Houston Car Accident Lawyer
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Types of Car Accidents
- Causes of Car Accidents
- Common Injuries From Car Accidents
- Understanding Car Insurance
- Legal Rights of Car Accident Victims
- Steps To Take After a Car Accident
- How To Choose a Car Accident Lawyer
- Common Car Accident Lawsuits
- Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits
- Common Defenses Used in Car Accident Cases
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Car Accidents
- Contact a Houston Car Accident Lawyer
According to data from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), there were 66,988 car accidents in Houston in 2021. Of those, 312 were fatal accidents that caused 327 injuries, 1,394 were suspected serious injury accidents that caused 1,595 suspected serious injuries, 5,335 were suspected minor injury accidents that caused 7,231 suspected minor injuries, and 13,784 were possible injury accidents that could have caused 21,070 possible injuries.
The Houston Chronicle reported that traffic fatalities increased 14 percent statewide, but the increase was 20 percent in Houston alone.
TxDOT statistics also show that there are 3,493,246 registered motor vehicles in Harris County alone as well as 687,281 registered vehicles in Fort Bend County, 596,714 in Montgomery County, 345,874 in Brazoria County, 303,822 in Galveston County, and 58,654 in Waller County, meaning the Houston area is home to almost 5.5 million different motor vehicles. So many cars using roadways all over Houston only means that people are going to be more likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and it is important for people to take the proper steps when they are involved in car crashes.
Types of Car Accidents
No two car accidents are ever the same. There are a wide variety of possible crashes people could be involved in, and seven of the most common include:
1. Rear-end Collisions
A rear-end accident occurs when a motor vehicle crashes into the vehicle in front of it. The Washington Post reported that there are about 1.7 million rear-end accidents in the United States every year.
2. Head-on Collisions
The head-to-head crash is among the deadliest possible accidents because it involves the front ends of two cars colliding, often at high speed. A head-on collision involves two cars traveling in opposite directions and may be the result of one driver going the wrong way.
3. Side-impact Collisions
The side-impact crash involves one car striking the side of another vehicle. These accidents are more common at intersections and serious injuries often result for the occupants on the side that is struck.
4. T-bone Collisions
A T-bone accident is another collision in which one motor vehicle strikes the side of another. Fault is not always clear cut in these cases, so an attorney can become very important.
5. Rollover Accidents
A rollover accident involves a motor vehicle flipping over onto its side or roof. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the number of passenger vehicle occupants killed in rollover crashes increased by 6 percent since 1991.
6. Multi-vehicle Accidents
While many car accidents are limited to just two vehicles, it is not uncommon for an accident to possibly involve third, fourth, and additional other automobiles. Multiple parties will often mean multiple claims regarding liability, so it can be complex to determine fault in these cases.
7. Hit and Run Accidents
When a person leaves the scene of a motor vehicle accident in Texas, it is known as a hit and run. Texas Transportation Code § 550.021(c)(2) establishes that a person commits a second-degree felony when they leave the scene of an accident resulting in death, a third-degree felony when they leave the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, and punishable by five years in county jail and a fine of $5,000 for leaving the scene of an accident causing any other injury.
Causes of Car Accidents
There are many possible reasons why car accidents occur in Houston. Some of the most common causes of crashes often include, but are not limited to:
1. Distracted Driving
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 3,100 people were killed and approximately 424,000 suffered injuries in accidents involving a distracted driver during the most recent reporting year. The CDC also stated that one in every five people killed were parties outside of motor vehicles, meaning pedestrians, bicyclists, or other people outside of motor vehicles.
2. Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
In the Houston area, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) reports that Harris County saw 11,879 driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges in 2022 and 15,008 in 2021, Fort Bend County had 930 DWI charges in 2022 and 1,042 in 2021, Montgomery County had 2,487 DWI charges in 2022 and 2,504 in 2021, Brazoria County had 1,183 DWI charges in 2022 and 1,125 in 2021, Galveston County had 1,520 DWI charges in 2022 and 1,606 in 2021, and Waller County had 131 DWI charges in 2022 and 141 in 2021. Texas had more than 80,000 total DWI charges reported in 2022 and over 90,000 in 2021.
Many drivers all over Texas tend to violate the speed limit, but speeding can also be a common cause of accidents because people who are speeding cannot come to full stops in time to avoid collisions. It can be challenging to prove another driver was speeding, so a person in such a situation will want to be sure to retain legal counsel.
4. Poor Road Conditions
It is not out of the question for a road that is not well maintained to be part of the cause of a traffic accident. Potholes, missing signage, or shoulder drop-offs can all be common causes of crashes.
5. Aggressive Driving
NHTSA defines aggressive driving as occurring when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” Aggressive driving differs from road rage in that the latter involves attempted assault with a motor vehicle or other weapon.
6. Vehicle Malfunctions
Some motor vehicle can fail their owners at inopportune times, and certain kinds of car failures can cause motor vehicle accidents. When a part fails, then a manufacturer or mechanic may be liable for a crash.
Common Injuries From Car Accidents
People can suffer a wide range of injuries in car accidents. The severity of injuries will depend on multiple factors, but there are many injuries that can require intensive medical care, with examples including:
1. Broken Bones
Fractures are some of the most common kinds of car crash injuries. People could break various types of bones and suffer extreme hardships moving forward.
2. Head Injuries
Possible head injuries in a car accident could include concussions, closed head injuries, skull fractures, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). People need to be sure to get complete medical evaluations performed any time they strike their head in a car accident.
3. Neck and Back Injuries
Neck injuries may include broken or fractured necks, ruptured discs, herniated discs, nerve compression, or radiculopathy. Back injuries can include herniated or bulging discs, sprains and strains, lumbar spine or lower back injuries, fractured vertebrae, herniated discs, thoracic spine injuries in the mid-back, chest, and rib area, cervical dislocation, cervical fractures, spondylolisthesis, muscle tension, cervical radiculopathy, and spinal stenosis.
Whiplash is a neck injury involving a forceful movement of the neck, often resulting from rear-end accidents. People who suffer these injuries can be dealing with limited ranges of motion and severe neck pain.
5. Internal Bleeding
Internal bleeding cases always require immediate medical care because the nature of the injury is often unknown to the person who suffered it. People should be aware of symptoms of internal bleeding such as increased heart rates, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, and others.
6. Psychological Injuries
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition involving some kind of terrifying event, such as a car crash. People dealing with PTSD or other mental issues after car accidents could be dealing with multiple complications in their lives.
Understanding Car Insurance
The unfortunate truth about most car accident cases is that they are often going to need to involve insurance companies, because insurers are often responsible for covering most of the motor vehicles involved in collisions. People need to exercise tremendous caution in their dealing with insurance companies.
1. Types of Car Insurance
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) notes that there are eight basic auto insurance coverages. They include liability coverage, collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, medical payments coverage, personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, towing and labor coverage, and rental reimbursement coverage.
2. Determining Coverage
The financial website MoneyGeek reports that state minimum liability insurance of a minimum of $30,000 coverage for injuries per person, up to $60,000 total per accident, and $25,000 of coverage for property damage in Texas costs approximately $558 a month. A 100/300/100 policy that is $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident in bodily injury liability, and $100,000 per accident in property damage liability will cost $1,275 a month.
3. Understanding Exclusions
People should be aware of all exclusions in their automobile insurance policy, with exclusions being the instances under which coverage is not provided. Common kinds of exclusions include people causing damage to their own vehicles or being involved in accidents while performing deliveries or rideshare services.
4. Understanding Policy Limits
Most automobile insurance policies are written out as three numbers that indicate the maximum amount of coverage that will be provided. The state minimum for coverage is expressed as a 30/60/25 policy.
5. Filing a Claim
People should always be in contact with their own insurance companies and any claims filed with a person’s own insurer will be a first-party claim, but many people have to file third-party claims with the insurance companies for other drivers. It is important for people to know deadlines applicable to their claim as well as what supporting documentation will be required.
6. Understanding Premiums
Insurance premiums are simply the amounts people pay for their automobile insurance policy. Many people are concerned that being involved in an accident will result in an increase in their premiums, but a lawyer may be able to help a person avoid this consequence.
Legal Rights of Car Accident Victims
All people who are involved in car accidents will have certain rights. Some of the most common rights that people will exercise include:
1. Right to Seek Compensation
People are right to believe that they can be entitled to financial compensation for all of the costs they are now facing because of their crash. Compensation can also be awarded for many of the types of psychological harm as well.
2. Right to Sue the At-Fault Driver
Most car accidents result in settlement negotiations with insurance companies, but people will always have the right to try and take a case to court when the negotiations are unproductive. A lawsuit can name a negligent driver as being responsible for an accident and injuries.
3. Right to Receive Medical Treatment
People who are hurt at the scenes of car accidents can be taken to a hospital to obtain necessary treatment for their injuries. Medical bills are typically one of the most common kinds of damages people seek in these cases.
4. Right to File a Personal Injury Claim
Any time a person suffers any kind of injury in a car accident, they will have a personal injury case. People should always seek legal representation for assistance navigating the legal process in these cases.
5. Right to File a Wrongful Death Claim
If a person dies because of another party’s negligence, it can result in the family of the deceased filing a wrongful death action. Wrongful death awards compensate families for the financial losses they are experiencing because of a loved one’s death.
6. Right to Sue for Property Damage
Many car accidents clearly cause visible damage to the vehicles involved in a wreck. People are right to seek compensation that will cover the costs of repairing their cars.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
It will be important for every person involved in any car accident to be sure they take certain steps following their crash. Many of the things people do at the scenes of car accidents will help their cases later on, and you will want to be sure you do all of the following:
1. Check for Injuries
Always look to see if you or any of your passengers are hurt. Seek medical attention when there is an injury.
2. Call the Police
Always call 911 after any accident. You are going to want to be sure you report the collision to a local police department.
3. Exchange Information with Other Drivers
Get the other driver’s name, insurance information, address, and phone number. You can also ask them for their driver’s license.
4. Document the Scene
Always try to take photographs or videos of your crash. Get pictures from various angles and distances.
5. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
You can feel comfortable reporting your accident to your own insurance company, but avoid contacting any other insurance company until you have legal counsel. Your insurance company may require you to report your accident.
6. Seek Medical Treatment
Every single person involved in a car accident should always go to a hospital to have a complete evaluation performed on their condition. Remember that many injuries involve delayed symptoms, so many people do not realize how seriously they were hurt until much later.
How to Choose a Car Accident Lawyer
Picking an attorney to handle your car accident case is never easy, but you do not have to stress too much. Simply take the time to investigate your options and keep the following steps in mind:
1. Check Qualifications
People looking only for qualified lawyers can begin by searching the State Bar of Texas website. You should generally verify that an attorney is licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.
2. Understand Fees
Many car accident cases are going to be handled on a contingency fee basis, meaning a lawyer will only collect a portion of a settlement or jury award. The percentage can vary, so you should determine whether an attorney will be charging 20 percent, 25 percent, or possibly 40 percent.
3. Research Experience
You will want to know how much of their practice a lawyer has dedicated to car accidents. Feel free to ask about specific case examples to get a better understanding of their experience.
4. Determine Specialization
The American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Specialization accredits specialty certification programs for attorneys in particular fields of law offered by private organizations that certify lawyers as specialists. Civil practice advocacy and civil trial law are among the specializations offered by the ABA.
5. Ask for Referrals
Referrals often come from a firm’s past clients, but other lawyers can also be common sources for referrals. Some referrals could also come from other related areas to the law.
6. Schedule a Consultation
People will not know how an attorney can help them with their case until they take the time to sit down with them and explain everything that is happening. Most consultations are free, so you will not have to pay anything to discuss your case.
Common Car Accident Lawsuits
When a person has a legal action following a car accident, it could be based on many different elements. Some of the most common kinds of car accident actions tend to involve the following:
Another driver’s negligence is one of the most common kinds of injury claims. In most cases, negligence involves some kind of violation of the rules of the road.
2. Product Liability
People could seek compensation from manufacturers when defective parts play a role in their crashes. A product liability action argues that a manufacturer delivered a fault product.
3. Wrongful Death
Wrongful death cases are filed by the family members of deceased people. Surviving spouses, children, and parents of a deceased person are customarily the parties allowed to file wrongful death actions.
4. Personal Injury
A personal injury case will involve a person seeking compensation for the injuries they suffered in a car accident. A person will usually argue that another driver’s actions caused their injuries.
5. Property Damage
Damage to motor vehicles is a frequent outcome of most accidents, and people are right to seek coverage for the cost of repairs. Some cases can also result in cars being totaled, which can be a more expensive resolution in some cases.
6. Dram Shop Liability
The Texas Dram Shop Act in Chapter 2 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code establishes that people can seek compensation from merchants who overserved patrons that later caused motor vehicle accidents. The dram shop law does not apply to private parties, so Texas does not have a social host law.
Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits
The statute of limitations is the time limit a person has to file a legal action following a car accident. It is important to keep these figures in mind because they impact how long you have to take action, and important things to keep in mind include:
1. Statutes by State
Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code § 16.003 establishes a two-year time limit for people to file personal injury claims. According to Forbes, 24 other states also have two-year time limits with North Dakota and Maine giving people up to six years while Louisiana and Tennessee only give people one year.
2. Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Texas does provide a notable exception to the statute of limitations in product liability actions, as those cases need to be commenced within 15 years of the date of a purchase. When an injury victim is a child, their two-year time limit does not begin to run until they turn 18 years of age.
3. Calculating the Statute of Limitations
The general rule for all car accidents is that the date of a claim begins on the date of an accident, so your statute of limitations begins running as soon as a crash occurs. The discovery rule in personal injury cases allows people to begin the limitations period on the dates they discover injuries that were not immediately apparent, but such cases will be more difficult to prove in connection to car accidents.
4. Understanding Discovery Rules
Discovery could involve obtaining sworn statements from witnesses, requesting parties to the case answer written questions, interviewing experts, and requesting documents or other records. Texas does impose limits on discovery requests.
5. Filing a Lawsuit before the Statute of Limitations Expires
People will need to keep the statute of limitations in mind because it directly affects when a person should file a lawsuit in their case. It will generally be wisest for people to file as the deadline is approaching so they do not miss their opportunity.
6. Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
Tolling the statute of limitations means that the time period under which an action must be filed will be delayed. The most common reason for tolling is when an injury victim is a minor, but the statute of limitations may also be tolled when an injury victim is currently disabled or the negligent party has fled the state.
Common Defenses Used in Car Accident Cases
People who are accused of causing car accidents are very likely to try and defend themselves. Some of the more common defenses could include:
1. Contributory Negligence
Contributory negligence is the legal theory under which no person can recover any kind of damages when they are even partially at fault. The only four states in the nation that recognize contributory negligence are Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.
2. Assumption of Risk
Assumption is a kind of affirmative defense in which a person claims that another party assumed a certain risk and consented to the known risk, meaning they knew there was a risk of injury. If a person engages in a race with another motor vehicle and causes an accident, this would be an assumption of risk.
3. Comparative Negligence
Unlike contributory negligence, comparative negligence can be either pure or modified. Pure comparative negligence states allow people to recover damages minus their percentage of responsibility while modified comparative negligence states also reduce awards by percentage of responsibility but may limit payouts to only people who were less than 50 or 51 percent responsible.
4. Statute of Limitations
One very easy way for a negligent party to avoid legal action is to simply claim that a lawsuit was not filed in time. When a person is seeking compensation after the statute of limitations expires, the case will likely be thrown out.
5. Lack of Evidence
While one driver may claim another driver was at fault, they may have no direct evidence to back their claim. The end result can be competing versions of events in which neither party can obtain compensation from the other.
6. Failure to Mitigate Damages
A failure to mitigate damages claim is another affirmative defense in which a negligent party may admit to fault but claims that a person did not take adequate steps to minimize their losses. Common examples of failures to mitigate damages in a car accident case can be people not getting medical attention after accidents, people not following doctor’s orders, or people not moving cars to the side of the road after an accident.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Houston Car Accident Lawyer
If you suffered catastrophic injuries or your loved one was killed in any kind of car accident in the greater Houston area, do not wait another moment to get help with your injury claim. The Patel Firm makes its attorneys available to our clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we work tirelessly to help people recover all of the compensation they are entitled to in these cases.
Our firm has recovered millions of dollars for our clients and we have won numerous awards for our legal representation. You can call (713) 539-1115 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our Houston car accident lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Car Accidents
What kind of experience should I look for in a Houston car accident lawyer?
People who are seeking experienced car accident attorneys should be sure to get information about a lawyer’s previous cases to get a better idea of what types of accidents they typically handle. You will be wanting to work with someone who has a track record of handling car accident cases.
What should I do if I am injured in a car accident in Houston?
We again refer you to the steps to take after a car accident above. The simplest steps to remember are to always call 911 and seek medical attention, regardless of whether you think you were hurt.
What are the benefits of hiring a Houston car accident lawyer?
When you hire a car accident attorney, they are going to be able to immediately step and deal with insurance companies so you do not have to worry about trying to negotiate your own settlement. A lawyer could also be of assistance to you if you are experiencing any difficulty obtaining medical attention.
What types of damages can I recover after a car accident in Houston?
How long do I have to file a claim for a car accident in Houston?
People typically have only two years to file claims relating to car accidents in Houston. You want to get a lawyer involved as soon as possible because they will need time to investigate your case.
What should I do if my car accident claim is denied?
It is not uncommon for people to try and file their own claims only to see them being denied by insurance companies. You will want to be working with an experienced attorney who will know how to present the strongest possible case for damages.
When should you hire a personal injury lawyer?
People will want to seek legal representation as soon as possible after their car accidents. Delaying too long can run the risk of a lawyer declining to take a case when there is not enough time to properly investigate it.
How much can someone sue for a car accident in Texas?
Texas law provides that people involved in automobile accident are entitled to compensation for the value of their losses, meaning that there is no standard or average motor vehicle accident settlement amount. Every car accident claim needs to be examined on its own merits to determine appropriate compensation, which could be very high in some cases.
What happens after a car accident that isn’t your fault in Texas?
When a person knows that they were not at fault for a car accident in Texas, it is possible that the police report could indicate which driver was at fault. When there is any doubt about fault, a lawyer will again be beneficial in proving that another driver was to blame.
How long does it take for insurance to pay out after an accident in Texas?
An insurance company in Texas is generally required to pay a claim within five days of approving the claim. The major holdup in many claims is simply getting an insurer to approve a claim.
How long does an accident stay on your record in Texas?
Car accidents remain on a driver’s record for three to five years in Texas. Crashes may impact some people’s insurance rates.
How can I speed up my personal injury settlement?
You can accelerate the settlement process by working with an experienced car accident lawyer. When you hire an attorney, they are going to be able to move your case along at a much quicker pace than you would be able to yourself, and they will also know how to navigate any legal hurdles that might arise.
Contact Our Houston Car Accident Lawyer
Did you suffer severe injuries or was your loved one killed in any kind of car accident in the greater Houston area? The Patel Firm will fight for you when you call (713) 539-1115 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with our Houston car accident lawyer.