Houston is the most populous city in Texas, and automobile accidents happen daily. While not all accidents are serious, many others cause significant vehicle damage and personal injuries that may result in long-term suffering or death. This article presents a clear overview of vehicular accidents and a victim’s legal rights and obligations in Texas.
Car crashes occur for several reasons, including driver distractions, drunk driving, night driving, and bad weather. In many cases, one of the drivers is clearly responsible for the accident and liable for damages. In other instances, third parties might be held responsible for damage or injury. These entities include manufacturers and government agencies. Here’s a short list of possibilities:
- Manufacturer of defective vehicle
- Agencies responsible for road maintenance and safety
- Individuals or establishments that served too much alcohol to a guest or patron
- A mechanic who had inadequately serviced a vehicle
- A construction company that left an obstacle on the road
If you are physically able, safely get out of the car and check on the other driver’s condition. Texas law requires you to report an accident if anyone is injured or if one of the cars is so badly damaged that it needs a tow. The easiest way to comply is to call 911. After that, take the following steps:
- Exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver
- Take detailed photographs of the scene
- Don’t admit blame
- Follow the advice of the paramedics
- Call your insurance company
- Ask the police for a copy of their report
- Contact a Houston car accident lawyer
Keep copies of any documents and contact information for witnesses. Seek medical attention if symptoms develop at a later date. Be sure to tell the physician of your recent involvement in a car accident.
In addition to easily observable injuries, like broken bones, cuts, and bruises, more subtle issues may appear over the next few days or weeks.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur in one of two ways. The brain is directly penetrated, which is relatively rare, or the force of the accident causes abrupt movements of the head and possible impacts against a window or steering wheel. Under these circumstances, the brain may move within the cranium, resulting in swelling, bruising, and bleeding.
Symptoms depend on which part of the brain is affected. Some indications of a TBI include:
- Unequal pupil size
- Coma, concussion or amnesia
- Difficulty speaking
- Diminished motor control
- Difficulty sleeping
TBIs can lead to life-long suffering and cognitive impairment.
Whiplash injuries result from the abrupt, jerking motions of the head and neck following a sudden, unexpected impact. It can be mild and disappear in a few days, or it can last for years.
Victims of car accidents may need assistance from a sympathetic friend or family member to help them gradually resume driving again. Individuals with debilitating injuries may become depressed at the thought of long-term care or rehabilitative therapy.
Victims may contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company or leave that sometimes onerous task in the hands of a competent attorney. If you choose to handle the insurance issues yourself, the Texas Department of Insurance provides a resourceful guide to automobile insurance coverage and your rights as a policyholder.
Texas minimum liability amounts are as follows:
- $30,000 per injured victim
- $60,000 per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
If the payment doesn’t cover your expenses, you have two choices. If you seek less than $10,000, you can file a claim in the Justice Court, which handles small-claims cases. You may represent yourself. Otherwise, you need to hire an attorney who files a lawsuit, and you let a judge and jury decide how much additional compensation to award you. That payout comes from the defendant’s personal assets.
When both parties are partially responsible for the accident, a jury decides what percent of the blame to assign to each party, calculates the dollar amount of the damages, and awards each one their percentage of that total. Insurance companies also follow this process when more than one driver shares responsibility for the accident.
If you are the unfortunate victim of a Texas automobile accident, you may be eligible to receive compensation for property damage and injuries. If you feel the insurance company’s settlement offer is insufficient, retain an attorney and have a jury decide what your pain and suffering are worth.