The Messina Law Firm June 13, 2018

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a term often seen used in a lawsuit, but many of us don’t really know what it means.

The idea is fairly simple, but we must start with a simple definition of negligence. You are negligent when you owe a person a duty to act in a certain way. Yet you fail to live up to that duty and thus carelessly cause injury to that other person.

Depending on the circumstances, the law imposes different standards of care onto people, including.

  1. Ordinary care (the care exercised by a reasonably prudent person).

  2. A Higher degree of care (the care owed by some highly-specialized professionals, like doctors for example).

  3. A child’s degree of care. The special care a child would need for example.

If the injured person, that wasn’t given the care owed to them, elects to sue the careless person, the lawsuit is a negligence lawsuit.

Definition of Comparative Negligence?

When a defendant (Jack) is sued for negligence, Jack will defend himself as best he can, and one of the defenses available to Jack is the defense of comparative negligence.

By definition, Comparative negligence, which Texas officially calls “proportionate responsibility” is just that. Proportionate responsibility. You have heard the term “the punishment should be proportional to the crime”. But in this case, we are talking about negligence not a crime per se.

Jack and Joe go to lunch together, Jack orders a half sandwich and a cup of soup for $8. Joe orders a sirloin steak and a baked potato $22. The bill comes to $30 Joe tosses out $15 and tells Jack to get the other $15. Jack says no way, my proportionate responsibility of the bill is $8. Yours is $22. Joe walks away in a huff muttering something about 50/50…

If Jack and Joe went to court over it and Joe sued Jack for not sharing the bill 50/50. Jack would argue he didn’t owe 50% of the bill.

In Texas, however, if Joe is found to be over 50% responsible for his own part of the bill, then he is barred from recovering any damages from Jack at all.

Jury decides the percentage of responsibility

In cases involving comparative negligence, the jury will determine the amount of responsibility…Of Joe’s. And of Jack’s. Finally and of any other responsible persons. After hearing the evidence, the jury will assign a percentage of responsibility to everyone involved. Ranging from 0% (completely not responsible) up to 100% (entirely responsible). Based on these percentages of fault, Joe’s compensation may be reduced or may be completely banned.

Finally, just because you are partially responsible for an accident does not mean that you cannot recover for your injuries. Although your damage award could be a reduced one. It will only disappear entirely if you are more than 50% responsible for the accident.

If you need a personal injury lawyer or a wrongful death lawyer, Joey Messina at the Messina Law Firm is here for you. Contact our legal staff if you’d like free no-obligation assistance with your comparative negligence case.