How Is Fault Determined in a Texas Car Accident Case?
In a Texas auto accident case, fault is generally determined by looking at the traffic laws and safety standards that were violated by the adverse driver, then examining whether these actions resulted in damages. If it is determined that more than one driver contributed to the damages sustained in an accident, the situation may result in split liability.
In most cases, liability will not be contested and your attorney will move onto settlement negotiations. However, if the claim is challenged, your case may go to trial, in which case a jury will be called to determine fault.
Five Elements Needed to Prove Fault in Texas
In Texas, the legal standard for you to win your Texas auto accident case is by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that you only need to prove that your version of the facts, damages, and fault is more likely correct than the defendants.
With that, your attorney will focus on establishing these five elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care – As a driver, the defendant owed a duty of care not only to other drivers, but to all other road users. This duty of care means that they were required to act with a reasonable standard of care and practice the same watchfulness, attention, caution, and prudence that a reasonable person would practice under similar circumstances.
- The defendant breached that duty of care – The defendant breached the duty of care they owed you by action or inaction. This can include reckless driving, distracted driving, driving under the influence, failure to maintain proper attention, failure to observe to traffic signs, or failure to maintain safe following distance.
- Cause in fact – The defendant’s actions were the actual cause of the your injuries. This can normally shown through the “but-for” test. For example, if a bus driver ran a red light and hit a pickup and the driver of the pickup suffered back injuries, the “but-for” test would state “But for the bus driver running the red light, the pickup driver would not have sustained his back injuries.”
- Proximate cause – Your injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s behavior. For example, a drunk driver hitting and killing a pedestrian is a foreseeable consequence of the driver choosing to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. However, if a drunk driver were to collide with an 18-wheeler carrying volatile chemicals which exploded on impact and caused a poorly maintained utility pole a half-mile away to fall over and injure a pedestrian on a late night walk, it is unlikely the drunk driver would be held liable for the pedestrian’s injuries as the collapse of the utility pole is a highly unforeseeable consequence of the defendant’s drunk driving.
- Damages – You have suffered hardship that the civil justice system can compensate you for. This may include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, or mental anguish.
Comparative Fault in Texas
When establishing fault in Texas, it is important to remember that Texas uses a modified comparative fault standard when apportioning fault and awarding damages. This is often referred to as “proportionate responsibility.” What this means for you is that the damages awarded to you could be reduced if you are found to be partially at fault for the auto accident that resulted in your injuries.
For example, if you were texting on your phone when your vehicle was t-boned by a car that ran a stop sign, the court could determine that you were 30% at fault for the accident and therefore 30% at fault for your injuries. As such, if you were awarded $10,000 in damages, you would only be able to recover 70% of that amount or $7,000.
Additionally, Texas follows the 51% bar rule. This means that you may not collect damages for injuries if you are determined to be 51% or more at fault for your injuries.
Most Common Auto Accident Injuries
In 2015, an estimated 2.44 million people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes — that’s 6,693 people per day. Injuries from auto accidents can range from minor to severe and can leave you with long-term effects on your physical and mental health. No matter the severity, our attorneys work tenaciously to get injured clients the compensation they deserve. Here are the most common types of auto accident injuries:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Strained ligaments
- Back muscle sprains
- Scrapes and Cuts
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Chest injuries
- Broken ribs
- Internal injuries
- Broken bones
- Jaw injuries
- Loss of teeth
- Neck injuries
- Crushed larynx
- Crushed trachea
- Broken neck
- Pelvic injuries
- Penetration injuries
What Should I Do After a Texas Auto Accident?
There are important steps you can take following an automobile accident that can help ensure the safety of you and your loved ones and protect your legal rights as an accident victim.
Steps to take after a car crash include:
- Stop immediately after the crash
- Even if a collision is minor, it is important to remain at the scene. Never flee from the scene of an accident as it is illegal and will only make matters worse.
- Assess the situation
- Car crashes can be disorientating. It is important that you take a moment to assess the situation. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries. Determine if it is safe to exit your vehicle and see what routes are available for a safe exit. Refrain from moving anyone who has suffered a back, neck, or spinal injury if at all possible.
- Make the accident visible
- Accidents are an unexpected disruption to traffic flow, and numerous accidents occur by drivers crashing into the site of a previous collision. You can prevent further accidents and hazards by turning on your vehicle’s warning lights, setting out reflectors, or activating road flares. It is also smart to keep a flashlight in your car – should an accident occur at night, you can carry the flashlight after exiting your vehicle to make yourself more visible.
- Notify the police
- If there is an emergency, contact 911. Otherwise, contact your local police department – even if there are no serious injuries. A detailed police report will go a long way when you file a claim with your insurance company. If there is an injury, be sure that paramedics are called to the scene as well. If there is any confusion whether or not an injury has occurred, err on the side of caution and have an ambulance respond to the scene.
- Record the facts
- Speak with the responding officers and be as accurate and forth coming as possible. Do not feel like you have to have all the answers. Do not speculate at the facts of the accident or whether you sustained an injury. If you are unsure how the accident occurred or unsure if you have sustained an injury, it is okay to respond with “I don’t know.”
- Take pictures
- A major benefit that has come with the popularity of cell phones is that the vast majority of people have a camera with them at all times. Take photos of your vehicle, any visible damage, the scene of the accident, and any injuries that you or a passenger may have suffered.
- Gather and exchange information
- More often than not, the responding officer will obtain insurance information from all drivers involved. If this does not occur, gather the name, phone number, and addresses of all persons involved in the accident, including passengers and witnesses. You should also obtain the insurance information of all driver involved by requesting to see each vehicle’s insurance card.
- Seek medical attention
- Pain and injuries may not be immediately evident following an accident. In fact, much of the pain will occur a day or two following the crash. Again, if there is any uncertainty whether you have sustained an injury, err on the side of caution. There is no harm in getting a check-up at your local emergency room or in making an appointment with your primary physician. Let them have the final say, even if only for peace of mind.
- Report the accident to your insurance
- Contact your insurance company as soon as you can following a crash – most policies actually require immediate reporting of an accident. This will also let you discuss your medical benefits as well as get your claim under way. As your claim is process, keep a detailed log of any medical bills, updates, changes in health, and crash related expenses such as rentals.
- Contact an experienced car crash attorney
- The role of your attorney is not simply to file a lawsuit. An attorney is responsible for protecting your rights and for making sure insurance companies are acting in your best interest. A good car accident attorney will help you obtain and protect valuable evidence, provide legal advice before you provide a statement to the insurers, ensure you receive the medical attention you need, and press insurers to process your claim in a timely and fair manner. Should your rights be infringed upon, the best attorneys are those who are willing and ready to go to trial. If you’re looking to enlist the help of an expert attorney, contact Thomas J. Henry Law today. For more information, view our Guide to Texas Car Accidents Claims.