Comparative Negligence in Texas

Texas’s comparative negligence law allows drivers to collect damages in proportion to their degree of fault in an accident unless a driver is over 50% at fault.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Feb 22, 2022
When it comes to car insurance claims, Texas employs the doctrine of “proportionate responsibility.” This means that, after a car accident, any driver that is no more than 50% at fault for an accident can receive compensation for the damages in proportion to that driver’s percentage of fault.
Getting into a car accident is bad enough, but wondering what it might end up costing you could be worse. Knowing your rights and your state’s comparative negligence laws is the best way to ensure you get what’s owed to you.
Comparative negligence laws are often similar from state to state, but the devil is in the details. That’s why
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal term used to explain that when two people are in an accident, they collect damages based on how much they’re each found to be at fault.
In an example of pure comparative negligence, if you’re in an accident with another driver, and you’re found to be 20% at fault, you’ll only be responsible for 20% of the damages. The other driver will be responsible for 80% of the damages since they are 80% at fault.  
Comparative negligence applies to any kind of injury or damages. If the accident involves
filing a car insurance claim
, as in a car accident, the insurance companies will determine the degree of fault for each driver. In the case of personal injury, a judge and jury determine the degrees of fault.

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

Comparative negligence operates at three possible levels: pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence. Each state’s law follows one of these principles. 
  • Pure comparative negligence: An injured party collects damages according to their percentage of fault. 
  • Partial/modified comparative negligence: An injured party may only collect their percentage of damages if they’re found to be less than 50 or 51% at fault (depending on the state).
  • Contributory negligence: An injured party may only collect damages if they’re found to be 100% not at fault.
Texas is one of many states that use a partial/modified system of comparative negligence, but they call it proportionate responsibility

What is Texas’s comparative negligence law? 

Texas’s doctrine of proportionate responsibility states that as long as the plaintiff’s negligence is not greater than the defendant’s, the plaintiff can still collect damages. In other words, you can be compensated for the damages resulting from a car accident as long as you are no more than 50% at fault.
If you’re found only 20% at fault for an accident, you can still collect up to 80% of the damages. However, if you’re found 51% or more at fault, you can’t collect anything.
Key Takeaway In Texas, a driver can receive compensation for damages from an accident in proportion to his or her level of responsibility, as long as that driver is no more than 50% responsible for the accident.

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties? 

Texas is an at-fault state
, so when three or more people are involved in an accident, the first thing insurance companies will do is attempt to pinpoint who is most at fault. That one person will be responsible for paying at least proportionate damages to all parties involved.
You’re not required to file insurance claims with all involved parties’ providers—you may choose to only file a claim with the one individual found most at fault. Keep in mind that, depending on the unique circumstances involved in your accident, choosing to file with only one party’s insurance could result in your collecting less in damages than you might otherwise.

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

Under Texas’s unique system, determining fault is of the utmost importance. Insurance companies will use the evidence collected at the scene of the accident and via police reports to determine each driver's proportionate responsibility. To make sure you’re covered, be sure to collect as much evidence and information as you can. 
When you’re at the scene of an accident, be sure to check first that everyone is okay (including yourself) and call 911 if anyone is injured. Then, document as much evidence as you can:
  • Take pictures of the scene and all visible damage
  • Talk to any witnesses and record their names and contact information
  • Record the
    makes and models
    of all cars involved
  • Note the time of day and the weather conditions
  • If you call the police, be sure to record the police report number and the responding officers’ badge numbers
The more evidence you collect, the better equipped the insurance companies will be to determine who is most at fault.
Key Takeaway Collect as much evidence as possible at the scene of your accident to ensure fault is assigned fairly and accurately.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

Under Texas’s system of proportionate responsibility, you still have a chance to collect damages as long as you’re not found to be the party most at fault for it. This means that you can file a claim with another driver’s insurance provider even if you’re partially responsible for the accident. You and any other drivers in the accident will only collect damages in proportion to your degree of responsibility. 

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