What is Negligence and Why Does It Matter to My Texas Personal Injury Claim?
The Kishinevsky Law Firm is a personal injury law firm in the greater Houston area. If you have been injured due to the fault of someone else, contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and have your legal questions answered by a Houston injury lawyer.
Most people have likely heard the term “negligence” in passing, but unless they have worked in the legal field they may not be familiar with the exact meaning of this term or how it relates to an injury claim.Negligence is the Failure to act Like a Reasonably Prudent Person Would Under the Circumstances
Simply put, negligence is the failure to do what a reasonably prudent person (or company) would do in a similar situation. At trial, a jury or a judge would determine whether someone’s actions were reasonable or unreasonable based on the evidence presented.
Most personal injury claims are based on a legal theory of negligence. What reasonably conduct is and whether the conduct at issue is negligent because it deviated from that standard is a fact-specific question. A nightclub that hires someone with a lengthy criminal record to work as a bouncer and fails to properly train and supervise him and a driver who fails to pay attention and rear-ends another vehicle could both be negligent- the standard of care each of them is held to is obviously different but they could both be found negligent because they both failed to act like a reasonably prudent person or entity would in the same situation.Negligence can Only Exist if There is a Legal Duty That is Violated
A person (or company) can only be negligent if they owe someone a legal duty to conform to a standard of conduct based on their relationship. Whether a duty exists in a given situation is a question of law based on the specific facts. For example, an employer owes an employee a duty to use ordinary care in providing them adequate help in the performance of the work. Conversely, an employer does not owe the general public a duty to protect them from an employee’s wrongful conduct off the clock that an employer has no control over.Can More Than one Person be Negligent?
Generally speaking, the answer is yes. In Texas, the applicable law allows more than one person (or entity) to be negligent. At trial, the jury or judge would first determine if each party alleged to be negligent was actually negligent. Then, for each party found to be negligent, the jury or judge would determine the percentage that party’s negligence contributed to the damages at issue.
A plaintiff (the suing party) can also be negligent. If a plaintiff is found to be negligent, his recovery is reduced by the percentage of his negligence. For example, if a negligent plaintiff was found to have $100,000 in damages and his negligence was determined to be 20% of the causing factor for his damages, he would be entitled to recover $80,000.00 from the negligent defendant(s). A plaintiff whose negligence is found to have caused 51% or more of his damages is barred from recovering any money under Texas law- the theory being if someone is more than 50% responsible for causing their own damages others should not be forced to compensate him for those damages.What is Negligence per se?
Negligence per se is a specific type of negligence where someone violated a statute and the court determines violating that statute makes the person negligent as a matter of law. Examples of this include a driver running a red light, a building owner violating the building code requiring abandoned buildings to have doors and windows securely closed, or a firearm dealer selling handguns or ammunitions to minors.Why Does Negligence Matter for My Injury Claim?
To win on an injury claim at trial, a claimant must establish (1) that the person or company being sued did something wrong (liability) and (2) that the wrongful conduct caused the losses the claimant is seeking to recover (damages). Negligence is the most common theory of liability for personal injury cases and there can be no recovery for damages if the person or company being sued did not do anything wrong. Ultimately, whether someone’s conduct in a specific situation was negligent will be a fact-specific question, and succeeding at trial will involve understanding what the defendant did wrong and being able to clearly articulate it to the jury or the judge deciding the case.
If you have questions regarding a personal injury claim in the greater Houston area, contact us for a free consultation. We will be happy to discuss your case with you, answer any questions you may have, and to work with you to help you recover the full amount of damages to which you are entitled by Texas law.