What is comparative negligence?

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2021 | Pedestrian accidents

In car accident cases, it’s not always easy to assign responsibility for a wreck. It’s seldom as starkly clear as saying that one person is at fault and the other is completely without blame. In many cases, both drivers may have made mistakes that either contributed to the accident or increased their injuries.

This is when the idea of comparative negligence comes into play. Comparative negligence is a way of assigning percentages of blame to each person involved in an accident. In Texas, someone who is more than 51% at fault for their injuries is barred from pressing a claim for compensation. Even at less than 51%, their comparative fault can also be used to reduce what compensation they are due.

An example: Jaywalking and pedestrian accidents

For instance, pedestrians are supposed to wait until they have a walk signal to cross the road. Someone who doesn’t wait on the crosswalk signal or who crosses without a crosswalk can be jaywalking, which is illegal — and yet very common. 

Now, imagine the jaywalker gets hit by a car. At first, this appears to be entirely their own fault, but then it turns out that the driver who hit them was speeding and intoxicated. Both people broke the law, and the authorities assign 25% of the blame to the jaywalker and 75% of the fault to the driver. 

In this scenario, the pedestrian can still seek compensation for their injuries and the related medical bills. They just may not get 100% of the compensation they seek in the same way that someone would if they had been legally crossing the road when hit.

Understanding your rights after an accident

Insurance companies often try to use comparative fault to diminish claims unfairly. The laws are often more complex than people assume. If you get injured, make sure you fully understand your rights. It’s often wisest to let an attorney handle the negotiations on your claim instead of trying to manage them on your own.