There are various legal defenses that a defendant may use in an attempt to avoid liability in a Houston personal injury case, including the assumption of risk. Assumption of risk means the injured party voluntarily and knowingly engaged in an activity that carries with it a high risk of injury. Understanding this type of affirmative defense is vital, as it can be devastating to the outcome of your claim. An experienced Houston personal injury lawyer can assess your case and determine if the assumption of risk defense could potentially have an impact on your compensation. How Assumption of Risk Can Affect Your Personal Injury Claim When assumption of risk is introduced as a defense, the defendant is claiming that the plaintiff (victim) cannot obtain damages since they should have known about the danger of injury. It asserts that the plaintiff either gave implied consent or expressed consent: Implied Consent: had knowledge of the risks involved in taking part of that activity and/or service. An implied assumption of risk is typically used in cases involving premises liability or dangerous activities, such as skydiving, amusement park rides, sporting activities, trampoline parks, etc. Expressed Consent: Knowingly accepted the risks associated with the activity and/or service through an agreement or their actions. Expressed consent is often associated with a waiver of liability that is agreed to and signed prior to the risky activity (though in some cases verbal express consent is permitted). In these cases, it can be particularly difficult to recover compensation, since waivers of liability can excuse the defendant from being held responsible for any injuries. A successful assumption of the risk defense can impact your recovery by leading a judge or jury to find you partially or completely responsible for your injury. Each case is unique, and the defense’s effectiveness will hinge on the facts and evidence presented by both sides. Exceptions to the Rule There are exceptions to the assumption of risk defense, as the injury suffered must be “foreseeable.” The foreseeability test determines proximate cause— or a party’s liability—for an act of negligence that resulted in injury. Basically, it asks whether a person of ordinary intelligence should have reasonably foreseen the potential consequences of his or her conduct. For example, an assumption of risk defense might not work if a plaintiff was injured on a roller coaster caused by damaged safety equipment. That’s because the injured party didn’t know about the risk posed by the damaged equipment prior to getting on the ride. Additionally, the assumption of risk defense will not protect a defendant from liability for reckless or intentional behavior. For instance, if the defendant knew about the roller coaster’s damaged safety equipment and still allowed people to ride it. Modified Comparative Negligence Laws in Houston Under Texas’ modified comparative negligence laws, you can still recover damages when you are partially at fault, but only as long as it is less than 51 percent. The amount of compensation you are awarded will be reduced by the percentage of liability assigned to you. As an example, if a jury awards you $100,000 and you are found 20 percent at fault for your injury, then you will receive $80,000. If you are found more than 50 percent liable, you cannot recover damages. Get Help From a Houston Personal Injury Attorney Personal injury cases where an assumption of risk defense is used are often tough fights in court. A skilled injury lawyer in Houston can evaluate your case to see if the assumption of risk applies and help you explore your legal options. Schedule your free consultation with an attorney at the Milano Legal Group PLLC today for help obtaining the best recovery possible.
After an injury accident, there are essentially two types of damages that plaintiffs (victims) can pursue: compensatory and punitive. Depending on the circumstances of the case, you may have the right to recover these types of compensation, if negligence and causation are established. Understanding the difference between them is important to your personal injury claim, especially since not every case qualifies for punitive damages. Compensatory Damages The purpose of these damages is to make the injured party whole, by compensating them for both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses can include: Property damage Past, current, and future medical bills and expenses Past, current, and future lost wages Legal fees On the other hand, non-economic losses are those that cannot be proven outright or calculated with a receipt. They are damages that you have suffered because of the other party’s negligence. Those can include: Loss of enjoyment of life Pain and suffering Emotional distress Loss of consortium or damage to a relationship with spouse or children Compensatory damages (both economic and non-economic) are the most commonly awarded type of compensation. To obtain a fair amount, it is imperative to calculate your losses accurately, so that no expenses are overlooked. The task of calculating future costs may require testimony from medical and accounting experts. Punitive Damages Punitive damages are not as common and are intended to punish the defendant. They are awarded when the court feels that the negligent party committed an egregious act or demonstrated a willful disregard for the health and safety of others. With the hope that the punishment will deter them and others from engaging in similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages are often awarded in car accident cases involving a drunk driver. Since driving while under the influence of alcohol is illegal, a driver might pay punitive damages as their penalty for consciously deciding to engage in harmful behavior, in addition to compensatory damages. The amount of punitive damages will not be based on your losses, but rather the amount that the court deems as adequate enough punishment. Caps on Damages Many states place caps, or limits, on the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover. Under Texas law, compensatory damages are not capped in most personal injury lawsuits, unless it is filed against a government entity or it is a medical malpractice lawsuit. That means many victims are entitled to pursue and may receive full compensation for their economic and non-economic losses. However, punitive damages are capped. They cannot exceed: Two times the amount of economic damages awarded plus the amount equal to their non-economic damages award (up to $750,000); or, $200,000 in cases where no economic damages are awarded. As an example, a victim is awarded $50,000 in economic damages and $25,000 in non-economic damages. If punitive damages are available, they would be capped at $125,000 (two times $50,000 plus the $25,000 in non-economic damages). Speak to a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer About Your Compensation The circumstances and losses specific to your case will determine its worth. Explore your legal options and discuss your claim’s value with an experienced Houston personal injury lawyer at the Milano Legal Group PLLC. Contact us online or call (713) 489-4270 to schedule a free consultation.