Learn how to handle a common Texas car accident
Rear-end accidents are the worst because most of the time, you do not know they are about to happen. Unless your eyes are fixed on the rear-view mirror, you will be taken by surprise.
These are the most common type of car accident, and even at a slower speed they can be devastating.
Even a 30 mile-per-hour crash can do a lot of damage. An accident at that speed is equal to 1.6 tons of force on a 160-pound person wearing a seatbelt. Without a seatbelt, the amount of force goes up to 12 tons of force.
You might think that liability is automatically placed on the offending driver (“He hit my car! He’s responsible for the accident!”), but Texas is a modified comparative fault state. This complicates the scenario.
What is modified comparative fault and how does it relate to my rear-end accident?
Modified comparative fault is also referred to as “proportionate fault.” This means that a jury will place percentages of responsibility on each party for their respective role in the accident.
Depending on where they occur, rear-end accidents do not place blame on the offending driver just because of the nature of the incident. You should consider mitigating factors. Were your brake lights working? Did you stop in the flow of traffic? Were you using turn signals? Ultimately, there must be a finding of fact in these cases: Was the other driver’s negligence a proximate cause of your accident? (“Proximate cause” is also known as the legal cause of an accident. In other words, but for the defendant’s actions, would the accident have occurred? Was it legally foreseeable?)
Additionally, if your degree of fault is found to be more than 50%, you will not recover any damages in a rear end collision settlement. This is another important aspect of proportionate fault.
Surprisingly, the Texas Department of Transportation does not keep records on how many rear-end accidents there are on an annual basis. There are approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions each year on a national basis. The National Transportation Safety Board has made recommendations for cars to include collision-avoidance systems, which would reduce that number of accidents by 80%.
What should I do if I’m in a rear-end collision?
You can do your part to reduce the number of rear-end collisions. These accidents happen frequently in Texas; in this story on the home page of a Houston news site, a Houston police officer was rear-ended while on the job, resulting in injuries.
Stay vigilant while driving, and check your rear-view mirror as often as you can. If someone drives too close, you can attempt to switch lanes or move out of the way. Use your turn signals, make sure your brake lights are operational and drive defensively. This way, nobody can fault you if you are rear-ended.
Texas law requires that if a collision results in bodily injury, death or more than $1,000 in property damage, a crash report should be written and the accident reported to police within 10 days of the accident. This will help to provide proper ammunition with an insurance company, if necessary.
After an accident, first make sure that everyone is physically sound and get your car out of the flow of traffic if you can. Call the police and give as accurate a statement as possible — but make sure not to say anything like “I’m sorry,” even if you feel like the entire accident is your fault. Your words can be used against you later.
See a doctor as soon after the incident as practicable, since you do not want a gap in treatment that the insurance company can use as a defense. Also, call your insurance company to report the accident. Do not provide a written or recorded statement until you speak with a personal injury attorney.
After that, if there is significant loss (medical bills, lost wages, property damage, etc.), it might be time to think about suing for damages.
When to speak with a car accident lawyer
If your car is totaled or your bills are mounting, you might want to think about pursuing a claim. You should start the legal process as soon as possible and leave nothing to chance. Texas gives you two years to file an accident for personal injury, but that does not mean you should procrastinate until the very end of that second year. Contact us today if you need a Texas attorney to help you with your rear-end car accident claim.