Even the most responsible drivers sometimes find themselves involved in terrifying car crashes. If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a car accident in Texas, you will probably have questions about what you should do. You may wonder who is at fault, how it will affect your insurance, and whether or not you have a case against the other driver and their insurance company. We’re here to help answer all of your Texas car accident questions.
What Should I Do if I Get in a Texas Car Accident?
You never expect to end up in a car crash, but it can happen to anyone. In Texas, there were more than 12,000 crashes in 2018, with almost 15,000 serious injuries. One crash occurs every 58 seconds! So, what do you do if it happens to you?
Stop At The Car Accident Scene
First, pull over and make sure that everyone in your car is OK. Make sure you pull over to a safe location if your vehicle is driveable. If you or anyone in your car is hurt, call 911 and be prepared to give information about your location, including your street, direction, and the closest cross street.
Determine If Anyone Involved In the Car Accident Needs Help
If it’s safe, check to see if anyone in the other car or any pedestrians need medical assistance and call 911. Give as much information as you can about any injuries and follow the operator’s instructions.
Notify The Police or Sheriff of the Car Accident
You will also need to report the accident to the local police or sheriff. If you call 911 and they send a car for assistance, you may be able to report the accident at that time. Under Texas law, if you are involved in an accident involving an injury or death, you must:
- Stop the vehicle as close to the scene as you can.
- Immediately return to the scene if you aren’t at the scene of the accident.
- Immediately determine if another person is involved in the accident and whether or not they need aid.
- Remain at the scene of the accident to provide information and render aid.
If you don’t comply with Texas law to remain at the scene and render aid, it may be a second or third-degree felony with up to a $5,000 fine and five years in jail. When the police arrive to take the report, you should provide accurate and complete information.
Collect Information About The Other Driver And The Scene
If the accident only involves damage to your vehicle, you still have a duty to pull over and remain at the scene to ensure no one else is hurt and provide information. You should also take this opportunity to collect information from the other driver, including their name, address, driver’s license number; insurance information; the make, model, and license plate number of the cars involved. You should also write down what happened, the road conditions, the weather at the time of the accident, and talk to any witnesses. Be sure to get the names and contact information for any witnesses as well. If you have your smartphone or a camera, take photos of the scene and the damage to the vehicles. If you aren’t able to collect information or photos because of your injuries, don’t worry. Our accident reconstruction specialists may be able to determine what happened and who is at fault at a later time.
You can later obtain a copy of your police report from the Texas Department of Transportation. You will need the driver’s license number of someone involved in the crash, the vehicle identification number of a car involved in the crash, the name of a person or company involved in the collision, or the TxDOT Crash ID assigned to your crash.
Seek Medical Care Soon After Leaving the Car Accident Scene
If you’re seriously hurt, meaning your injury could cause death or severe impairment, or if you can’t move, seek medical care immediately. Ignore all the steps above, call 911 and get medical treatment right away. If your injuries aren’t severe and you are able, be sure to collect the information that you can. You should then seek medical care as soon as possible.
When you receive medical treatment, be sure to document your visits, save receipts, and request copies of your medical records. An attorney can be quite useful in organizing and obtaining all of this information as well.
Notify Your Insurance Company of Your Texas Car Accident
Whether the accident was your fault or not, you should still notify your insurance company as soon as possible. If you have personal injury protection coverage, or if the other driver carried no insurance, your insurance company may cover your medical treatment regardless of fault.
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If the Accident Is Your Fault
If you know or suspect that the accident is your fault, you should stick to the facts when reporting the accident to the police, another person, or your insurance company.
- Avoid telling the other driver or people involved that you believe the accident may have been your fault. You should also avoid saying this to another insurance company.
- If the accident is your fault, you should also be careful to document the scene, the road and weather conditions, and the damage to the vehicles involved. Be as thorough as possible.
- Notify your insurance company as soon as possible.
- Consult an experienced Texas car accident attorney to determine your options.
Is Texas a No-fault Car Accident State?
Every state has its requirements for determining whose insurance company covers what in the event of an accident. In a no-fault state, all insurance coverage includes mandatory personal injury protection. If an accident occurs, each driver files a claim for their medical bills and property damage with their insurance company. Your insurance company will cover your medical bills, lost wages, and property damage, up to the limits of your policy, regardless of fault.
Comparative Fault in Texas
Texas is not a “no-fault” car accident state. Instead, Texas is a “comparative fault” car accident state. In Texas, a driver who is more than 50% at fault for an accident must take liability for the accident. In other words, Texas’s at-fault laws dictate that the person responsible for the accident is liable for the damages resulting from the crash. If the party at fault has insurance, their insurance will generally cover the losses from the accident, up to the limits of the policy.
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If, however, you are in a situation where you are at least partially at fault for an accident, even if you aren’t more than 50% responsible, you may not be able to recover 100% of your damages. You will be held proportionally responsible, and the damages you can recover, whether through an insurance award or the courts, will be reduced accordingly. If, for example, you have $100,000 in medical bills and property damage and the police determine that you are 25% at fault for the accident, you can only recover 75% of your damage award. You can recover $75,000 instead of the full $100,000.
Because comparative and proportional fault can be complicated, you should consult an attorney if you think you may be even partially at fault in a car accident. The experienced car accident attorneys at Underwood Law Firm can help protect your rights and ensure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.
Who is at Fault in a Texas Car Accident?
After an accident, one of your first questions may be, “who is at fault here?” and “who will cover my damages.” In Texas, responsibility for damages is determined in large part by who is at fault. Texas law requires that all drivers maintain a minimum of $30,000/$60,000 for bodily injury liability, meaning your insurance covers you up to $30,000 for personal injuries and $60,000 for the total of the injuries involved in the accident. Texas drivers must also carry $25,000 in property damage insurance coverage.
Filing a Claim When You are at Fault
If you are at fault in the accident, your insurance company must cover your damages. If your insurance includes coverage for medical payments or personal injury protection, you can file a claim for your injuries up to the limits of your policy. If your medical bills exceed the limits of your policy, then you may need to rely on your health insurance to cover some of your bills.
Filing a Claim if Someone Else is at Fault
If another driver was the primary cause of the accident, their insurance company must cover your injuries and damages up to the limits of their policy. You will file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company for the damages to your vehicle and for any medical bills that you incur. Unfortunately, many Texas drivers only carry the minimum insurance coverage. If your medical bills exceed their insurance policy, you may also have to rely on your own insurance company to receive compensation.
Uninsured and Underinsured Drivers
If you are involved in an accident with a driver with no insurance or your damages exceed the limitations of the driver with primary fault for the accident, you may need to rely on your insurance to cover your losses. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, it will also cover you for hit and run accidents. If another driver causes an accident and flees the scene, your insurance company will treat the crash as if the other driver were uninsured, ensuring that your insurance company will cover your damages.
Regardless of fault, you should notify your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident. Many policies have limitations on the timeframe for reporting accidents. Moreover, under the Texas statute of limitations, you will only have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit to recover for damages from the crash. So, you should notify your insurance company first, and they can help determine if you should file a claim with the other driver’s insurance. They may even negotiate directly with the other insurer to ensure they accept liability for your damages.
Hiring an McKinney, TX Car Accident Lawyer
Regardless of fault, it’s a good idea to hire an experienced personal injury attorney for a serious accident as soon as possible. An experienced litigator can ensure the accident and its circumstances are well documented, your injury and damages recorded, and negotiate with insurance companies. While an insurance company may be in a hurry to get you to settle, an experienced attorney can ensure that you recover for your injuries and damages.
How Long Will an Accident Affect my Insurance in Texas?
After you’ve been in an accident, you may worry that your insurance rates will go up. Every state determines its own insurance laws. In some states, each driver’s insurance company will cover their driver’s damages regardless of fault. But Texas uses, in part, a fault system. If you are at fault for an accident, your insurance company will need to cover the damage and this may increase your premiums. If you are at fault for an accident, your insurance rates will be affected. If you aren’t, they won’t.
Insurance Rates and Driving Record
In Texas, insurers will look at your driving record in and outside of the state of Texas. While accidents typically stay on your driving record for three years, that may not necessarily automatically increase your rate. If you are involved in a minor fender bender with no, or little, damage, and you don’t have any previous tickets or moving violations, your insurance company may “forgive” your accident and not increase your rates. Many insurance companies allow one accident every six years without penalty. If, however, you have subsequent accidents or tickets, you can expect your rates to go up for at least three years.
If, however, you commit a hit-and-run or receive a DUI, you can expect the accident to remain on your record for ten years. Leaving the scene of an accident and operating a vehicle while impaired are illegal. If your insurance company still covers you after a hit-and-run, you can expect your insurance rates to increase dramatically.
Safe Driving in Texas
To keep your insurance rates down and avoid accidents, you should practice safe driving.
- Blind spots: Know where the blind spots are on your car. Minimize lane changes, always use your blinker, and be sure to check your mirrors frequently. You should also know where the blind spots are for other cars, especially large trucks. Be mindful of these spaces while changing lanes.
- Understand safe braking distance based on your speed and the road conditions. The larger the vehicle, the longer it will take to stop. You should be aware of how long it will take to stop your car and how long it will take other vehicles to stop.
- Don’t drive while distracted. We all know we shouldn’t text and drive, but you also should avoid distractions like eating, drinking, and fiddling with the dashboard or radio while driving. Pull your car over if you need to make a call or eat your sandwich. Focus 100% of your attention on driving while you are driving.
- Be aware of aggressive drivers. If someone is tailgating or driving recklessly, pull over and let them pass. Sometimes the best thing you can do to avoid an accident is steer clear of these drivers.
- Follow road signs. The posted speed limits and warning signs are there for a reason. Slow down for that curve and yield at that intersection.
- Account for the weather. If it’s raining, slow down. If it’s icy, don’t slam on your brakes. It may seem like a no-brainer, but when drivers are in a rush, they often forget to account for weather conditions and how they affect our ability to steer and stop our cars.
- Drive safely. Make sure all items in your car are secured. Don’t try to reach things on the floor or dig in your wallet or purse while driving. Make sure you adjust your seat, mirrors, and seatbelt before you start driving.
Do I Have a Case if My Airbag Fails?
When you are unlucky enough to be in an accident, you expect that your car’s safety features will work as promised to protect you and other vehicle occupants. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen.
Airbags, in particular, can put drivers and front passengers at risk if they fail to deploy. The ensuing physical and emotional trauma can prompt years of suffering. Without damages, victims may also struggle under the burden of medical bills and lost wages.
What Causes Airbag Failures?
A variety of issues can cause an airbag to fail to deploy. Design defects and manufacturing flaws are often to blame. In other cases, the sensors intended to detect the need for deployment may prove faulty. Some of the most common airbag defects involve:
- Faulty crash sensors: Defective sensors can cause airbags to deploy after it’s too late, or to deploy when it’s unnecessary.
- Incorrect inflation path: Airbags should deploy up before moving out. If an airbag deploys horizontally, it can seriously injure a passenger.
- Excessive force: Airbags that deploy with excessive force can cause serious head injuries.
- Faulty internal tethers: The internal tethers of airbags usually keep airbags to the proper shape as they deploy, preventing injury to passengers.
How the Type of Car Crash Impacts Your Case
Depending on the circumstances of your car crash, you may be able to recover damages if the airbag failed to deploy. Ultimately, this will depend on the type of crash. Rear-end collisions that occur at low speeds are rarely sufficient to recover damages, as most airbags should not deploy in such situations. With front-end collisions at higher speeds, however, it’s far easier to make a case. Typically, airbags should deploy if the crash occurs when the vehicle is traveling at speeds of 25 miles per hour or higher.
Manufacturing Defect Claims
If you are injured because an airbag fails to deploy, you may have a defect claim against the manufacturer. A manufacturing defect is a chance event that is usually the result of production errors or faulty quality control. The defect isn’t generally something you’d find in each identical product.
While you don’t need to prove any specific criteria for a manufacturing defect claim, you do need to show clear evidence of the product defect. In an airbag claim, if a fire destroys the airbag, it may be more challenging to prove your claim. That’s why it is crucial to hire an experienced attorney that will thoroughly investigate the cause of your injuries.
The Texas statute of limitations on filing a manufacturing defect claim is 15 years from the date of sale. This limitation means that if you are in an accident in an earlier model car, you may need to see an attorney as soon as possible.
If faulty airbags or other vehicle issues caused you or a loved one suffering, justice may be within reach. We’re here to help. With a Texas car accident lawyer on your side, you can hold vehicle manufacturers accountable — and secure the damages you deserve. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.
Should I Hire an Attorney After My Car Accident?
The laws regarding Texas car accidents, particularly concerning fault, documenting damages, and the statute of limitations, can be confusing and hard to understand. But insurance companies understand these rules inside and out, and you can expect them to exploit the rules to their advantage. If you hire an experienced car accident attorney, you have someone on your side.
An experienced attorney will have accident reconstruction specialists to look at the evidence and determine what happened and who is at fault. An attorney can also ensure that you have documented your damages, compile the bills, and collect the medical treatment records. An attorney can help you submit an insurance claim and ensure that if litigation is necessary, your case is well-documented from the beginning. Finally, an experienced car crash attorney can negotiate with insurance companies and medical providers on your behalf.
At the Underwood Law Firm, we have the experience and knowledge necessary to ensure that insurance companies don’t take advantage of you. If we represent you, we can act as your ally and as your advocate, ensuring that you receive the compensation to which you’re entitled. Cont