Negligence is a word you will hear often during a personal injury accident claim in Texas. In general, negligence refers to a breach of duty of care. Breaching a duty means to fail to meet the expected standards of care. To win a compensatory award in a Texas personal injury claim, you or your lawyer may need to prove the negligence of the defendant, or the at-fault party. Although several types of negligence exist, accident claims involve three main types most often. Understanding the nuances of the legal doctrine of negligence could help you with your claim.
Comparative negligence refers to an injured party, or plaintiff’s, negligence alongside the defendant’s. If a plaintiff is comparatively at fault for an accident, it means he or she also contributed to the accident’s occurrence. Not all states permit plaintiffs who are comparatively at fault for an accident to seek financial recovery for damages. States that bar negligent plaintiffs from recovery use contributory negligence laws. Most states, however, use comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence laws.
Texas is a modified comparative negligence state. In Texas, a victim can still recover at least partial compensation from the other party if he or she contributed to the accident in question. The courts will reduce the victim’s compensatory award by a dollar amount equivalent to his or her percentage of fault. The victim must, however, be 50% or less responsible for the accident to receive compensation. A percentage of fault at or greater than 51% will mean $0 in available recovery for the plaintiff.
Gross negligence exceeds the standard level of negligence. It refers to an extreme indifference or wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others. Gross negligence goes beyond simple carelessness or lack of foresight and into a conscious or reckless act against another party. Someone may be guilty of gross negligence if he or she knew the dangers of his or her actions, yet performed them anyway, such as in a drunk driving accident. A grossly negligent person might intentionally, deliberately or consciously put someone else in danger or violate that person’s rights.
In Texas, a judge reserves the right to award an additional recovery amount to an accident victim for a defendant’s gross negligence, known as exemplary or punitive damages. If a judge finds the defendant’s actions meet the definition of gross negligence, he or she may grant additional compensation as a form of punishment against the defendant, to show the community the judge will not tolerate that type of recklessness. Gross negligence often goes alongside broken laws and criminal charges for a defendant’s actions.
Vicarious liability is the legal responsibility one entity has over the negligence of another in its jurisdiction or control. The government, for example, has vicarious liability for the actions of public schools, public bus drivers and government agents. A parent or pet owner will have vicarious responsibility for a minor child or animal. An employer will have vicarious liability over its employees. Since the law cannot hold these agents responsible for themselves, it will hold the master responsible for negligence instead.
Vicarious liability can often earn an injured party a better compensatory award than he or she would have been able to receive from the agent alone. Holding a hospital liable for the malpractice of a nurse, for example, would generally yield better insurance coverage than a lawsuit against the individual nurse. In other cases, vicarious liability allows an injured victim to file a claim he or she otherwise would not have been able to file, such as against a dog or child. Turn to a lawyer to ask questions about the types of negligence your case might involve in Texas.