Texas Car Accident Lawyer
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2 million people are injured every year in car crashes in the U.S. Another 32,000 are injured, some so severely their lives will never be the same. In Texas in 2017, every single day, someone died in a car crash, with a total of 3,721 deaths. An additional 17,546 individuals suffered an incapacitating injury with 254,853 people seriously hurt.
Those injured in a Texas car accident lose thousands of dollars by way of:
- Medical bills.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of earning capacity.
- Rehabilitation costs.
- Pain and suffering.
- Car repair bills.
The one responsible for paying for those damages is the driver or drivers who were negligent and at fault for causing the accident.
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Auto Accident Lawyers Get Better Results
Higher average settlement when represented by an attorney
Hiring a lawyer after your auto accident could have a major impact on the compensation you recover. A study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) reported that for specific car accident-related injuries, the average insurance payouts were 3.5 times higher for individuals who hired an attorney.1
Remember that insurance adjusters are highly trained to settle your case for as little as possible. If you are not represented, the insurance company may offer you far less than the value of your claim. An accident attorney can help determine the true value of your case, and when the insurance company adjuster knows your claim is being handled by a personal injury attorney, you are likely to receive a much higher settlement offer.
1. Insurance Research Council: Auto Injuries: Claiming Behavior and Its Impact on Insurance Costs
Who is at Fault in a Texas Car Accident
In order to hold a driver at fault for a car accident in Texas, you must prove the driver was negligent under the same standard required in order to receive compensation for any other personal injury. The elements of negligence you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence are:
- Duty. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Drivers have a duty to use reasonable care when operating a vehicle, this means they are to watch out for pedestrians, travel no faster than the posted speed limit, avoid distracted driving, not drive drunk, etc.
- Breach of the duty. A driver has breached that duty by not using reasonable care. For example, drivers breach their duty of care if they swerve out of their lane into the path of oncoming traffic because they take their eyes off the road for any reason.
- Causation. The driver’s breach of the duty was a cause of the injuries suffered by the passengers in the car that was hit. This means that if the driver had been watching the road, the driver would not have swerved out of the lane and would not have hit the oncoming car. A reasonable person would know that taking his or her eyes off the road for any reason could result in an accident.
- Damages. The plaintiff suffered damages. This includes medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and more.
A negligent driver who failed to use reasonable care, and that failure was the cause of the accident in which you were injured, is liable for all the damages you suffered.
Proving your case by the preponderance of the evidence means you must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s breach of the duty of care caused the accident. This is an easier standard than the criminal law standard requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Comparative negligence. Texas law has adopted a modified comparative fault standard. This means that both drivers may be partially at-fault for the accident. For example, a driver who crossed a lane while texting and hit an oncoming car may not be the only negligent driver involved. It may turn out the driver of the other vehicle had dropped his or her phone on the floor of the car and had suddenly braked in order to reach down and try to find it. That driver also took his or her eyes off the road and swerved slightly into the lane of the oncoming car. If one driver had not swerved, the accident may have been avoided.
A jury may find them both at fault for the accident. If both drivers are deemed to be equally at fault, neither of them can recover damages. If it is determined that one driver was 40 percent at fault, that driver may collect damages from the other driver, but the amount will be reduced by 40 percent to account for the comparative fault.
Both drivers will try to prove the other one was negligent. You need a Texas lawyer experienced in investigating, obtaining police reports, and locating and interviewing witnesses in order to prove fault so that you can collect the damages to which you are legally entitled.
Damages Available for a Motor Vehicle Accident
The term “damages” refers to the amount of money you should be able to collect from the person whose negligence caused the accident. The theory is that you should be restored to the same position you were in prior to the accident. To reach this goal, there are several types of damages designed to compensate you for your injuries.
Economic damages. This refers to losses you have suffered that can be calculated monetarily. Damages that fall into this category include:
- Your medical bills incurred from the time of the accident until the settlement or jury award.
- Estimated amount of your future medical bills if ongoing and future care is expected.
- Any rehabilitation costs, like physical therapy, occupational therapy, or job retraining.
- Wages you lost due to missed workdays due to your injuries.
- Wages you are expected to lose in the future due to estimated time off work in the future.
- Wages you will lose in the future if you are unable to return to your former employment, and instead, must work in a job that pays less than the one you had when you were injured.
- Lifetime loss of income if you are permanently disabled and unable to perform any work at all.
- Reimbursement of all out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to medical treatment. This includes gasoline for required trips for medical care and similar expenses.
- Cost of repair to your automobile
Non-economic damages. These are damages to which there is no specific monetary amount that can be calculated. They include:
- Pain and suffering. Insurance companies use their own formula to calculate an amount for pain and suffering, often based on the amount of your economic loss and the severity of your injury. Your personal injury attorney will prove to the insurance company that its estimate is too low and you deserve more. Insurance companies have a reputation for lowballing this amount in almost every case.
- Emotional distress or mental anguish. These damages are not available in every case and depend on the circumstances of the event. For example, a person seriously injured in a car accident may have a life-long fear of driving. They may experience insomnia, feelings of guilt, depression and other symptoms of a mental health condition. The more serious the accident and the injury, the more severe the emotional distress may be.
- Loss of consortium or companionship. These are damages paid to a family member of the injured person, usually the spouse, due to a significant loss in the relationship that was caused by the accident.
Punitive or exemplary damages. These are damages designed to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior. They are only awarded in negligence cases if the defendant’s action was “grossly negligent.” Texas law defines gross negligence as “an act or omission: (A) which when viewed objectively from the standpoint of the actor at the time of its occurrence involves an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others; and (B) of which the actor has actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeds with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others.”
Damages for Wrongful Death
When a person is killed due to the negligence of a driver in a car accident, certain family members may file an action for wrongful death. Texas law allows such a suit to be brought by the decedent’s surviving spouse, parents, and children.
Damages awarded to family member survivors for a wrongful death claim are not subject to any debt the decedent had at the time of his or her death. Available damages include:
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Medical expenses incurred prior to the death that were incurred due to the accident.
- Lost earning capacity of the decedent.
- Loss of the care, support, advice, companionship, comfort, counsel, and society the decedent would have provided to the surviving family members.
- Mental and emotional suffering by the family members due to the loss of their loved one.
- Lost inheritance, which includes money the decedent would have saved and left to the surviving family members if the decedent had lived a normal and expected lifetime.
If the conduct of the negligent driver was particularly egregious, punitive (exemplary) damages may also be available. A Texas wrongful death attorney will make sure you receive all the compensation available to you under the wrongful death law.
What if the Negligent Driver Does Not Have Car Insurance?
Texas law requires every driver on the road to carry a minimum level of car insurance that will provide coverage for those injured due to the driver’s negligence. Even so, it is estimated that more than 14 percent of Texas drivers are on the road with no insurance coverage.
When automobile insurance companies sell car insurance, they are required to offer drivers uninsured (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Motorists are not required to carry UM and UIM coverage, but they are required to put their refusal of the coverage in writing.
If you have this coverage, you can collect damages from your own UM policy up to the limits of your policy for injuries caused by an uninsured motorist. If your damages exceed the amount of coverage the negligent driver carried, your UIM coverage will pay for the excess damage up to the limits of your policy.
Another possible avenue for collection of damages will be explored by your attorney. For example, the negligent driver may have been borrowing a car from a family member who knew the driver should not have been driving. If so, you may have a claim against the owner for negligent entrustment.
The Role of the Texas Lawyer in Handling a Car Crash Case
The first role of the lawyer is to be the advocate for the accident victim in obtaining all the compensation available under the law. This means investigating the case, negotiating with the insurance company, dealing with the court system, and keeping the client informed about the status of the case and about any new developments as they come along.
Almost all personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation at which time they will review the basic facts of your case. They can then tell you if your claim has merit and, if so, give you a ballpark figure about what your damages might be worth. If you and the lawyer decide to work together, the personal injury attorney will most likely take your case on a contingency basis. This means that you will not pay any attorney’s fees unless you win your case.
If you win, the attorney’s fees will be a percentage of the settlement or jury award. The percentage will be agreed upon prior to the time the lawyer starts working on the case and will be put in writing. If there are medical bills outstanding at the time of the settlement or jury award, they will be paid first before any money is distributed.
The attorney will investigate the crash. Generally, an attorney will have an investigator perform many of these tasks. That way, if necessary, the investigator can be a witness in the case. Some tasks that will be assigned to the investigator, done by the attorney, or shared between them include:
- Reviewing the police report. This may include a sketch of the scene, statements from the parties involved, and witness statements.
- Interviewing witnesses. Even if the police report includes witness statements, the attorney’s investigator will want to speak with them again in order to evaluate their demeanor and what kind of witness it seems they will make, and whether their story is consistent with the one recounted in the police report.
- Checking for video surveillance. If there is any video surveillance or cameras at the site of the accident that may have captured the accident, it is important to obtain copies.
- Reviewing records. There may be records on file somewhere of any past problems or similar incidents that may have occurred at that location.
- Inspecting the scene. It is important for the scene itself to be visually inspected. There may be important measurements that need to be taken. Watching traffic patterns may be helpful.
- Reviewing the medical records. Reviewing your medical records will show the extent of your injuries and what impact on your future the injuries may have.
- Hiring a medical expert. A medical expert may be necessary to also review the medical records and provide an expert opinion as to the extent of the damages and any need for future or ongoing medical treatment.
- Reviewing and evaluating the insurance company report.
- Gathering all other evidence. This includes taking legal action if necessary in order to make sure the other party does not hide evidence favorable to you.
The results of the investigation will provide a clearer picture of what happened and allow your attorney to present evidence proving who was at fault, and why the negligent person should be held responsible and pay for your damages.
How to Choose a Texas Car Crash Attorney
When you are losing wages, accumulating medical bills, and facing an uncertain future, you most likely know you need an attorney to help you, but are not sure how to go about finding one. Here are a few suggestions.
- Ask for recommendations from friends who have mentioned a legal problem to you. But, be careful. Some friends will eagerly suggest an attorney who has helped them, but if the attorney helped them with a real estate issue, tax problem, etc., that is not the attorney for you. You are looking for a personal injury attorney. One who mentions “Car Accidents” as a practice area.
- Google “personal injury attorneys in Texas.” Find a few names of those who are located near you.
- Go the website of an attorney you are interested in. This should have a list of the practice areas the attorney focuses on. There may be a practice area drop-down menu. Look for anything to do with car crashes, car accidents, automobile accidents, etc.
- Check the “About Us” page and other relevant pages on the website. You should find information about the education and experience of the attorney.
Almost all personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation. That is a time for the attorney to review your situation and evaluate your chances of success. This is also a time for you to ask the attorney any questions you may have about his experience. Some relevant questions may be:
- What is your track record of success with cases like mine?
- Do you work on a contingency basis? Can you explain to me how this works?
- What do you mean by “damages?”
- Will my damages cover any long-term medical consequences and my loss if I am unable to return to work?
You want an attorney who is a good negotiator with insurance companies who will be ready to go to trial if negotiations are not successful. You also want an attorney who will keep you in the loop, so you know what is happening with your case, and one who is available to answer your questions as the case proceeds. We handle car accident cases out of our offices in San Antonio, Laredo, and McCallen, though we handle accident cases throughout Texas.
Major Types of Vehicle Accidents
There are different ways vehicle accidents happen. The type of accident can affect how fault is determined plus what type of injuries are commonly suffered in the type of accident and how serious they are likely to be. Some of the most common types of accidents include the following.
Rear-end collisions. This is the most common vehicle accident. Many drivers follow the car ahead of them too closely. Then, when that car suddenly decelerates, the rear driver rams into the car ahead of him or her causing a rear-end collission. There is a myth that the driver in the rear is always at fault. That is not true in every case and fault is determined by the circumstances of the event.
The most common injury from this type of collision is whiplash that occurs when the body is suddenly thrown forward and then backward. Whiplash injuries often do not cause pain until a few days after the accident. They may heal quickly or cause lifelong problems.
Side impact (T-bone accident). This is the second most common vehicle accident. T-bone accidents often result in serious injuries or death to the passengers who were in the car that was hit. When a car is hit in the side, there is very little protection for the passengers. At least in a rear-end collision, there is some space between a passenger and the car, as well as the bumper, trunk and seat to soften the impact.
The extent of the damage and injuries suffered depends on the speed the driver was going at the time of the impact. It is sometimes difficult to prove fault in this type of accident. Common reasons for a side-impact collision are:
- A driver ran a red light or failed to stop at a stop sign.
- A driver failed to yield.
- Distracted driving.
- Illegal or dangerous passing.
- Poor weather conditions.
- Poor road conditions.
- Brakes failed.
- Reckless driving.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that 24 percent of vehicle occupants involved in a T-bone accident were killed in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
Head-on collisions. A head-on collision is the most serious. According to the IIHS, 56 percent of passengers in a car involved in a head-on collision were killed in 2017, the most recent year for which there are statistics.
Common causes of head-on collisions are:
- Drunk driving
- Rollover accidents
- Uber and Lyft accidents
- Drowsy driving.
- Distracted driving.
- Swerving to avoid debris in the road.
- Bad weather conditions.
Multi-vehicle accidents. These involve three or more cars. Drivers and passengers in these types of accidents are often severely injured. One vehicle may be hit multiple times. Those inside the vehicle may be trapped and unable to even exit the vehicle. There is danger of the cars catching on fire, which will likely result in fatalities. It is difficult to prove fault in these types of accidents, and there may be more than just one driver who is responsible.
Crash with a semi-truck. Injuries to vehicle occupants can impact their lives forever. There is very little protection for those in a 3,000-pound car when it is hit by a fully loaded semi-truck weighing approximately 80,000 pounds! The truck driver and the company who hired the driver may both be held liable for the accident and victims can seek damages from both.
Bus crashes. Injuries and fatalities are often severe. Not only are injuries sustained by the people in the vehicle that was hit, but passengers on the bus are also injured. The driver, the transit company, and/or the city may all be held liable and responsible for paying damages to the victims.
Drunk drivers. The Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that every 20 minutes, someone in Texas is either killed or injured in a vehicle crash where alcohol is involved. Drivers in Texas are legally drunk if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. If alcohol is involved, a driver can still be impaired with a lower BAC. You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver for negligence even if the driver is not cited nor charged nor convicted of a DWI.
Pedestrian accidents. Texas has a serious problem with pedestrian accidents. It ranks ninth as the most dangerous for pedestrians. Between January and June 2017, the most recent time for which statistics are available, 263 Texas pedestrians were killed.
Pedestrians have no protection from injury when hit by a car. Even a low-speed impact can result in serious injuries. Head and neck injuries are common as are broken bones.
Motorcycle and bicycle accidents. Like pedestrians, motorcycle and bicycle riders have very little that is protecting them from injuries if involved in a motor vehicle accident and hit by a 3,000-pound car or an 80,000-pound big rig. Parties that may be responsible for these accidents may include:
- The driver of the vehicle who crashed into the cyclist.
- Any other driver, pedestrian, motorcycle or bicycle rider who may be at fault for causing the driver to hit the cyclist.
- The city if a road defect was at fault for the accident.
Wrecks caused by tire defects. A tire defect can cause a driver to lose control of the car so the car spins off the road or into the path of another vehicle. When this happens, the tire manufacturer and the tire seller may both be held liable for the injuries or death that were caused by the defective product.
Accidents with Uber, Lyft, or another rideshare company. These are complicated lawsuits. There may be claims against the rideshare company, the driver, or other drivers involved in the crash. Which insurance company is involved depends on whether the driver had his driver app on at the time of the accident.
Driverless vehicle accidents. If a driverless vehicle was at fault for the accident, a lawsuit may be filed against the manufacturer for product liability. To date, there have been a few such lawsuits, and the manufacturer has quickly settled them in proceedings that remain secret.
Dangerous road conditions. When dangerous road conditions are at fault, either totally or partially, for a car accident, the municipality charged with keeping the roads safe may be held liable for the damages. Some examples of dangerous road conditions are:
- Road signs that are either damaged, hidden by branches, or missing.
- Ruts in the road.
- Missing or lose guardrails.
- Lines in the road faded or missing completely so it is impossible to determine where the lanes.
- Road debris left unattended.
- Road not properly maintained during bad weather.
- Inadequate traffic control at construction sites.
The municipality may be held liable in addition to any other driver that may also be at fault for the accident.
Guardrail lawsuits. People do not often think about a guardrail accident, but a defective guard rail can slice through a car that hits it and injure or kill the passengers. If this happens, a lawsuit can be filed against the municipality responsible for maintaining the guardrail, the contractors who installed the guardrail, and possibly the manufacture of the guardrail if it was defective and it was that defect that caused the injury.
SUV Rollover Accidents. Due to the top-heavy construction of SUVs, they are more prone to roll over than other vehicles, especially in a T-bone accident. When it lands on the roof, the roof caves in. All of these actions can result in serious injury or death to the occupants. In addition to a negligence lawsuit against others who may have negligently caused the accident, there may also be a cause of action for a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer for failing to properly construct the vehicle, or failure to warn the purchaser of the dangerous risks of driving such a vehicle.
Police car accidents. Police car accidents present a challenge when it comes to proving fault. Collecting for your damages may depend on whether the police officer had the siren on and lights flashing and was responding to an emergency call or just driving negligently. There have been cases where a police car was responding to an emergency, had the siren blaring and the lights flashing, but was going far too fast for the traffic conditions and was therefore liable for the damages resulting from an accident.
Contact the Car Accident Lawyers at Eric Ramos Law, PLLC
When you are dealing with the pain, misery, and frustration of your injuries, or grieving over the loss of a loved one, you need the assistance of an experienced car crash attorney. At the Law Office of Eric Ramos PLLC, you will find we have experience negotiating with insurers for the best possible settlement for our clients.
If settlement is not in your best interest, we will zealously advocate for you at trial. The law requires you to file your lawsuit within a certain period of time after your injury. Do not let the deadline pass. Contact us to schedule your free consultation and to understand how we can help you obtain all the damages to which you are legally entitled.
Fill out the form to get started with your free evaluation of your Texas car accident case today.