Many things in life aren’t simple, and determining liability in car accidents is sometimes one of them. Although many people tend to think of car accidents as being the fault of either one person or another, there are often multiple at-fault parties and special liability rules apply in such cases.
In car accident cases, a an individual who is named as a defendant is able to file a counterclaim in cases where he or she believes the plaintiff was partly responsible for his or her own injuries, or a cross-claim where a third party is believed to have been partly at fault. In addition, an individual accused of causing a car accident is also able to file a motion to have a third party designated as a responsible third party.
Whatever the particulars of each case, a percentage of responsibility is assigned to each party at trial which designates that party’s share of responsibility for the injuries and losses claimed in the complaint based on evidence presented.
Different states use different rules to determine when a plaintiff partially responsible for his or her own injuries may still recover against defendants. Texas uses an approach known as modified comparative negligence with a 51 percent bar rule, in which a plaintiff is unable to recover damages if he or she is determined to be over 50 percent at fault.
When the plaintiff is found to be no more than 50 percent liable, each liable defendant which is no more than more than 50 percent liable can be held liable only for his or her share of the damages. Defendants who are found to be over 50 percent liable for the damages, though, are jointly and severally liable, meaning they can individually be held responsible only for the full amount of damages owed to the plaintiff.
Those who have become involved in an accident where multiple parties are accused of being at-fault should work with an attorney who understands how to navigate state comparative negligence laws. Doing so will put one in a position to achieve a positive outcome in their case.
Source: Texas Constitution and Statutes, “Title2; Subtitle C; Chapter 33; Subchapter a: Proportionate Responsibility,” Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
Claims Journal, “Understanding Comparative Fault, Contributory Negligence and Joint & Several Liability,” Gary Wickert, September 5, 2013.
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