Understanding Common Law in Personal Injury Cases in Texas

When dealing with personal injury cases in Texas, understanding the role of common law is crucial. Common law, which is based on judicial precedents rather than statutes, significantly impacts how personal injury claims are evaluated and decided. In this blog, we will delve into what common law entails in the context of personal injury cases, offering real-world examples to illustrate its application.

What is Common Law?

Common law is a body of unwritten laws based on legal precedents established by the courts. It evolves over time, with judges’ decisions in earlier cases shaping the outcomes of future ones. In personal injury law, common law principles help define the standards for negligence, liability, and damages.

How Common Law Applies to Personal Injury Cases

In Texas, personal injury cases often hinge on the concept of negligence. Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others. Under common law, a plaintiff must prove four elements to establish negligence:

  1. Duty of Care: The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff.
  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant breached that duty through action or inaction.
  3. Causation: The defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
  4. Damages: The plaintiff suffered actual harm or loss.

Examples of Common Law in Personal Injury Cases

  1. Car Accidents:
    • Case Example: In Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co., the court held that the railroad company was not liable for an injury caused by a distant explosion, establishing the principle that defendants are only liable for foreseeable harms. This case often guides Texas courts in determining liability in car accidents.
  2. Premises Liability:
    • Case Example: In Rowland v. Christian, the court established that property owners owe a duty of care to all visitors, not just those explicitly invited. Texas courts frequently reference this precedent in slip-and-fall cases, assessing whether property owners maintained safe conditions.
  3. Medical Malpractice:
    • Case Example: The ruling in Helling v. Carey set a precedent that doctors must adhere to reasonable standards of care. This case influences how Texas courts evaluate whether healthcare providers breached their duty, causing patient harm.

Why Common Law Matters

Common law plays a vital role in personal injury cases because it provides a framework for consistency and fairness in legal decisions. By examining prior cases, attorneys and judges can predict how current cases might be resolved, ensuring that similar cases are treated similarly.


Understanding common law is essential for anyone involved in a personal injury case in Texas. It shapes how negligence is defined and proven, influencing the outcomes of countless cases. If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, Ryan Orsatti Law is here to help you navigate the complexities of your case and fight for the justice you deserve.

For more information on personal injury law, visit Texas State Law Library or consult the Texas Department of Insurance.