Understanding the Difference Between Comparative and Contributory Negligence

Many personal injury lawsuits are initiated on the grounds of negligence. In other words, you were injured because the other party could have prevented the accident had they acted in a reasonable and responsible manner.

In many cases, fault for the accident can be attributed to both sides. This is when the rules of comparative and contributory negligence come into play. These rules are often applied during personal injury litigation to establish that the plaintiff bore some responsibility for their own injuries. Used effectively, comparative and contributory negligence might limit how much the injured person can collect in damages and even prevent them from receiving anything at all.

Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence has traditionally meant that if you were even slightly at fault for your own injuries, you could not be compensated for them. For example, if you do not look both ways before crossing the street and a speeding motorist hits you, you will not win a personal injury lawsuit.

Today this is known as “pure” contributory negligence and is only the rule in Alabama, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Texas follows a 51{e567d5ec54745fd9bde8665c28b231f91ee2028ed6aa034480ac91952ee72ee9} Bar Rule, meaning that if you are injured by someone else, you cannot recover damages if your own degree of fault is 51{e567d5ec54745fd9bde8665c28b231f91ee2028ed6aa034480ac91952ee72ee9} or more. You may recover if your contribution to your own injuries was 50{e567d5ec54745fd9bde8665c28b231f91ee2028ed6aa034480ac91952ee72ee9} or less, but any award would be reduced by your degree of fault.

Comparative Negligence

The principles of comparative negligence state that the total compensation you might receive for your injuries is reduced by the percentage of fault that can be attributed to you. For example, if you are injured in a motor vehicle collision and that the court allocates 25{e567d5ec54745fd9bde8665c28b231f91ee2028ed6aa034480ac91952ee72ee9} fault to you and 75{e567d5ec54745fd9bde8665c28b231f91ee2028ed6aa034480ac91952ee72ee9} to the other driver, you will only receive 75{e567d5ec54745fd9bde8665c28b231f91ee2028ed6aa034480ac91952ee72ee9} of the damages you claim.

Texas is one of the states that adheres to modified comparative negligence rules, meaning that if you are at least 50{e567d5ec54745fd9bde8665c28b231f91ee2028ed6aa034480ac91952ee72ee9} liable for your accident, you will not be allowed to sue the other party. If your share of liability (or, as it is called in Texas, proportionate responsibility)  is below 50{e567d5ec54745fd9bde8665c28b231f91ee2028ed6aa034480ac91952ee72ee9}, you retain the right to pursue an action but are only eligible for an amount that matches the percentage of the defendant’s fault.

If you are ever injured, it is important to retain the counsel of an experienced Texas personal injury attorney who will carefully evaluate both your injuries and the situation that caused them, and provide you with a clear picture of where the fault appears to lie as well as your options. The Sharp Law Firm will provide you with a free consultation to determine your position regarding a damage claim and fight to get you the award you are entitled to.