According to the Texas Department of Transportation, nearly 500,000 car accidents happen every year on Texas roads, and who determines the fault in those cases is a complex question. There are many aspects to consider, and many parties with different interests and versions of the accident.
A car accident can have life-changing consequences for the survivors and even result in wrongful death claims. If you or a loved one were involved in a car crash, you need to consult a personal injury attorney before even talking to the insurance companies.
These are some of the most asked questions about determining fault in an auto accident.
Can a Police Report Determine Fault in a Car Accident?
Police officers are usually the first responders to reach an accident location. They collect important evidence, question witnesses, and take pictures and recordings of the scene. When drivers appear to be intoxicated, police officers can also perform sobriety tests and detain suspects.
However, there are some instances where police reports are incomplete or inaccurate. That happens, for instance, when one driver is taken to the hospital and cannot give their version of the incident right away.
While police reports can be heavy pieces of evidence, they can be challenged by an experienced attorney.
Can Insurance Companies Determine Fault in a Car Accident?
Auto insurance companies will assign an adjuster to collect evidence, evaluate police reports, and interview witnesses. It is important to contact your attorney if one of those adjusters wants to talk to you about the accident.
Some adjusters will try to get a statement from you, even if you don’t know you are being recorded. And whatever you say to them, they will try to use it against you.
Liability for most auto accidents is usually settled between the two drivers’ insurance companies. However, your attorney can appeal in court if you believe their liability report is wrong.
Are Texas Courts Allowed to Decide Car Accident Fault?
When settlement negotiations between insurance companies fail, one driver appeals the insurance report, or someone believes the settlement amount is unfair, the claim can get to Texas courts.
In court, either a jury or a judge will review the evidence and police reports, listen to the testimony of both sides, and decide who is responsible. Your attorney can still appeal this decision if it turns out to be unfavorable.
How Can a Court Determine Fault in a Car Accident?
A Texas court will examine the evidence and determine the level of responsibility each party has. To do so, they will consider three major elements:
- Duty of care: A motorist has a duty to uphold the rules of the road to protect the safety of other motorists and pedestrians.
- Breach of duty of care: In an auto coalition, a jury will try to find whose lack of care or attention caused the accident. That usually means the person who was speeding, reckless, or drunk driving.
- The cause in fact: In Texas, you also need to prove that said breach of the duty of care was the direct cause of the accident. At least 51% of responsibility should fall upon the other driver to pursue compensatory damages.
- The costs of the accident: After determining fault, the court will look at all the accident costs and determine the amount to be awarded.
Which Elements Can Determine a Fault Driver in a Car Crash?
Regarding auto accidents, Texas is an at-fault state. That means when an accident occurs, it is the responsibility of the parties involved to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company instead of their own. In at-fault states, victims must prove the other party’s liability.
Some of the elements your attorney will help you prove are:
- The responsible party had a duty of care
- Falling to honor that duty was what caused the accident
- The victim’s property and bodily damage are a direct result of the accident
Texas also follows modified comparative negligence, which means you can file a lawsuit claim even if you were partially responsible for the event. However, to claim damages, your lawyer must prove that the other driver was more than 51% at fault for the accident.
Can You Trust Insurance Adjusters’ Determination of Fault in a Car Accident?
Nobody is prepared to take part in a car accident. Things tend to happen so fast that it is hard to make sense of it all at first. Many insurance adjusters take advantage of these emotional moments to obtain questionable declarations or even to get signatures and recordings that later will be used to deny any compensation for the victims.
There are some things you can do to defend yourself from adjusters and insurance companies if you were the victim of a car accident:
- Be the one who calls law enforcement
- Take photographs and videos of the accident and the damages
- Identify witnesses and get their contact information
Some people choose to trust police reports. But sadly, police officers can also be biased. Some police reports can be misleading and present a version of the events that doesn’t help your claim.
In most car accident cases, insurance adjusters are who determines fault. But under special circumstances, car accident cases can even get to court.
Can a Car Accident Attorney Determine Fault?
If you were involved in a car accident, but the insurance company denied your claim, one of our Texas attorneys can help you challenge their decision and even take them to court. An experienced lawyer will consider your expenses, like hospital bills and vehicle repairs, but will also collect evidence and find key witnesses to support your claim.
Some of the evidence a lawyer can get includes:
- Detailed police reports
- Police photographs and evidence
- Medical reports to corroborate the severity of your injuries
There are some instances where determining liability will be relatively simple. For instance, when the responsible party drove recklessly or failed to obey traffic lights. But other cases—like a multiple vehicle coalition, or an 18-wheeler accident—will often turn out more complicated.
In any situation, your lawyer can mean the difference between a good settlement and no compensation at all.
How Are Insurance Negotiations Handled After a Car Accident?
When negotiating with insurance companies, the best thing to do is to have a lawyer by your side. They can help you prepare and present a strong claim. Most auto accidents will not get to a courtroom since most drivers and insurers prefer to agree on a settlement.
While at the negotiation table, you need to consider your medical bills and the medical expenses you will face in the future due to the accident. Your lawyer can consult experts in many fields to help you put the correct price to your claim.
On the rare occasion that all negotiations fail, your attorney can also represent you in court, where a judge or jury will review the evidence and determine who’s responsible. While you may have chances of getting a favorable verdict in court, this is not always the best option since these procedures can take months or even years.
What Is the Minimum Liability Insurance Drivers Must Carry in Texas?
According to the Texas Department of Insurance, all drivers are required to carry insurance that covers at least:
- $30,000 for personal bodily injuries
- $60,000 for bodily injuries per accident
- $25,000 to cover property damage
The cost of many medical conditions that can result from a car accident is way over those amounts only in the first year. So, even if the other driver had the minimum liability required by the state, you will need a lawyer if your medical bills are higher.
Who Will Pay for My Damages After a Car Accident in Texas?
An auto accident can be a life-changing situation. Our lawyers understand victims can go through complicated medical and financial situations after a car crash. We know it is not the best moment to mount a legal campaign.
However, you need to remember that your health and future well-being may depend on the compensation you get. Contact us today at the Buzbee Law Firm, and let our legal team take care of your car accident claim while you focus on your recovery.