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What Happens When There Are Multiple Defendants in a Civil Case?

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 on how much money the plaintiff recovers.

Texas Allocates Money Based on Fault

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 the plaintiff’s fault.

Joint Liability

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.

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.

A negligent party with adequate insurance coverage would injure every personal injury victim in a perfect world. However, the guiltiest party often has insufficient insurance coverage to compensate the plaintiff for damages suffered adequately.

Texas 51% Rule

In effect, the plaintiff assumes the risk that the persons or companies at fault for the accident can pay for the damages 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.

Suppose the defendant who was 51% or more at fault had adequate insurance coverage. In that case, it may be the plaintiff seeking to collect all the damages from that defendant, and that defendant would then seek to collect “contribution” from the others.

Examples of Multiple Party Car Accident Payouts in Texas

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.

Contact The Houston Personal Injury Lawyers at Baumgartner Law Firm for Help

If you have been injured in an accident in Houston, TX, and need help, contact our Houston car accident lawyers at Baumgartner Law Firm by calling (281) 587-1111.

Baumgartner Law Firm Personal Injury Lawyers

6711 Cypress Creek Pkwy

Houston, TX 77069

(281) 587-1111

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