Comparative Negligence – the Texas 51% Bar Rule

If you’ve been in a car, truck, motorbike or bicycle wreck, understanding how compensation works can be confusing. One important concept to know is comparative negligence. This principle helps decide how much each person involved in a traffic accident is responsible and how much they can be compensated.

At The Law Office Of Joel M. Vecchio, we focus on vehicle collision cases and are here to guide you through this complex process. Our experienced team ensures that you understand your rights and the steps you need to take to secure fair compensation.

In Texas, the rules for determining fault and compensation for a traffic collision are unique. This guide will explain what comparative negligence is and how it affects your ability to get compensated after a motor vehicle crash. We’ll cover how fault for a car crash is assigned, how it impacts your compensation, and what steps you can take to protect your rights.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer understanding of how these rules work and what you can do to ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries and damages, with the guidance of The Law Office Of Joel M. Vecchio.

Key Highlights

  • Comparative negligence determines the degree of fault each party holds in a vehicle collision.
  • Each driver’s actions are analyzed to assign a percentage of fault, impacting their compensation accordingly.
  • Fault is determined by various parties including police officers, insurance companies, attorneys, and courts.
  • Each party gathers and analyzes evidence, such as police reports, witness statements, and accident reconstruction expert opinions, to establish fault percentages.
  • In Texas, if a person is found to be 51% or more at fault in an accident, they cannot receive any compensation for their injuries or damages.
  • The 51% Bar Rule directly affects the amount of compensation one can receive. Compensation is reduced by the individual’s percentage of fault.
  • If a person is 51% or more at fault, they lose the right to recover any damages, making accurate fault determination crucial.
  • Selecting an experienced attorney is vital, as they can significantly influence the fault allocation and, consequently, the compensation outcome.


The page comprehensively explains the concept of comparative negligence and the Texas 51% Bar Rule, crucial for determining fault and compensation in vehicle collision cases. It outlines how fault is assessed by police, insurance companies, attorneys, and courts, emphasizing the significant impact on compensation if a party is found more than 50% at fault. The guide highlights the importance of choosing experienced legal representation to navigate these complexities, providing strategic insights into fault minimization and negotiation with insurance companies. Additionally, it includes hypothetical examples to illustrate fault allocation and its financial implications, ensuring readers understand their rights and potential compensation outcomes.

What is Comparative Negligence?

When a vehicle collision happens, it might not always be the fault of one person. Sometimes, both drivers share some blame. Comparative negligence is a way to figure out how much each driver is responsible for the accident. Here’s how it works:

  1. Percentage of Fault: Each driver’s actions are examined to see how much they contributed to the collision. For example, if driver A was speeding and driver B ran a red light, both drivers might share some fault.
  2. Dividing Responsibility: The fault is divided into percentages. For instance, driver A might be found 30% at fault, and driver B might be 70% at fault.
  3. Impact on Compensation: The amount of money each driver can claim for damages (like car repairs or medical bills) depends on their percentage of fault. If you’re found partly responsible, your compensation will be reduced by your fault percentage.

Comparative negligence helps decide how much each driver should pay or be paid based on their share of the blame for the accident.

How Fault is Determined in Accidents

The determination of fault in vehicle collisions is typically made by several parties, depending on the stage of the process:

  1. Police Officers: At the scene of the accident, police officers investigate and often write a report that includes their assessment of fault based on the evidence they gather, such as witness statements, the position of the vehicles, and any traffic law violations.
  2. Insurance Companies: After an accident, each driver’s insurance company will conduct its own investigation. They review the police report, speak with their policyholders, interview witnesses, and sometimes hire accident reconstruction experts. Based on their findings, they assign a percentage of fault to each driver.
  3. Attorneys: If the case involves a legal dispute, personal injury attorneys representing each driver will gather evidence and build arguments to either support or refute claims of negligence. They negotiate with the insurance companies and may represent their clients in court.
  4. Courts: If the case goes to trial, a judge or jury will ultimately decide the percentages of fault based on the evidence presented. They listen to testimonies, examine the facts, and make a final determination.

Each of these parties plays a role in determining fault, with the goal of accurately and fairly assessing each driver’s responsibility in the collision

Here’s where Chapter 33 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code talks about proportionate responsibility. (reference)


(a) The trier of fact, as to each cause of action asserted, shall determine the percentage of responsibility, stated in whole numbers, for the following persons with respect to each person’s causing or contributing to cause in any way the harm for which recovery of damages is sought, whether by negligent act or omission, by any defective or unreasonably dangerous product, by other conduct or activity that violates an applicable legal standard, or by any combination of these:

  1. Each claimant;
  2. Each defendant;
  3. Each settling person;
  4. Each responsible third party who has been designated under Section 33.004.

What This Means

This section explains how responsibility (fault) is determined in a lawsuit:

  1. Who Decides: The trier of fact (usually a jury or judge) will determine how much each person involved is responsible for the harm (like an injury from a car accident).
  2. Percentages: They will assign a percentage of responsibility to each person, using whole numbers (like 20%, 30%, etc.).
  3. Who Gets a Percentage: The percentages are assigned to everyone involved, which includes:
    • The claimant (the person seeking damages).
    • The defendant (the person being sued).
    • Any person who settled before the trial.
    • Any other responsible third parties who have been brought into the case.

This process ensures that each person’s contribution to the harm is clearly defined and quantified.

The Texas 51% Bar Rule

The Texas 51% Bar Rule means that if you are found to be 51% or more at fault in an accident, you cannot receive any compensation for your injuries or damages. It is is a key part of the state’s comparative negligence laws. It’s a strict rule that highlights how important it is to accurately determine who is at fault in an accident.

Understanding this rule is essential if you are involved in a personal injury case in Texas. It affects how fault is determined and emphasizes the need for strong evidence and skilled legal representation. This rule makes it clear that once you pass the 51% fault mark, your chances of getting compensation disappear entirely.

Chapter 33 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code deals with “Proportionate Responsibility,” which is how the responsibility for damages is divided among those involved in a lawsuit, especially in personal injury cases. Sec. 33.001 states

…a claimant may not recover damages if his percentage of responsibility is greater than 50 percent.