Brian White | June 27, 2021 | Car Accidents
Texas personal injury laws hold drivers financially accountable when they cause a car crash. Drivers must have minimum amounts of liability insurance to compensate victims when they cause a car accident.
Most car accident lawsuits are based on negligence claims.
To prove negligence, you must show that:
- The other party owed you a duty of care
- That party breached the duty of care
- The breach caused your car accident
- You sustained injuries and damages because of the car crash
If you cannot prove these basic elements, you cannot win your car accident lawsuit.
How Does Negligence Relate to a Car Accident Lawsuit?
A person is negligent when the person fails to exercise the same level of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation. “Reasonable” is a subjective standard. Jurors decide what a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances.
If the defendant’s conduct did not meet the “reasonable person” standard, the jury could find that the defendant is financially liable for your damages. However, you must also prove each of the other legal elements of a negligence claim to win your car accident lawsuit.
Did the Person Owe You a Duty of Care?
Drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws when they are operating a motor vehicle. That duty extends to everyone using the roadway. So, the duty of care is established by proving that the person was operating the motor vehicle at the time of the crash.
Did the Person Breach the Duty of Care?
The jury decides whether the defendant breached the duty of care. You must provide evidence proving the other driver’s conduct was not that of a reasonable person.
For example, say a driver was traveling 80 mph in a 45 mph zone. That would not be something a reasonable person would do. In most cases, a breach of duty places other people at risk of harm or injury.
Did the Other Driver Cause the Car Accident?
Traveling 80 mph in a 45 mph zone is not causation. It is a factor that could have contributed to the cause of the crash, but all drivers who speed do not cause speeding car accidents.
You must have evidence showing that the driver did something to cause the car accident. For instance, the driver failed to yield the right of way by running a stop sign. Another example might be a driver who is texting while driving and rear-ends another vehicle.
The driver’s breach of duty must be a direct and proximate cause of the accident.
Did You Sustain Injuries and Damages Caused by the Car Accident?
This last legal element is important. If you cannot show that the car accident caused your injuries, you cannot recover money for a personal injury claim. Also, you must show that you sustained damages because of the car accident and injuries.
Damages in a car crash case might include economic damages, such as lost wages and medical bills. It might also include non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, permanent impairments, and loss of quality of life.
Car Accidents Involving Negligence Per Se
Victims have the burden of proving negligence to win their car accident lawsuit. However, if someone breaks a law enacted to protect the general public, the burden to prove your case might be a little easier.
Negligence per se creates a rebuttable presumption that a person was negligent if they cause an injury while breaking a public interest law. The law must carry a criminal penalty, be enacted to protect the general public, and expressly forbid the defendant’s conduct.
An example of a law that protects the general public is the Texas drunk driving law. Prohibiting drunk drivers from operating motor vehicles protects the general public from DUI accidents.
A negligence per se action requires you to prove that you were injured, the other party violated a law, and the law was intended to prevent the type of accident that resulted in your injury. If you can prove all of the elements of a negligence per se action, it shifts the burden of proof to the defendant.
The defendant has the right to present evidence refuting your claims. Then, the jury would decide whether the facts support a claim of negligence per se or the defendant’s defenses to your claim.
Deadlines for Filing Car Accident Lawsuits in Texas
Car accident lawsuits must be filed within two years of the accident date, with very few exceptions. If the car crash involved a government vehicle, you have just a few months (as little as 90 days) to file a notice of claim with the government to protect your right to sue it.
Car accident cases can be complicated. Therefore, it is best to seek legal advice as quickly as possible after a car crash. Having a car accident attorney on your side can help you avoid mistakes that could hurt your case. It also protects you from bad faith insurance practice and aggressive insurance adjusters who want to pressure you to accept a low settlement offer.