Sometimes, When It Rains It Pours
Here at Glenn Law Firm, we've had clients suffer a personal injury, and then—almost unbelievably—someone hurts them again! Before they even have time to heal! They were involved in one car wreck on one day, and then they got into another wreck just a few days, weeks, or months later—neither of which were their fault. Multiple car wrecks on multiple occasions! And this hasn't happened to just one client, but several! After suffering these personal injuries, the insurance companies that represented the at-fault drivers blamed each other for the client's injury. If you find yourself in this situation, you might ask: “What do I do now? What can I do? Can I sue for separate car wrecks? Can I still recover for the first wreck if I got into another wreck?” An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you figure that out.
Multiple Wrecks Can Cause A Single Injury
Let's say Bad Driver 1 runs a red light, hits your car, and this wreck leaves you with a serious back injury. Then, two weeks later, Bad Driver 2 pushes your car off the road, making your back injury even worse. One driver hurt your back and left it in a vulnerable state. Then, while you were still trying to heal, the second driver made your back injury hurt even worse. Now you are left with one back injury that had two contributing causes.
Bad Driver 1 and Bad Driver 2 are what the law calls “independent tortfeasors.” In layman's terms, this means that they committed individual wrongs. However, their independent wrongs caused you a single injury that was caused, in part, by each of them. The problem you might face is that it will be tough to say which driver caused exactly how much of your injury. Further, when you file a claim with Bad Driver 1 and Bad Driver 2's insurance adjusters, they might say, “Hey! It's not our driver's fault at all! That other driver hurt you! Not us!” But, even if the other drivers deny liability and blame one another, you probably still have a case.
Texas' Modified Comparative Negligence – or – Who Did What?
Texas law recognizes a legal theory called “Comparative Negligence” or “Comparative Fault.” Texas Civil Practice And Remedies Code § 33.013(a) states that a defendant is liable “for the percentage of the damages found by the trier of fact equal to that defendant's percentage of responsibility.” Put simply, this means that a wrongdoer can be held liable for his share of a plaintiff's injury. So, for example, if your case against Bad Driver 1 and Bad Driver 2 goes to a jury trial, then the jury would decide to what degree—if any—each driver was at fault. Based on that finding, the jury would then determine for how much each driver is responsible. If the jury thinks Bad Driver 1 was 30% in the wrong and Bad Driver 2 was 70% in the wrong, then Bad Driver 1's insurance would pay 30% of your damages and Bad Driver 2's would pay 70%.
One twist in this approach is that a defendant will usually ask the jury to consider how much at fault the plaintiff was for your injury. Even if a plaintiff is somewhat at-fault or somewhat negligent, that plaintiff can still recover so long as “his percentage of responsibility” is not greater “than 50 percent.” Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 33.001. In plain English: as long as you were not more than half-way responsible for your injuries, you should be able to recover.
How Do I Know How At Fault I Was?
Determining who is what-percent responsible is what is called a “question of fact.” These questions are decided by the “finder of fact”. The finder of fact in a bench trial is the judge, and the finder of fact in a jury trial is the jury. Depending on which type of trial you have, a judge or jury will decide who was what-percent at-fault based on the evidence and arguments presented by each side. (Parties in personal injury suits generally have a constitutional right to a jury trial, and these types of cases almost always are tried by jury.)
What If I Was Already Injured And Then I Got Hurt Again?
Texas recognizes what is called the “Eggshell Skull Doctrine” or the “Eggshell Plaintiff.” In Coates v. Whittington, 758 S.W. 2d 749, 752 (Tex. 1988), the Supreme Court of Texas explained, “It is well settled that a tortfeasor takes a plaintiff as he finds him.” Stated plainly, this means that it does not matter if a plaintiff is more susceptible to an injury—a defendant who hurts that plaintiff is still liable for that injury. The Eggshell Plaintiff gets its name from the illustration that even if a plaintiff's skull is as thin and brittle as an eggshell, a defendant who causes a crack to plaintiff's skull is still liable for having caused that crack. Applied to our example above: even though Bad Driver 1 left your back in an already-injured state, Bad Driver 2 is still partially liable for making that injury worse.
Call Us For A Free Consultation
We recognize that figuring out a situation like this can be complicated and frustrating. If you've been in multiple car wrecks and you're having trouble getting those who hurt you to take responsibility, give us a call here at Glenn Law Firm. If the drivers are blaming each other and refusing any liability, we'll do our best to help you navigate this tough time, and we'll fight to help you get the compensation and help you need. Our number is (817) 424-5999 and we try cases all over the State of Texas.
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