Most, if not all, Americans will be involved in a car accident at some point in their lives. Car accidents can happen at any time, and often do so at what seem to be the most inconvenient times. In addition to the inconvenience, those involved in a car accident often sustain significant personal injury and property damage, thereby requiring medical attention and car repairs.
From the moment a car accident is reported to an insurance company, a team of adjusters begin working. Whether it is your insurance company or the negligent driver’s insurance company, these adjusters are calculating their financial exposure and investigating ways in which to deny coverage, either partially or completely. Insurance companies have a financial interest to deny coverage or underpay claims. If you have ever attempted to negotiate with an insurance company directly to get your medical bills paid and your car repaired—even if it is your own insurance company—you likely experienced this frustration.
The delays caused by insurance companies in paying claims only compound the inconvenience and frustration of the car accident. During this time, while you are trying to recover from your injuries, medical bills and car repair bills continue to pile up, all while fighting with the insurance company to pay on a claim which was not your fault.
Causes of Car Accidents
Car accidents are often unpredictable events; however, when looking at the available data, a pattern emerges as to what contributing factors lead to car accidents in the State of Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation studies state-wide factors which lead to car accidents, both in rural and urban contexts. Far and away, a driver’s failure to control speed is the leading cause of car accidents in Texas. Failure to control speed is closely followed by a driver’s inattention and changing lanes when unsafe to do so.
Failure to Control Speed
In Texas, a driver’s failure to control his speed is a moving violation and violates the Texas Transportation Code. Simply stated, a failure to control speed occurs when a person operates the vehicle at a speed which is neither reasonable nor prudent given the traffic and road conditions. This is codified in Texas Transportation Code § 545.351(b)(2) which requires drivers to “control the speed of the vehicle as necessary to avoid colliding with another person or vehicle that is on or entering the highway in compliance with law and the duty of each person to use due care.”
Often, a driver’s failure to control speed manifests itself in many ways; however, a common example is in the context of a rear-end collision. If a driver fails to operate their vehicle at a speed which is reasonable or prudent, they fail to allow sufficient time to brake in traffic or when approaching a red-light. As such, those drivers end up causing rear-end collisions, as they were operating their vehicle at unsafe speeds given the traffic conditions.
Driver Inattention/Distracted Driving
In our connected world, driver inattention or distracted driving is a dangerous and growing trend on Texas roads. Distracted driving, however, is not limited to technology distractions, such as texting while driving or talking on a cell phone. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, the highest-risk driving distractions, aside from cell phone use, include drowsiness, eating or drinking while driving, grooming, reaching for a moving object, insects in the vehicle, looking at objects outside the vehicle, adjusting the radio, or interacting with other passengers or pets in the vehicle.
At least one federal study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that distracted driving was a factor in 78% of passenger vehicle crashes nationwide. This same study estimates that texting while driving increases your crash risk by 23 times. As technology increases, so do the distractions which lead to car accidents in Texas and across the country. In response, many states, including Texas, have enacted legislation in an attempt to curb cell phone and texting distractions while driving.
Unsafe Lane Changes
Unsafe lane changes, as with failure to control speed, is a broad category of conduct which is in violation of the Texas Transportation Code. When driving on Texas roads, Texas Transportation Code § 545.060 governs when and how one is to change lanes. While one may not be familiar with the technical statutory requirements, common sense dictates that lane changes should only be performed when it is safe to do so.
These leading cause of car accidents in Texas are often not stand-alone factors. Meaning, often time, many of these factors can and will be present in one incident. When these leading factors of car accidents compound, so do the injuries sustained as a result of the accident.
Common Injuries after a Car Accident
Just as no two car accidents are the same, neither are the injuries sustained by an individual after a car accident. The severity of injuries sustained after an accident is dependent on a number of different factors including whether seat belts were used, the location of the impact, the speed of the impact, and whether airbags were deployed.
Car accidents can injure virtually any part of the human body. These injuries can range from minor scrapes and bruises, to broken bones and head injuries. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries or TBI: A traumatic Brain Injury, frequently referred to as a “TBI” can occur when the brain is damaged due to impact or penetration. Symptoms of a TBI can vary, but include headaches, nausea, fatigue, difficulty speaking, sleeping more than normal, and losing consciousness.
- Back and Neck Injuries: When there is a sudden jerking motion, such as frequently experienced even in the most minor car accidents, damage can be sustained to the back and neck areas. One of the most common neck injuries sustained is whiplash. Back injuries can often be described as either disc injuries or facet joint injuries. Both spinal disk and facet joint injuries can occur due to an acute event, such as a car accident. Given the neurologic and structural importance of the neck and back, these injuries can often have a significant impact on one’s life.
- Loss of Limb: In the most severe car accidents, especially head-on collisions, the driver and passenger compartment can collapse in on itself. As a result, one’s limbs, such as an arm or leg, may become trapped and badly injured. In the most catastrophic examples, one’s limb may require complete or partial amputation.
- Burns: If as a result of the accident, a fire is ignited, one could sustain severe burns over a part of their body. In addition to the fire itself, fluids and surfaces of the vehicle may become dangerously hot and cause burns.
- Death: In the most tragic of circumstances, a loved-one can be killed as a result of a car accident. The S. Center for Disease Control estimates that over 30,000 people are killed as a result of car accidents, and is one of the top-10 causes of death in people aged 1-54.
These examples are in no means an exhaustive list of the types of injuries one could sustain in a car accident. In addition to the foregoing, there are other types of injuries which may not be immediately felt or seen, such as soft tissue injuries, until hours or days later. No matter whether the car accident appeared to be minor or not, the human body is not designed to sustain such impact; therefore, even minor car accidents can yield significant injuries and damage.
Texas Law Governing Car Accidents
After an accident, if there are any injuries or deaths, or if there was damage to a vehicle to the extent it cannot be safely driven, Texas law requires the incident be reported to the local enforcement agency. While there is no specific law governing reporting requirements to private insurance companies, conventional wisdom dictates that the earlier an accident is reported to your insurance company the better. This is due to the fact that many insurance policies require immediate notice of the accident, and a failure to do so may affect whether the insurance company will provide coverage. Once an accident is reported, it is important, however, to consult with an attorney before you accept any settlement from an insurance company, as doing so may affect your legal rights moving forward.
Reporting your accident to law enforcement or an insurance company is different than seeking justice through the court system. Once an accident occurs, the time limit to file a lawsuit begins to run. Known as the statute of limitations, Texas law dictates that a claim for damages as a result of a car accident must be filed within two years of the incident. A failure to file a civil suit prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations will preclude your ability to seek justice though a Texas court.
Even if you believe that you may have been at fault for the car accident, it is still important to fully explore the legal options available to you. As it relates to recovery for personal injury damages resulting from a car accident, Texas law applies a modified comparative fault rule. This means that at the end of your trial, the jury will be asked to answer two questions: 1) the total dollar amount of your injuries; and 2) the percentage of fault for both parties. As long as a jury does not find you more than 50% at-fault for the accident, you will be able to recover for your injuries.
Compensation Available as a Result of a Car Accident
Texas is known as a “fault” state, meaning if a driver is found to have caused an accident, they are required to pay for the resulting injury or damages. As such, Texas law requires every driver to maintain minimum liability insurance. This insurance covers the repair costs of the other driver’s car, as well as any medical bills. Current Texas law dictates that a driver have at least $30,000.00 of coverage for injuries per person, up to a total of $60,000.00 per accident, and $25,000.00 in coverage for property damage. This is known as 30/60/25 coverage.
Depending on the severity of the accident, a negligent driver’s insurance coverage may not be sufficient to fully compensate you for your injuries and damage to your vehicle. As such, it is important to determine whether other insurance is available to cover your injuries, such as personal injury protection, or PIP, or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. PIP coverage is an insurance product which covers medical bills and costs, but which also can cover lost wages and some non-medical costs. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is the insurance product which provides coverage in the instance where you are injured by a driver with either no insurance or with insufficient insurance to fully compensate you.
While insurance coverage may be available to make a claim against, often, either the insurance coverage available is inadequate to fully cover your injuries or the insurance company is improperly refusing to pay your claims, and it may be necessary to file a lawsuit in a Texas civil court. Once a lawsuit is filed, experts will be utilized to demonstrate to the jury the extent and amount of your personal injury and property damages. Once a lawsuit is filed, you can make a claim for past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering. The total amount or “value” of the claim is determined on a case-by-case basis by the jury; however, it is important to fully explore every avenue of recovery available under Texas law.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
After an accident, your attention is often diverted in many different directions: healing from your injuries, getting to medical appointments, filing insurance claims, trying to get back to work—the list goes on-and-on. To compound these frustrations, you will likely encounter insurance adjusters who want to get recorded statements and who keep sending you documents to review and sign. It can be overwhelming to say the least.
The insurance claim process, as well as Texas law governing car accidents, is complex. As stated previously, insurance companies have a financial interest in either denying claims or underpaying claims—all while convincing you they have your best interest at heart. In order to get one to undervalue their claim, in certain circumstances, an insurance company will offer a lump-sum payment shortly after the accident. The hope is that you will choose to accept this amount and fully settle your claims before you can fully understand the extent of your personal injury and property damages.
Before you accept any settlement offer from the insurance company, it is in your best interest to consult with a qualified personal injury lawyer. In doing so, a personal injury lawyer can assist you in understanding the relevant Texas law pertaining to your accident, as well as help you understand the full extent of your injuries.
How Long Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Take?
Once you have made the decision to hire a personal injury attorney, the process of investigating your claim begins. Whether it be consulting with medical experts or accident reconstruction experts, a thorough investigation into the accident and your injuries will be performed. During this time, the insurance company may reach out in an effort to settle the claim. If a pre-suit settlement is unable to be reached, the claim will then move to the civil justice system.
Lawsuits vary in duration. In most circumstances, courts will issue docket control orders or scheduling orders which set your matter for trial and set the relevant deadlines governing your case. In total, depending on the county in which your lawsuit is filed in Texas, the process can range from 18 to 24 months. While this may seem like a long time and you may know somebody who hired a lawyer who got a quicker settlement, it is imperative to avoid law firms that do not fully investigate your claims.
While unsavory, some car accident law firms operate as a volume practice, meaning they focus on obtaining a large number of settlements rather than quality settlements for their clients. These law firms may quickly obtain a settlement for their client, but they often leave “money on the table” by not wanting to file the lawsuit and trying the case.
How much does it Cost to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Most personal injury attorneys do not require clients to pay any up-front attorney’s fees or case expenses, nor do most attorneys require their clients to pay if there is no recovery. This is known as a contingency fee agreement. Under a contingency fee agreement, one does not pay any hourly rate for the time their attorney works on their case. Instead, in the event of a recovery, the attorney receives a portion of the amount recovered on your behalf.
Benefits of Hiring Daniel & Associates to Handle Your Car Accident Claim
Not only is making the decision to hire a lawyer a difficult one, finding the right lawyer for you is also difficult. Given the length of time a car accident claim can take, it is important to hire a lawyer and law firm who understands your situation and treats you with respect and compassion. Additionally, it is important to find a lawyer who you can have an open line of communication with.
The attorneys at Daniel & Associates devote their entire practice to representing those who have been injured as a result of another’s negligence. Using their years of experience and knowledge of the law, our attorneys provide detail-oriented and aggressive representation for their clients. In doing so, our clients can rest assured that their claim is being given the time and attention necessary so they can focus on recovering for their injuries. Additionally, Daniel & Associates believes in creating a sense of community with our clients, and a large part of that is communication. During the process of filing your claim, we will be in contact with you to update you on your claim, as well as check-in on your recovery. The process of filing a claim or a lawsuit as a result of a car accident is a collaborative process between the client and the attorney, and our firm strives to build a relationship of mutual trust and understanding.
Please contact us at 713-999-6666 and let us know how we can help you, or send us your case information for a free evaluation here.