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Texas Law and Liability

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In order to collect damages following an injury, you must show that the person who caused your injury or the business where your injury occurred was negligent or careless and that your injury was the direct result of that carelessness. In other words, the party that caused your injury is liable for the consequences of their actions. As the personal injury and accident lawyer at the Doan Law Firm of Houston explains, demonstrating liability is crucial to a successful personal injury lawsuit.

What is “liability?”

In law “liability” refers to being held responsible for the consequences of one’s actions. If, for example, someone carelessly runs a stop sign for any reason and causes an accident, that person is liable for any damages to the other car and is also responsible for paying the costs of medical treatment of the driver and passengers in the other vehicle.

Under Texas law there are several types of liability, such as:

  • Personal liability

In the words of a wise law school professor, “All liability begins with personal liability.” He was referring, of course, to the concept that everyone is responsible for their own actions and that if our actions are careless or deliberately wrong then we are responsible for the consequences of our careless or wrong actions.

As an example, when the State of Texas issues you a driver’s license, you are implying that you will drive safely and obey all traffic laws. If you do not do so, such as driving after having a few too many drinks at your favorite nightclub and ramming another car, you will be held liable for any damages that you caused.

  • Product liability

When we purchase a product in a store, supermarket, or a restaurant we expect to be able to use that product without causing an injury to ourselves. If that is not the case, and we are harmed, then the manufacturer and possibly the seller of the product may be liable for our injury.

  • Premises liability

Premises liability is based on the legal doctrine that the person who owns or is in lawful possession of a building is responsible for keeping that building in a condition that does not cause injury to a visitor. In addition to commercial property such as a store or a shopping center, premises liability extends to all public buildings and to private residences.

  • Professional liability

When a person holds themselves out to the public as a member of a profession such as medicine, architecture, engineering, or law that person is assumed to always act in a manner that will not cause harm or some other injury to that person’s clients or patients. If that person fails to act in a manner that is consistent with what other professionals in the same occupation would do under similar circumstances, that person may have committed an act of malpractice and is liable for the consequences of his or her actions.

“Shared Liability”

The State of Texas recognizes that, in many accidents, more than one factor may have been in play that led to the accident itself. The classic example of shared liability is that of a car whose driver is making a left turn without using his turn signal and is rear-ended by another vehicle. Both drivers were at fault to some extent in causing the accident but the question to be decided is the percentage of contribution by each driver to the accident.

Texas law allows the defendant (the person being sued) in an accident case to argue that, if it can be shown that a plaintiff was at least partially responsible for an accident, any damages awarded should be reduced by an amount equal to the percent that the plaintiff was responsible for their own injuries. This is best explained by an example.

Driver A is struck in the rear by Driver B while waiting to make a right turn into a crowded parking area. A jury awarded Driver A a total of $10,000 in damages. Driver B argued that Driver A was partially responsible because Driver A failed to use his turn signal. The jury agrees with Driver B and finds that Driver A was 40% responsible. Driver A receives only $6,000 ($10,000 – 40% = $6,000) in damages because of his shared contribution to the accident. There is a special application of shared liability that must be mentioned.

Texas courts award damages based on what is known as the “modified comparative negligence rule.” Under Texas law, if one party is deemed to have been more than 50% responsible for an accident then that party is not entitled to recover damages regardless of the extent of their injuries!

This page is only the most basic introduction to the concepts of liability and related issues. A more complete discussion of these legal doctrines can be found on other pages of this web site.

If you have been injured, and feel that another person or perhaps a business may have been responsible for your injury, you should contact the personal injury and accident lawyer at the Doan Law Firm of Houston by calling (800) 349-0000 or, in the Houston area, (832) 835-0000 to arrange a free review of your injury case.

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