A Car Accident Lawyer Helps Win Compensation
You generally should consider getting a lawyer after a car accident, even if you believe you were not at fault for causing it. Vehicle crashes happen quickly; there may be multiple parties involved; and in the aftermath, you may be left dazed and confused as to how the accident happened and what you should do. Another party may take advantage and say or do something that makes it seem as if the accident is your fault and not theirs, and the situation can get complicated quickly. An experienced lawyer knows how to keep you from making costly mistakes and will fight for the fair compensation you deserve.
If the accident was minor, with no one hurt and minimal damage to vehicles, you probably do not need a lawyer. However, if the accident caused property damage and injuries, it’s best to have a lawyer on your side. Police and insurance companies will conduct investigations, and your lawyer will investigate as well, to find the at-fault parties and the factors that contributed to the accident and make sure you are not blamed for something that was not your fault.
After a vehicle accident In Texas, it’s especially important not to be found at fault, because Texas uses what is called a tort liability system. This means the insurance carrier of the at-fault driver will be responsible for paying for damages. If you are found to have no fault for the accident, the other party’s insurance pays for costs, and you don’t have to file a claim with your own insurance company. This means you won’t pay a deductible and higher premiums in the future.
If the crash is a bad one, with major injuries and lots of property damage, insurance may not fully cover the costs involved. This means you may have to bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover the difference and pay for the damages you received. To win a lawsuit, your attorney would have to prove that the other party was negligent and at fault for the accident and therefore can be held liable.
Since no one wants to be held liable for damages, the chances are that the other party will retain a lawyer to fight these charges and claim that the accident was your fault or that you did something to contribute to the accident. If they are successful, you and your insurance company will be responsible for covering at least some of the costs of the damages from the accident.
That’s why it’s so important to have lawyer who knows how to fight for justice and the fair settlement you deserve. A lawyer can help you build a strong case to help win the financial recovery you need, and keep the other party from putting the blame on you.
What To Do After An Accident That Was Not Your Fault
What you do in the immediate aftermath of an accident that was not your fault can have a major effect on the outcome of any personal injury case. Texas has a system of contributory fault called proportionate responsibility to determine liability after an accident. Contributory fault assigns a percentage of fault to all parties who had a role in causing the accident. According to the law, (TX CPRC Title 2 Chapter 33), you may still collect damages if you were only partially at fault for the crash, as long as you are found to be less than 51% at fault, but your compensation is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. If you are zero percent at fault, the other driver is responsible for paying 100% of the damages.
For this reason, even if you did nothing to cause the accident (such as when another driver rear-ended you while you were stopped at a light), at-fault parties and their insurance companies will look to find a way to blame you for at least contributing to the accident. Your attorney is aware of this and will do everything possible to prevent this from happening.
Steps to Take After an Accident
If you take certain steps after an accident that was not your fault, it will greatly increase the chances that another party won’t be able to put the blame on you. If you are in condition to do so, take the following steps:
- If at all possible, move your vehicle to a safe location, like the side of the road.
- Call 911 if anyone is injured or there is substantial property damage, and make sure a police report is made.
- Take pictures of the crash scene, the damage to all vehicles and the other vehicles’ license plates.
- Exchange information with the other drivers, including names, addresses, phone numbers, insurance information, TDL numbers, license plate numbers, and vehicle makes and models.
- Be careful what you say. Never admit fault or say you’re sorry, even if you believe you bear some responsibility, as this will be used against you.
- Talk to witnesses, recording their comments and contact information. Get as much evidence as you can at the crash scene.
- Get medical care, even if you don’t think you are seriously injured, as some injuries take time to manifest. Visiting an emergency room or your primary care physician for an examination may bring your injuries to light and produce a record of them. Your doctor will also keep a detailed record, which can greatly help your case.
- Document your injuries, how they progress, and how they affect your life.
- Consult with a car accident attorney before you talk to the other driver’s insurance company.
Be aware that speaking to an insurance company may have a negative impact on your claim as they will try to get you to say something that they can use against you or to accept a settlement for less than it is worth. Tell the insurance company to speak to your attorney, and let the attorney negotiate and handle your claim.
How To Prove You Are Not At Fault In A Car Accident
Your Lawyer Must Prove Negligence
If there is any question about whether you were at fault, having a lawyer can mean the difference between being able to or not being able to recover damages. Your lawyer will determine who was acting negligently and who was at fault. Even if you believe you contributed to the accident, there may be underlying and unknown factors, such as defective brakes that failed or the other driver’s distracted driving or operating a vehicle while under the influence, and your lawyer will find this out.
To win your car case, your lawyer will look to show that another party, the defendant in the case, was negligent and at fault for causing the accident that injured you. Proving fault legally means showing the following legal elements:
- Duty: The defendant had a duty not to cause harm.
- Breach: The defendant breached this duty by actions or failure to act.
- Cause: This breach caused the accident that caused your injuries.
- Damages: You suffered damages as a result.
To prove that you were not at fault and that the other parties were negligent your attorney will:
- Investigate your case and gather evidence to determine fault, such as from photos, surveillance videos, medical records, police reports, and interviews with witnesses and first responders.
- Get testimony from experts who can reconstruct the accident and testify as to how it occurred, the harm you received, and how it affects your life and family
- File all necessary paperwork and correspond with insurance companies, negligent parties, and their attorneys.
- Conduct research of relevant laws and similar cases.
In cases where there may be more than one negligent party, your attorney would seek to identify them all and name them as defendants in the case, as they all may have insurance and assets that can go toward a settlement.
Damages Awards You May Receive
The term damages refers to the costs and injuries resulting from an accident and also to the award you may receive for your losses. In Texas, if you are less than 51% at fault, you can seek compensation for both your economic damages and your “non-economic” damages as follows:
Economic damages are for monetary costs which may include:
- medical and rehabilitative bills
- lost wages and earnings
- property damage
- costs of modifying a home or vehicle, such as for a wheelchair
- funeral costs in case of death.
Noneconomic damages cover damages that don’t have a specific monetary value, but negatively impact your life, such as:
- pain and suffering
- emotional mental anguish
- loss of companionship or consortium
Punitive damages – In some rare cases, punitive damages may also be awarded. These are intended to punish a defendant who acted in an especially reckless or egregious manner and to deter such behaviors in the future.
Amounts of Damage Awards
There are a wide range of damages amounts that may be awarded in an accident, from thousands to millions of dollars. Amounts you may receive depend on the costs incurred and factors such as the severity and permanence of injuries and the availability of insurance and assets of the defendants. The percentage of fault also plays a role. If you are found to be 20% at fault and the case is settled for $100,000, your portion of the settlement could be $80,000.
Even if your accident was not your fault, before you say anything to anyone, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law know the courts and the system and the tactics used by insurance companies to deny claims. Terry Bryant has been practicing law since 1985. He is a former judge and is Board Certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is ready to bring his wealth of knowledge and experience to your case, keep you from making costly mistakes, and fight for the optimum settlement possible. He and his handpicked legal team make sure that clients are treated fairly and fight for the compensation they deserve.
We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your car accident and determine the best way to move forward. There are no fees to you unless and until we win, so call us today at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000 to get started.