Liability in a car crash is not always clear cut. For example, a freeway crash might occur on a rural road when the defendant crosses the centerline and the plaintiff is speeding. Or, two delivery trucks may collide when the defendant stops in the middle of traffic and the plaintiff makes an unsafe lane change. In situations like these, Texas law empowers the jurors to become mathematicians, in addition to factfinders. The Lone Star State is a modified comparative fault state, with a twist, in terms of contributory negligence. Plaintiffs may recover a portion of their damages depending on their percentage of fault.
How It Plays Out
In the first example above, assume that the jury determines damages to be $10,000 and the plaintiff to be 40 percent at fault, because the vehicle was traveling too fast to see the defendant and respond to a somewhat predictable emergency situation; on rural roads, it is not unheard of for cars to travel on the left side of the road, for one reason or another. So, the plaintiff would recover $6,000 (60 percent of $10,000).
In the second example, assume that the damages are $10,000 and the plaintiff is 60 percent at fault. The plaintiff recovers nothing, because the law stipulates that the defendant must be at least 51 percent at fault for the plaintiff to obtain damages.
Getting an Edge
Jurors receive limited instructions. They answer questions yes or no and fill in blanks, but are not informed about the consequences of their answers and are not allowed to consider them. So, an attorney must introduce evidence and make arguments that limit the plaintiff’s fault as much as possible, in order to maximize recovery. A few common strategies include:
- Time of Day: If the sun blinded the driver, that event does not completely excuse negligence, but it may help reduce the portion of fault in a specific incident.
- Road Conditions: The same analysis sometimes applies to wet or icy surfaces, and other inclement weather.
- Maximization: By emphasizing the defendant’s wrongful conduct, the plaintiff’s proportion of fault must go down.
Damages in a car crash case normally include compensation for economic and non-economic damages, as well as punitive damages in some cases.
If you or a loved one was injured or killed due to someone else’s negligence, at least in part, contact an experienced New Braunfels personal injury attorney today.