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Proportionate responsibility: joint and several liability.

In our continuing discussion of what courts term “proportionate responsibility,” we’ll now examine a key aspect of how the law deals with liability of multiple defendants, “joint and several liability.”

How joint and several liability works in Texas.

When two people (or companies) cause an accident, they’re naturally both on the hook for damages caused to the victims. But under the doctrine of joint and several liability, one of the perpetrators can be held responsible for the entirety of the victim’s losses. To use an easy example, under the traditional formulation, if a jury found Bob 1% liable for your accident and Sally 99% liable, you could recover 100% of what a jury awarded you from Bob. The reason why this matters? If Bob is a multimillionaire and Sally is bankrupt, you could recover whatever money you needed from the “deep pockets.”

The idea behind it is pretty simple. Since Bob contributed to the accident and Sally has no money, for whom is it “unfair” to suffer financial losses—you or Bob?

In Texas, we have a significantly modified version of this system. The relevant features work like this:

  • Most cases: If a defendant is found 51% or more at fault, that defendant is jointly and severally liable.
  • The minority of cases: Where a defendant intentionally committed a criminal act—like murder or sexual assault—the defendant is likewise jointly and severally liable.

The “51% Rule” would therefore protect the people or corporations who only made slight contributions to the accident from being burdened with the entirety of the losses.

How joint and several liability impacts the litigation.

Defense lawyers know about joint and several liability, too. If one defendant has a lot of insurance or money in the bank, their lawyers are nervous that their clients could be on the hook for the entirety of a large judgment. As such, they’ll focus like a laser on two things: 1) making you look bad; and 2) making the other defendant(s) look bad. They’ll hurl mud at everyone else to try to make their clients look better than they truly are.

We’ve been doing this kind of law for 25 years, and we’ve seen all the tricks before. Our job is to fully investigate each case and aggressively litigate it from start to finish so that we find out the truth of what happened. We aren’t intimidated by the defense’s tactics, and neither should you be.

If you’ve been hurt or lost a loved one, let us walk you through exactly how the law views your potential claims. Call us at (855) 326-0000 now.


For Further Reading About Texas Personal Injury Law

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