Auto accidents in Texas are a common occurrence, especially in some of the major cities that have experienced fast grow in the past years like Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, or Houston. Often times, these accidents result in significant injuries or even fatalities. If you or your loved one was involved in an auto accident, it is critical to understand your rights. If you do not, you may be prejudiced and may lose the ability to be fairly compensated.
A Successful Claim for Damages in Austin
First, you, the injured person (“plaintiff”) must show that the person that caused the accident (“defendant”) owed you a duty. Basically, to establish duty, you must show that the defendant owed a duty to you to act in a reasonable way. Generally, Texas law finds that motorists owe a duty to pay attention to the road and not to be distracted by cell phones, for example.
Second, you must show that defendant breached such duty. You, as the injured plaintiff, must show that defendant failed to do something, or even refrain from doing something, that is considered to be his or her duty. For instance, if a driver is reading a text message on his cellphone while driving and hits another vehicle in the process, he has breached his duty to pay attention to the road.
Third, plaintiff must show “cause-in-fact”. You must prove that your injury was in fact caused by defendant’s breach of such duty. For example, the young boy would not have been hit and injured by the driver had the driver been paying attention and conforming to his duties owed.
Fourth, you as plaintiff must establish proximate cause. Fundamentally, to show this, you must illustrate that it was obvious to a reasonable person that reading a text message while driving, for example, could result in someone’s injuries. In other words, the accident must have been foreseeable.
Fifth, the plaintiff must show damages. Damages in negligence actions are not presumed; they must be shown. The plaintiff must have suffered some actual harm to be compensated.
Types of Damages Recoverable
Many damages in an automobile accident case are considered “compensatory” damages. Basically, compensatory damages are aimed at compensating the injured person for a variety of losses stemming from the accident. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Medical treatment, both past and present;
- Lost income;
- Pain and suffering;
- Vehicle damage or property damage;
- Future lost earnings.
Normally, Texas automobile accident cases do not make it to trial. Most are resolved by car accident lawyers in a settlement before trial. However, if you do go to trial for your injury, and if your jury finds that the defendant is liable for your injuries, the jury will then make a specific finding as to the extent of that liability. In other words, the jury will make a determination if the defendant bears all of the blame for the accident, or does some degree of fault belong to you, the plaintiff; this is discussed below.
Texas’ Modified Comparative Fault Rule
Texas uses a “modified” comparative fault rule to determine amount of liability. This comes into play when the plaintiff is also found to be at some degree of fault for causing the accident. For example, suppose that the jury decides that your total losses stemming from your accident amounted to $100,000. But the evidence indicates that you were 40% at fault for the accident and the other driver was 60% at fault. According to Texas’ modified comparative fault rule, you would receive 60% of the total damages award, or $60,000.
This particular rule allows you to recover some degree of damages as long as your fault was 50% or less. You must be found to be at the same degree of fault, or less, than the defendant. However, note that if you were found to be more than 50% at fault, even just 51%, then you would be completely barred from any sort of recovery under Texas’ modified comparative fault rule. To expand upon this point, a person could be at fault 49% and cause you injuries, but you would still not be able to recover. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have experienced personal injury lawyers on your side, especially in cases where the person who you believe to be at-fault is disputing liability or if their insurance company is saying that you bear some percentage of fault.
Statute of Limitations
Under Texas law, if you are injured in a personal injury accident, including a car wreck, you have two years to file your claim in court. This two-year period begins on the date of the accident. A different time limit applies when the government or a government employee caused the accident; for example, if you are rear-ended by a U.S. mail carrier. In those cases, you have to act fast. You must file an administrative claim regarding the incident, but you have a shorter period of time to do so. If you were injured due to the fault of someone else and you suspect that person was in the course and scope of their work with a company, potentially a governmental agency, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Government bodies and agencies are entitled to receive notice of your claim within very specific periods of time. If you try to give notice on your own, you may end up giving notice to the wrong agency or not complying with certain statutory requirements. Such failure may hurt your case in the future. Call us now if you were injured in a car accident.
Call an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer in Austin
Pastrana Law Firm attorneys are waiting to help you. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident in Austin, call us at 512-474-4487.