What Should I Do if I Was Partly Responsible for a Car Accident?
If you were injured in an auto accident, even one you were partly responsible for, it is important that you contact a personal injury attorney. In most cases, being partly responsible for a crash does not prevent you from seeking compensation. An experienced attorney can advise you on the best course of action and help secure your claim to damages.
Can I Still File a Lawsuit If I’m Partially Responsible for the Crash?
In Texas, you are still allowed to sue for damages even if you are partly responsible for the crash. In crashes in which more than one driver is responsible for the collision, Texas uses a modified comparative fault standard to apportion fault and award damages. Commonly referred to as “proportionate responsibility”, the statute allows an injured person to recover damages based on the percentage of fault each party is determined to have. The more fault the plaintiff is determined to have, the less damages they will be allowed to recover.
A simple example of this would be:
- Driver A makes an unsafe lane change, brakes to avoid a vehicle in front of her, and is rear-ended by Driver B. An investigation reveals that Driver B was texting at the time of the collision which prevented him from reacting in a timely manner. A jury determines that the crash may have been prevented if Driver B had not been texting, but Driver A also bears some responsibility since she made the unsafe lane change. They apportion 60% of fault to driver B and 40% of fault to Driver A. This means that the damages sustained by Driver A are determined to be $10,000, she will only be able to recover 60%, or $6,000, from Driver B.
Fault can be split among several drivers as well in which a plaintiff would collect a percentage of damages from each of the drivers determined to be at fault.
What if a Jury Decides that I am More At Fault than the Other Driver?
Texas law states that if you are more than 50% responsible for your own injuries, then you cannot seek damages in the form of a lawsuit; however, there are alternatives.
One such alternative is known as personal injury protection (PIP). PIP is a “no-fault” form of coverage, meaning that some of the medical expenses of the policyholder and others in the policyholder’s care may be recovered by insurance, regardless of which driver is at fault.
While some states require all drivers to carry PIP, Texas only requires that PIP coverage be offered to a consumer who purchases liability insurance. There is no requirement that the consumer purchase PIP coverage.
If a Texas driver does opt for PIP coverage, the policy may pay as much as 80% of medical and other expenses that resulted from the accident, depending on the limits of that individual policy. PIP can be applied to medical treatment for any injuries suffered by you as a driver, injuries suffered by passengers in a vehicle you are driving, and even injuries you may incur as a passenger in another’s car or as a pedestrian.
Beyond medical expenses, PIP may also cover:
- Service replacement of someone injured in a covered car accident
- Costs associated with rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Child care
- Household maintenance
- Funeral costs
Another option is medical payments coverage. Medical payments coverage is similar to personal injury protection, but is more limited in that it only covers medical costs and funeral expenses. Typically, medical payments coverage cannot be applied to lost wages or other non-health related items.
Also like PIP, medical payments coverage is not required.
What Actions Should I Take Following the Crash?
If you are involved in an accident which you believe may have been partially your fault, following these steps can help limit your liability and strengthen any later claims to compensation.
- 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 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.