Brian White | January 3, 2019 | Auto Accidents
Hiring an attorney after any type of car accident is a good idea, regardless of who was at fault. It may be difficult to prove fault in some accidents when both parties are partially to blame, and an attorney can help navigate complex car accident claims for a party on either side of the table. An injured victim without representation may undervalue the claim and end up with less compensation than an attorney could secure. An at-fault driver will want to hire an attorney to minimize his or her liability and potentially prove the plaintiff’s fault in the matter.
What is Comparative Negligence in Houston Car Accidents?
Texas is one of many states that follow comparative negligence laws. These laws allow plaintiffs to recover damages after car accidents even if they were partially to blame for causing those accidents. Texas law stipulates that a plaintiff receives compensation diminished in proportion to his or her fault percentage, so long as his or her fault does not exceed the fault of the defendant or defendants in the claim.
Imagine a driver suffers about $10,000 in damages from a car accident with a driver who ran a red light and files a lawsuit against that driver, but the injured driver was speeding through the intersection where the accident occurred. In this situation, the driver who ran the red light would be clearly more responsible for the accident, but the fact that the plaintiff was speeding may lead the jury to assign a fault percentage to the plaintiff. If the jury finds the plaintiff 25% at fault, he or she would still be able to secure compensation for the claim, but the case award reduces by 25%, for a net total of $7,500 instead.
Does Comparative Negligence Still Matter With Multiple Defendants?
When a plaintiff faces multiple defendants in a lawsuit, the comparative negligence statute will still apply; the plaintiff’s fault percentage may not exceed the combined fault of the defendants. If the jury deems one defendant 25% at fault and the other 25% at fault, then the plaintiff’s fault would not exceed their combined fault and the plaintiff would qualify to receive 50% of the claim value.
Proving Fault in a Car Accident Claim
A car accident can happen extremely quickly, and it may be difficult to determine fault immediately after an accident. If a driver suffers severe injuries and requires ambulance transportation, it is unlikely he or she will be able to secure any evidence immediately after the crash, such as the other drivers’ contact information and insurance details or pictures of the damage. The police will conduct a preliminary investigation and include their findings in a police report and then clean the accident scene to restore the flow of traffic. This means a plaintiff could potentially lose valuable physical evidence.
Whenever possible, gather as much information as you can from the scene immediately following the accident. Take photos of your injuries, the damage to your vehicle, the positions of the vehicles involved in the crash in the road, nearby landmarks, and debris in the road. These photos will be very valuable to your legal claim after the police clean the accident site.
Hiring an attorney as soon as possible following your car accident is another wise choice. A lawyer can help you find other evidence that can help establish fault for the accident. For example, if a traffic camera recorded the intersection where an accident occurred, your attorney could subpoena the traffic camera footage for use in the trial. Your attorney will likely also interview any witnesses who saw the crash and help corroborate your version of events. Ultimately, hiring a lawyer after a car accident is always a good decision, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.