In Texas, a negligence claim is a personal injury claim based on another person’s negligent actions or inaction. A person is expected to provide a certain duty of care to those around them, and a deviation from that duty of care that causes injuries to another is considered an act of negligence.
In order to prove negligence, an injured party must demonstrate four basic elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages. A personal injury action based on negligence must be filed within the statute of limitations, which is two years.
- Duty. In order to prove negligence, the injured party must first demonstrate that a duty of care existed between the victim and the negligent party that caused the injury. This duty can be demonstrated by the negligent party engaging in a particular activity (i.e., operating a motor vehicle) or by a special relationship that exists between the victim and the negligent party (i.e., doctor-patient, employer-employee, etc.).
- Breach. Next the victim must demonstrate that the negligent party breached their duty of care to the victim. This can be shown by demonstrating that the negligent party deviated from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise. Whether a breach of duty occurred is a matter of fact, which is determined by the judge or jury.
- Causation. It must be shown that there is a link between the negligent party’s breach of their duty of care and the accident. This can be determined by analyzing whether the breach of duty is the proximate cause of the accident (this is sometimes also referred to as “proximate cause”), and whether the accident would have occurred but for the negligent party’s negligence (this is sometimes referred to as “but for causation” or the “cause in fact” of the accident, as in but for the breach of duty the accident would not have happened, or the breach of duty was the cause in fact of the accident).
- Damages. Some sort of actual harm must have befallen the victim in order to be eligible for damages. Damages need to be proven in order to have a successful negligence claim. Damages can take many forms, such as injuries, economic damages, property damage, compensatory damages, punitive damages, etc.
Texas Is An At-Fault State
Texas is considered an at-fault state when it comes to negligence. This means that parties are held accountable for their negligent actions. In addition to the negligent party acting negligently, the victim could have at least partially contributed to their injuries by acting negligently as well. When this happens, the Texas courts hold each party liable for their share of the negligence that contributed to the accident. But there are limits on how liable a victim can be and still be able to obtain recovery.
Modified Comparative Negligence in Texas
Texas has adopted a modified comparative negligence approach to these types of claims. A victim can be partially responsible for their injuries, but only up to 51 percent. Even if the victim is up to 51 percent responsible for their own injuries, the victim can still seek compensation from the negligent party, but the victim’s recovery will be reduced by their share of the liability. When the victim is more than 51 percent liable for their injuries, the victim becomes more negligent than the negligent party, and the victim is unable to recover anything in a negligence action.
Negligence Per Se
In Texas, a person could be considered negligent per se if they are in violation of a law and injuries result from that person’s violation of the law. Effectively, the person who broke the law is automatically considered to have acted negligently, in particular when the law is intended to avoid the exact type of injury suffered by the victim.