Car Accident Laws
Texas is a fault car insurance state, which means that an at-fault driver can be held liable for any damages and injuries they cause in a car accident. Most people purchase liability insurance with at least the required minimum limits. Insurance companies must also offer optional uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, but drivers may decline to purchase it as a part of their insurance policy.
Minimum insurance requirements are:
- $30,000 for each injured person;
- $60,000 total for injuries per incident; and
- $25,000 for property damage.
However, the injured person can sue the at-fault driver for expenses beyond these minimums covered by insurance. If someone’s negligence caused your accident and your resulting injuries, you might recover compensation under car accident law. The definition of negligence is “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
Meeting the legal definition of negligence requires proving four elements about the defendant’s conduct:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty of care;
- The breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries;
- The plaintiff suffered injuries that a court can compensate for, known as “damages.”
To file a lawsuit, you have to file in the Texas civil court for the jurisdiction where the crash happened or where the defendant resides.
Possible Compensation in McAllen Car Accident Cases
If you have been injured in a car accident, you may have suffered enormous personal and financial losses.
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, you may seek compensation for:
- Medical expenses. Present and future medical expenses may include emergency care, hospitalization, tests, treatment, and any therapy or medications needed during the recovery period.
- Lost wages. You may receive compensation for any missed time at work while you recovered from your injuries.
- Pain and suffering. Many people suffer from emotional trauma after a serious car accident. You may receive compensation for anxiety, depression, or other similar injuries.
- Wrongful death. If a loved one is killed because of a car accident, family members can receive compensation for funeral costs, loss of companionship, loss of income, etc.
McAllen Car Accident FAQ
If you or a loved one were injured in a McAllen car accident, or elsewhere in the Rio Grande Valley, you have likely found yourself in the middle of a painful, stressful, and confusing time. Not only must you deal with your physical health, but you will also need to manage changes to your daily life, conversations with insurance companies, and repairs for your vehicle. All of this can seem especially unfair when you were not responsible for the accident.
Read on for answers to commonly asked questions after suffering injuries in a car accident.
How common are McAllen car accidents?
Car accidents occur far too often. In one recent year, there were more than 6.7 million car crashes in the United States. That same year, nearly 1.9 million individuals were injured in car accidents. More than 3,300 fatal crashes resulted in 3,642 deaths in Texas; 32 percent of motor vehicle fatalities were car occupants, and 33 percent were pickup truck and SUV occupants.
On average, more than 35,000 persons die from car accidents each year. Fatal crashes in Texas are split nearly evenly between rural and urban accidents. In a recent year, based on reportable crashes:
- One person died every two hours and 26 minutes;
- One person was injured every two minutes and three seconds; and
- One reportable crash happens every 56 seconds
Additionally, 12,897 serious injury crashes involved 15,843 individuals suffering from a serious injury. The city of McAllen reported six fatal car accidents with seven fatalities, 55 suspected serious crashes, and 64 suspected serious injuries. There were nearly 1,500 crashes that involved injuries and almost 3,000 total crashes in the city. These numbers are higher than the majority of other cities in Texas.
What are the most common causes of McAllen car accidents?
Car accident causes are most frequently documented as they relate to fatalities.
The most common causes of fatal car accidents are:
- Driving too fast for the conditions or speeding;
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or other regulated substance;
- Failure to stay in the lane;
- Failure to yield the right of way;
- Distracted driving;
- Careless or reckless driving; and
- Failure to obey traffic signals or signs;
The most common causes of traffic accidents in Texas are:
- Failure to control speed;
- Driver inattention;
- Disregard of stop signs or stop lights;
- Changing lanes when it is unsafe to do so;
- Failing to yield to a stop sign or when turning left;
- Failure to stay in a single lane; and
- Faulty evasive action.
How do you prove the defendant was responsible for a McAllen car accident?
Many of the most common accident causes involve a failure on the part of a driver. If you believe that another party was responsible for the accident, you will need to prove that they acted negligently or intentionally and that the negligent action was the cause of your injuries.
The most common responsible parties are:
- A negligent driver. If another driver acted negligently, they are likely responsible for your injuries and any damage to your property. Evidence of negligence includes violation of traffic rules and regulations, including some of the most common causes of accidents like speeding, driving under the influence, and distracted driving.
- A negligent driver’s employer. If a negligent employee is acting in the course of their employment, their employer could be responsible for their actions. Common employees involved in traffic accidents include delivery drivers and commercial truck drivers. It is often advantageous to pursue recovery from the employer as they have larger insurance policies and more liquidity than the driver themselves.
- Vehicle manufacturer. If a vehicle manufacturer failed to appropriately assemble or test a vehicle or part, they could be responsible for any injuries that occur due to that failure. Establishing that a vehicle failure was at fault for the crash requires extensive testing and the potential involvement of experts.
- Local government. It is the responsibility of the local government to maintain streets and traffic signals, including crosswalks, traffic lights, and stop signs. If the local government fails in this responsibility and this failure causes an accident, the local government could carry a degree of fault for the resulting injuries. It can be very difficult, however, to secure recovery from a governmental entity. An attorney could work with you to determine if recovery may be possible.
The more evidence you can compile of the other party’s negligence, the stronger your claim for recovery could become. It could also determine how seriously you should consider any settlement offer made by the defendant.
What is discovery?
Discovery is a phase of the trial that is very important for establishing evidence of negligence. Discovery allows parties to gather information from others involved in the accident.
The three main avenues for collecting information include:
- Depositions: Depositions are out-of-court oral testimony for witnesses or parties to a lawsuit. The lawyer for the opposing party conducts the deposition, but the deposed party’s attorney is generally present and able to object to questions. A deposition must follow the state’s procedural requirements, and the witnesses’ responses are often referenced later in court.
- Interrogatories: These are written questions, also called requests for further information, provided to the opposing party. All questions must be relevant to the issues in the lawsuit. Relevant questions for a car accident could include “How fast were you driving at the time of the accident?” or “Did you drink any alcohol on the day of the accident?” Interrogatories can be important in drawing out information important to the case.
- Document Production: Other parties may have documents in their possession that contain relevant information. A document production request may be required to gain access to these documents. Some documents are protected by a privilege, including attorney-client privilege and doctor-client privilege.
The other party would do their best to avoid responding to discovery requests and may request additional time, dragging out the trial process. An attorney could help you prepare compliant discovery requests, respond to objections, and reply to any discovery requests issued to you by the other party.
What should be included in a McAllen car accident damages claim?
Once you have established that another party may be responsible for your injuries, you will need to compile the financial impact of those injuries into a damages demand. It is important to include all injuries in your damages demand, as this number will affect any potential jury award or settlement offer.
Common damages recovered after a car accident injury include:
- Medical expenses: You may be able to recover all medical expenses associated with your injuries. This can include doctor’s bills, hospital stays, prescription medicine, ambulance rides, and long-term costs like physical therapy. Be sure to include anticipated future expenses. Input from a medical expert may be necessary.
- Lost wages and income: Injuries often necessitate the victim to miss work resulting in lost wages. If your ability to perform your job duties or to work full time moving forward is affected, you could also recover for these future losses. An economic expert would evaluate your future earning potential and the impact of your injuries on this number.
- Property damage: Very few cars make it out of an accident unscathed. If your vehicle, or any other property, suffered damage in the accident, be sure to include the costs of repair or replacement in your damages demand.
- Emotional distress: A car accident can be a jarring experience. As a result, long-term emotional effects such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression are common for victims to experience as a result of their car accident. While often difficult to quantify, you may be entitled to recover for these damages.
- Loss of enjoyment: Injuries often limit a victim’s ability to participate in activities they previously enjoyed. An athlete might find themselves unable to participate in a sport, or a gardener might not be able to bend over to tend to their flowers. An attorney could help you evaluate whether you have suffered from a loss that could entitle you to additional compensation.
- Punitive damages: Punitive damages, referred to in Texas as exemplary damages, may be awarded to a victim to punish the defendant for actions that constitute malice or gross negligence.
While many damages can be straightforward—like doctor’s bills—many others can be complicated and difficult to quantify. Work with an experienced attorney to coordinate with experts, if necessary, and to ensure all your injuries are included.
What steps should I take after a McAllen car accident?
First, tend to your own health and safety. Seek immediate medical attention even if you do not feel injured. Many injuries, especially internal injuries, can exist without presenting symptoms until they become much more serious. Additionally, failure to receive prompt medical treatment could limit your opportunity to recover medical costs associated with the injuries.
Once you have dealt with any medical concerns, you should take these steps to make your claim for recovery as strong as possible:
- File a police report. The police report can be an important evidentiary document in your case. The report would likely include photos of the accident scene, witness information and accounts, and citations issued for traffic violations.
- Stay organized. All the paperwork associated with your accident and pursuit of recovery will feel overwhelming. However, it is all incredibly important. Paperwork like medical bills, communications from insurance companies, and other similar documents could be important in building your case. Be sure to stay organized and keep copies of all relevant paperwork.
- Think before you speak. Be careful when speaking about the accident, especially to the media or when posting about the accident on social media. The defendant or their insurance company could use a simple statement against you. Imagine how the defendant could use a statement like “Well, I guess I could have gone a little slower.”
- Review before you sign. Be cautious about signing any paperwork before reviewing it thoroughly with our McAllen car accident lawyers. Hospitals, insurance companies, and other parties to the lawsuit will likely present paperwork to you. Some documents may request that you waive certain rights or agree to certain facts. An attorney could help you review all paperwork before you sign.
- Do not delay. You must bring a car accident lawsuit within two years of the injury. While this seems like a long time, significant work is required to research, prepare, and file a civil action. Be sure not to drag your feet in taking action, or you may miss your opportunity.
An attorney could help you manage your paperwork, deal with difficult conversations, and help you prepare to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out.
Should I accept a settlement offer?
It is very common for car accident lawsuits to settle before or during the trial. It can be tempting to accept an early settlement offer because settlements offer a quick and certain resolution to the matter, with immediate compensation. Be wary of accepting an early settlement offer because it might be much lower than you deserve. Any settlement offer should be considered based on the strength of your case and all of the evidence.
Work with an attorney to determine the settlement strategy for your case.
How long would a trial last?
Only a small percentage of cases end up at a jury verdict because trial results are difficult for either party to predict. In some cases, however, pursuing the trial to completion is the best strategy. This will depend on the strength of your case and the quality of the settlement offer proposed. If you proceed with a trial, the process can take awhile due to the need to compile your evidence, file relevant court documents, complete discovery, and file and respond to motions.
Going to trial, however, could result in you recovering far more compensation than a settlement.
Should you need to go to trial, we could help set reasonable expectations for the trial process and timeline, as well as the pros and cons of settling or proceeding with a lawsuit. Whichever way offers you the greatest advantage, we will strive to get you through the process as quickly as possible so you can move on with your recovery.
Working with an experienced attorney could be an excellent way to relieve the stress associated with the administrative and strategic decisions required after a McAllen car accident. If you have suffered car accident injuries in McAllen and the surrounding Rio Grande Valley, contact our car accident attorneys today for a free consultation.
Whether your auto accident was a minor fender-bender or a catastrophic head-on collision, the person or party who caused the incident may be obligated to cover your losses. The knowledgeable, skilled car accident attorneys at Patino & Associates are committed to helping car accident victims pursue the compensation they need in a variety of auto accident cases, including the following:
Between medical bills, lost wages, and property repair costs, damages from car accidents can easily total hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. If your accident was caused by someone else, you should not be forced to shoulder this burden without full, generous compensation from the party at fault.
Following a car crash, you may be traumatized and distressed.
However, if you can, take these steps to protect yourself and possibly make it easier to file a lawsuit in the future: