When a serious accident occurs, it is generally assumed that one party is more at fault than the other for the accident. However, most personal injury claims are not this simple. Most states have contributory negligence statutes that allow plaintiffs who may be partially at fault in an accident to still recover damages for a personal injury and Texas is one of them.
Texas is one of 20 states that recognize what is known as the “51% Bar Rule.” Under this rule, a plaintiff is not entitled to any compensation if he or she is more than 50% at fault in an accident. In other words, if you are involved in an accident, you can only be compensated if the other driver was 50% or more at fault than you.
Here’s an example: Bob makes a left turn at an intersection and collides with a car driven by Ted, who was speeding at the time of the collision. Ted is injured and sues to recover from Bob. A jury finds that Bob was 70% negligent for turning left into Ted’s car and that Ted was 30% negligent for speeding. The jury awards $100,000, of which Ted is able to claim $70,000 since Ted’s contributory negligence was 30% and Bob’s was 70%.
Using the same accident scenario, let’s say that the jury found that Bob was only 45% negligent and Ted was 55% negligent. Under Texas law, Ted would not be able to claim any of the $100,000 award since he was more than 51% negligent.
Contributor negligence can also apply if you are a passenger. If you ride in a car knowing that the driver is unfit to drive safely and you are subsequently injured in an accident, you may have contributory negligence for your own injuries.
In most cases, passengers are negligent if they have knowledge of a condition that could impair the driver's ability to drive safely (such as driving while intoxicated), yet decide to ride in the car anyway.
If a passenger agrees to ride in a vehicle being driven by an intoxicated driver, the passenger assumes the risk of being involved in an accident, especially where the passenger is aware of the driver's intoxication.
By permitting an unfit driver to take control of a vehicle, a passenger may be held responsible for knowingly contributing to a potentially hazardous situation. However, if the passenger had no knowledge of the driver's impairment, contributory negligence typically is not imposed upon the passenger.
If you want to know if you have a case, please call 800-248-6000 or contact us for a free consultation with an experienced accident attorney today.