What Happens When There Are Multiple Defendants?
Written by Greg on October 16, 2014
If there are multiple defendants in a personal injury lawsuit in Texas, the outcome of a case is not as clear as with two party lawsuits. Generally, a jury or a judge is asked to allocate fault between all the parties. The percentages of fault can have a big effect of how much money the plaintiff actually recovers. Situations where this can be a critical factor are car accidents with a pileup, or 18-wheeler injury accidents with several defendants.
The Less Than 51% Rule
In order to recover damages, the personal injury victim must be less than 51% at fault for the accident. If a personal injury victim is partly at fault (but less than 51%), the damages are reduced by the percentage of plaintiff’s fault.
If any defendant is more than 50% at fault in a multiple defendant action, that defendant may be “jointly and severally liable” for the whole verdict.
Joint and Several Liability
In multiple defendant cases, a jury is usually asked to allocate fault between the defendants (assuming no fault on the part of the plaintiff) and the defendants are asked to pay damages according to their percentage of the fault.
In a perfect world, a negligent party with adequate insurance coverage would injure every personal injury victim, however, many times the guiltiest party has insufficient insurance coverage to adequately compensate the plaintiff for damages suffered.
In effect, the plaintiff assumes the risk that the persons or companies at fault for the accident can actually pay for the damages that they caused. However as set forth above, should any defendant be found 51% or more at fault, (because they would then be “jointly and severally responsible) the burden of collecting for damages may shift to the guiltiest party.
If the defendant who was 51% or more at fault had adequate insurance coverage, it may be the plaintiff seeks to collect all the damages from that defendant and that defendant would then seek to collect “contribution” from the others.
Examples of Proportionate Responsibility
By way of example, assuming a jury awards $1 million for damages to an innocent personal injury victim and finds fault as set forth below:
Defendant A -20% fault (20% of Award or $200,000)
Defendant B -30% fault (30% of award or $300,000)
Defendant C -50 fault (1/2 of Award or $500,000)
In this example, if any of the defendants cannot pay their share of the award, the personal injury victim who was innocent in the accident suffers the risk of not collecting the damages from each defendant, because no defendant is jointly and severally responsible for the damages. Who is responsible for your damages and how you collect are vital components of maximizing your personal injury damages. Consult with the best personal injury attorney you can find to protect your rights.
If You Have Questions About Texas Multiple Party Personal Injury Claims
If you’ve been seriously injured or have lost a family member contact the Baumgartner Law Firm for a no obligation consultation about your rights and options. We have extensive experience in many different practice areas of personal injury and are available 24 X 7 by telephone.
Call (281) 587-1111