your Case

Typically what happens when comparative negligence is involved is that a judge or jury looks at the case and assigns a percentage of blame to each party. Maybe in the parking lot comparative negligence car accident case described above, the blame is shared 50/50, while with the dog bite, your blame might be 60 percent while the dog owner’s fault is 40 percent.

What makes comparative negligence tricky is that much of how it’s determined is subjective, even when dealing with objective evidence.

How is comparative negligence determined? Well, liability ratios are not set in stone or coded into law. This is where having a skilled attorney on your side is essential––they can make the case for assigning the other party more of the blame. In Texas, liability can be shared by multiple parties and the amount of compensation awarded in a dispute is divided according to the percentage of liability.

How Compensation is Awarded

Damages are determined either using the pure approach or the modified approach.

In the pure approach, your damages are reduced by the percentage of fault that lies in your hands. In other words, total damages are decided upon, then that amount is reduced by the fault at which you were determined to be responsible. If you were 30 percent at fault, 30 percent is subtracted from your damages.

The modified comparative negligence approach allows a party to be up to 49 percent liable and still receive damages. If responsibility is shared equally or you are more responsible for the injury than the other party, you cannot recover damages. This is the comparative negligence 50 percent rule.

Learn More About Comparative Negligence in Houston, TX

If you’d like to speak with an attorney about how your personal injury claim is impacted by comparative negligence, contact Pines & Goldenzweig, PLLC at 713-489-4410 to schedule a consultation.

About the Author

Eric Pines
For more than 25 years, attorney Eric L. Pines has been a trusted advocate for individuals who have seen their lives turned upside down by devastating personal injuries and difficult employment/labor law matters. As a founding partner at Pines & Goldenzweig, PLLC, he is committed to providing a strong voice for people who are at risk of being taken advantage of by large insurance companies. He knows the aggressive tactics that insurance companies use to minimize or even deny personal injury claims. Eric won’t let his clients be bullied. He takes a tough stand to demand the maximum compensation his clients need to move forward with their lives after serious accidents.