What Is the Role of Negligence in a Houston Personal Injury Claim?

What Is the Role of Negligence in a Houston Personal Injury Claim?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.

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 reasonable 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 found negligent in a personal injury claim?

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.

Some examples where multiple people or parties may be found negligent under Texas law include:

  • Vehicle accidents involving multiple cars, if multiple drivers were acting irresponsibly or recklessly
  • Truck accidents, where a driver, a trucking company, and/or a shipper/broker could be found negligent
  • Certain premises liability claims, wherein a property owner/operator as well as another third-party may be found negligent

A plaintiff (the suing party) can also be negligent. If this is the case, then the overall award may be reduced based on the Texas law of proportionate responsibility (also called “comparative negligence”).

How proportionate responsibility affects injury claims in Texas

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 Houston injury claim?

To be successful in 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.

How can a Houston personal injury lawyer help me?

One of the very first things we do at The Kishinevsky Law Firm is establish liability (determine fault) in our client’s cases. We do this reviewing accident reports, any evidence from the scene of the crash or injury, and speaking with clients and witnesses. Once we have a full picture of what happened that day, then we can lay out an argument for why the person(s) or entity(ies) were negligent.

For example, say your child attends daycare, and is injured on the playground. We may ask questions such as:

  • Was anyone supervising the children?
  • What kinds of credentials/training did the daycare employees have?
  • How long did it take for the daycare employees to become aware of your child’s injury?
  • Was first aid administered to your child?
    • If applicable, were emergency services notified?
  • How did your child get injured?
    • And were the daycare workers aware that a dangerous area or piece of equipment was accessible by your child?
    • Were any steps taken to ensure that children could not access that dangerous area or piece of equipment? If so, what steps?

By asking questions like these and reviewing accident reports, witness statements, and any video footage available, we can determine whether your child’s injuries stemmed from negligence on behalf of the daycare employees.

If you have questions regarding a personal injury claim in the greater Houston area, call or contact The Kishinevsky 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.