This is a very common question for drivers involved in automobile accidents. In order to determine who is liable for an accident, an insurance company (or a court) must decide who was at fault for it. But what happens if both drivers involved were partially at fault?
For insurance purposes, each state is either a “fault state” or a “no-fault state.” Texas is a fault state. This simply means that drivers must pay for the accidents they cause. After an accident, the injured party may file a claim with his or her own insurance company (a “first-party claim”), the other driver’s insurance company (a “third-party claim”), or may file a lawsuit against the driver in court in order to prove fault and obtain damages.
In fault states like Texas, insurance companies and courts must determine who was legally liable for the accident. This can get complicated when the accident was caused by a combination of forces that were the fault of both parties. Thus, courts developed a comparative fault scheme to allocate responsibility only to the extent that it is fair.
There are three main varieties of comparative fault schemes.
Pure Comparative Fault
In a pure comparative fault jurisdiction, if an injured person is partially at fault for causing his own injuries, his damages are reduced by the percentage of his fault. For example, assume Peter was injured in an accident that was 60% his fault and his damages are $10,000. He would be able to recover $4,000—the portion of damages for which he was not at fault.
Proportional Comparative Fault at 51% (Texas)
In a proportional comparative fault at 51% jurisdiction, an injured person cannot recover at all if he was more than 51% at fault for the accident. In the above example, Peter would not be able to recover because his 60% fault was more than 51%. Texas is a proportional comparative fault at 51% jurisdiction. Thus, you may recover if you were partially at fault so long as your percentage of the fault is less than 51%.
Proportional Comparative Fault at 50%
In proportional comparative fault at 50% jurisdictions, an injured person may recover if he is less than 50% at fault for the accident. For example, assume that Peter and Rhonda are backing out of their respective parking spots and rear-end each other. The insurance company determines that each party was 50% at fault. If they are in a proportional comparative fault at 50% jurisdiction, neither can recover because they were both 50% at fault.