How an Attorney Can Help You in Your Austin Car Accident Case
If you were injured in a car accident in Austin due to the recklessness or negligence of another driver, defective auto parts, or poor road design, you likely are facing significant stress while trying to recover from your injuries and deal with the financial loss that is involved with car accidents. You may qualify for compensation. Here are the ways that an experienced Austin car accident lawyer can help you with your car accident case.
One of the many services that an attorney can provide for your case is skilled negotiation. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and one of the ways they do that is by convincing car accident victims to quickly accept a low settlement offer that does not properly reflect the true cost of your damages. An experienced attorney will negotiate with the insurance carrier in order to obtain a fair settlement on your behalf.
Complex Legal Process
Attorneys spend many years learning about the legal process and training to properly represent their clients. The legal process of proving a personal injury case is not only complex and time-consuming, but it is also fraught with required filings and deadlines. Here are some of the things that go into that process:
- Obtaining evidence of your injuries. This means ensuring that all of the necessary medical records for proving the value of your damages are in order, which requires communicating with your health care provider, following the procedures for medical records requests, and following up on all requests.
- Investigating the facts of the case, which often involves visiting the accident scene and interviewing witnesses, as well as consulting with experts in the areas of accident reconstruction, medical providers with specific experience in your type of injury, and others.
- Paying attention to deadlines and procedure. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury case in Texas is two years from the time of your injury. This means that if the at-fault party’s insurer fails to offer you a fair settlement, there is only limited time to file the case in court. Along with filing the case, there are a number of procedural rules to follow. If the correct procedure is not followed, your ability to obtain compensation may be reduced or eliminated completely. Your attorney knows the rules for filing a case properly.
- Determining liability. Because Texas uses a modified comparative fault rule, you can claim damages only if you were less than 50 percent responsible for your accident. If you are found to be at all at-fault for your accident, it will reduce the award you receive by the percentage that you were at fault. Your attorney will look at the amount of fault you have, as well as all other parties who could be potentially found liable. It is possible to recover damages from more than one liable individual or entity, so your attorney can investigate to ensure that all sources of liability are revealed.
- Presenting your case aggressively and efficiently to obtain fair compensation for your injuries.
Determining the Value of Your Case
In Texas, you are allowed to recover three different types of damages:
- Economic damages: These types of damages include medical bills, lost wages, loss of future wages or earning ability, and property damage to your car. This is the easier type of damages to prove, as there is ready documentation in the form of bills, proof of the wages you lost from missing work, documentation involving your ability to continue working or return to work at the job you had before the accident, and car repair bills.
- Non-economic damages: These damages include compensation for things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and disfigurement. Although these damages all relate to how an accident caused harm to one’s ordinary life, they’re also harder to place a monetary value on. In addition, Texas places a cap on the amount of money you can receive for non-economic damages. The cap is $250,000 for pain and suffering in Austin car accident cases. If the state is a defendant in your case—if your accident was caused by poor road design on a state highway, for example—the pain and suffering cap is $100,000.
- Punitive, or exemplary, damages: These damages are reserved for particularly reckless or negligent behavior, in order to punish the at-fault party.
Accessing All Insurance Resources
As previously stated, there may be more than one individual or entity that is liable for your case. This means that there may be more than one source of insurance to pursue in order to obtain maximum compensation for you. An experienced attorney will know to examine all potential liability and the insurance coverage of all who may be at-fault.
Examples of multiple insurance resources include:
- Cases where there is fault with another driver as well as defective road design that contributed to the accident. The insurance carriers that a claim could be filed with or a case could be filed against include the personal car insurance of the at-fault driver as well as the insurance carrier of the state or municipality responsible for the defective road design.
- Cases where another driver caused the accident, but the accident was made worse by your own faulty brakes. Claims could be filed with or against the insurance carrier of the other driver, as well as the manufacturer of your brakes or even the car service shop who sold or installed them on your car.
- Cases where you have 50 percent liability in the accident, as does the driver of another car. Claims can be filed with or against the other driver’s insurance company, as well as your own insurance company.
Post-Settlement or Post-Trial Issues
The services of your personal injury attorney don’t necessarily stop once you have accepted a settlement or received an award in court. If the defendant in your case decides to file an appeal, your attorney will need to present your case again. You may also need your attorney if you wish to appeal the jury’s decision in your case. Additionally, your attorney can help to ensure that you receive your settlement funds, assist in settling liens that you may have against your funds, and also help you to understand how your award may affect you during tax time.
Common Causes of Austin Car Accidents
According to a report from the Texas Department of Transportation, there is a reportable car crash somewhere in the state every single minute. An Austin car accident can occur for many reasons; here is a look at a few of the causes.
Speeding resulted in the highest number of car crashes in Texas in 2017—the most recent year of compiled statistics. This category includes not only driving over the speed limit, but also driving too fast for the conditions.
- Failure to control speed was listed as the most common contributing factor for car crashes in urban areas, and was involved in 107,647 crashes during the year, including 320 fatal crashes and nearly 2,000 suspected serious accidents. It was also a top cause for accidents in rural areas, with 31,484 crashes.
- Driving over the speed limit contributed to 2,601 crashes statewide, including 759 rural car accidents, and 1,842 accidents in urban areas.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that speeding is a factor in around 30 percent of traffic accidents each year and that speeding-related crashes result in an annual economic cost to society of about $40.4 billion.
Another common cause of car accidents in Texas and beyond is driver inattention. Driver inattention can be explained as anything that takes a driver’s primary focus away from driving. Some examples of driver inattention include:
- Cell phone use
- Talking to other passengers
- Adjusting vehicle controls, such as air conditioning or wipers
- Eating or drinking
- Looking at accidents on the roadway, which may result in a chain-reaction collision
- Looking at other distractions outside of the vehicle
Driver inattention can be visual, meaning it causes you to take your eyes off the road; physical, meaning it causes you to take your hands off the steering wheel; or cognitive, meaning it pulls your mind away from the task of driving. In Texas in 2017, driver inattention contributed to more than 89,000 crashes, including nearly 300 fatal crashes and more than 2,000 serious injury accidents.
Failure to Stop
Traffic control devices, including red lights and stop signs, are meant to keep people safe on roadways. However, when drivers fail to heed these devices, disastrous consequences can occur. According to a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
- One-third of all crashes in the United States that take place in an intersection involve intersections controlled by stop signs.
- Two-thirds of these crashes involve individuals who state that they did stop at the stop sign.
- A study found that drivers often do stop at stop signs, but fail to see another car coming.
- The reasons drivers are unable to see other cars approaching at the intersection include obstructions such as parked vehicles or shrubbery, poor design features such as a sharp corner.
- Twelve percent of the crashes that were studied involved drivers not stopping at all for the stop sign. These crashes are more likely to occur at night and are more likely to result in injury.
- Older drivers, due to age-related visual impairments, and younger drivers, due to distractions and inexperience, are at a higher risk of failing to stop for stop signs.
Red light and stop sign accidents often have more than one contributing factor. Other factors that we often see in these types of accidents include:
- Distractions such as texting that cause a driver to run the red light.
- Failing to recognize that the light is changing.
- Speeding to make it through the light.
Failing to stop at a red light or a stop sign was a contributing factor in 11,782 accidents in Texas in 2017.
If an individual has vehicle parts that are worn out or defective, it can be a contributing factor in accidents. In fact, according to TDOT’s 2017 annual traffic report, 2,862 accidents were caused due to vehicles having defective or no brakes. Other vehicle defects that contribute accidents include:
- Brake lights
- Turn signals
- Trailer brakes
- Steering mechanism
- Trailer hitch
Unsafe Lane Change
Another common cause of accidents is an unsafe lane change. Unsafe lane changes occur when a motorist changes lanes and collides with another vehicle that is already in that lane. This often happens when a driver fails to signal before changes lanes, fails to look for other vehicles in its path, misjudges the distance or speed of another vehicle in the lane he or she is changing to, or two cars merge into the lane simultaneously. Unsafe lane change is the leading cause of sideswipe accidents. In Texas in 2017, 37,439 accidents were at least partially caused by unsafe lane changes, including 55 fatal accidents and 447 serious injury crashes.
Cell Phone Use
Cell phones have caused serious traffic issues in recent years as more drivers use them and become distracted by them. Cell phones may provide visual, physical, and cognitive distractions as drivers are looking at their screens, taking their hands off the wheel to hold them, and causing drivers to think about more than just driving. TDOT shows the following cell phone statistics, as related to a year’s worth of traffic accidents:
- Texting was a contributing factor in 965 traffic accidents, including 24 fatal crashes.
- Nearly as dangerous was talking on the phone, which was a contributing factor in 818 crashes, including 16 fatal.
- Cell phone use not otherwise defined contributed to more than 1,700 crashes statewide.
In 2017, Texas made it illegal to use your cell phone for texting or reading or responding to email while driving. Additionally, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communication devices while driving for any reason.
Drunk or Drugged Driving
A driver under the influence of alcohol caused or contributed to 13,847 accidents in Texas. Another 3,108 accidents had driving under the influence of a drug as a contributing factor. DUI crashes in the state caused the deaths of 50 pedestrians and bicyclists in 2017, along with 137 passengers in vehicles driven by the DUI driver. 159 passengers of other vehicles were killed by drunk drivers. 678 DUI drivers died in accidents during the year. 396 accidents in 2017 were contributed to by the driver’s use of prescription medication.
Following Too Closely
Following too closely, also known as tailgating, is a major contributing factor in rear-end crashes, as the front vehicle may come to an unexpected stop, and the driver in the rear vehicle may not have enough time to also stop. Additionally, tailgating might cause the driver in the front vehicle to drive erratically or to become enraged, further increasing the risk of an accident. Nearly 25,000 accidents were caused by following too closely in Texas in 2017, including 16 fatal accidents and 363 serious injury accidents.
Types of Austin Car Accidents
Traffic has increased in Austin and all of Texas. In fact, motorists in the state are now logging in nearly 275 billion vehicle miles per year. Based on information provided by the Texas Department of Transportation, one person is killed in a traffic crash in the state every 2 hours and 21 minutes. Every 2 minutes and 4 seconds, someone is injured. Every minute of the day, there is a reportable traffic crash. In the entire year of 2017, there were no days that did not include a traffic fatality. Here is an overview of the types of car accidents people may get into in Austin.
Single Car Accidents
A single car accident is one that causes damage to only one vehicle. Single vehicle, run off the road accidents accounted for more than 1,300 traffic fatalities in the state in 2017. While many of these accidents were the result of driver error, road conditions, including construction zones, road design defects, and defective auto parts may also cause a single car accident. In addition, single car accidents may be caused when the driver is attempting to avoid an accident with another vehicle.
In 2017, there were reportedly 27,184 crashes in construction zones, resulting in 202 fatalities and thousands of injuries.
Two Car or Multi-Car Accidents
Two car, or multiple-car (chain reaction), accidents can happen in a number of ways and can result in various injuries to the drivers. Here are some of the common types of accidents involving more than one vehicle:
- Rear-end collisions: When one vehicle crashes into the back of another. Neck injuries, including whiplash, are common to the driver and passengers in the front vehicle of rear-end collisions due to the violent back and forth motion of the neck.
- Sideswipe accidents: When two vehicles are traveling side by side in the same direction and the right side of one vehicle collides or scrapes with the left side of the other vehicle. The common cause of sideswipe accidents is one vehicle leaving the lane it is traveling in when it is not safe to do so. These types of collisions are dangerous because often neither driver is aware that an accident is about to occur and unable to avoid the crash.
- T-bone or side impact collisions: These collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the broadside of another. They may happen due to a number of different situations, and either driver may be at fault. T-bone collisions often take place at intersections, if one vehicle runs a red light. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that there were 761 people killed in accidents in the intersection or involving the intersection in 2017.
- Head-on collisions: When the front of one vehicle crashes into the front of another vehicle while the vehicles are traveling in opposite directions, it is called a head-on collision. Severe injuries or even death are not uncommon with this type of crash, due to the force of the impact and often high speeds involved. Head-on collisions resulted in the deaths of 552 people in Texas in 2017.
- Chain reaction collisions: The most common type of chain reaction vehicle occurs when one vehicle rear-ends another and causes the front vehicle to rear-end the vehicle in front of it. Other chain reaction crashes may happen when drivers, looking at or trying to avoid an accident that has already taken place cause another accident in close proximity.
- Hit and run collisions: These accidents occur when the driver of a vehicle causes an accident either with a parked or moving car and leaves the scene of the accident without reporting it or exchanging information with the other vehicle’s owner.
In 2017, statewide, there were 35,635 crashes that involved commercial motor vehicles, including big rig trucks. 512 of those crashes resulted in a fatality. Accidents involving semi-trucks are particularly dangerous to other drivers, due to the large size of the truck and the weight of the cargo it is carrying. Many of these accidents are the fault of a passenger vehicle. However, they can also be caused by the truck driver, the drivers of other vehicles in the area, defective truck parts or lack of maintenance on the truck, road conditions, road design defects, or work zones.
501 motorcyclists or motorcycle passengers were killed on Texas roadways in 2017, and more than half of them weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. When compared to car accidents, motorcycle accidents are more likely to produce fatalities or serious injuries because of a number of factors, including:
- No protective features such as airbags or seatbelts.
- Less visibility to other vehicles due to their smaller size.
- Less stability with braking and swerving, because of only having two wheels instead of four. This causes additional problems with wheel wobbling at high speeds.
- Things in the roadway, such as debris, uneven pavement, or wet pavement pose a higher accident risk for motorcyclists than for four-wheeled passenger cars.
The state saw 614 fatalities to pedestrians due to accidents involving motor vehicles in 2017, and thousands more were injured. While the number of fatalities was 9 percent less than the year before, these accidents can and do happen and cause injury or death regularly. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control:
- Pedestrians over the age of 65 account for about 19 percent of all pedestrian fatalities and about 13 percent of all pedestrian injuries.
- One in five children under the age of 15 who was killed in traffic crashes were a pedestrian at the time of the crash.
- Nearly half of all crashes involving a pedestrian also involve the use of alcohol by either the driver of the motor vehicle or the pedestrian.
- Most pedestrian crashes occur in urban locations, not in the intersection, and they generally happen at night.
- Higher vehicle speeds increase the chances of a pedestrian being struck and also the severity of the injury that the pedestrian suffers.
There were 57 fatal bicycle crashes in one year in Texas, and another 329 serious crashes involving bicycles. According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, motor vehicle crashes involving bicycles comprise just over two percent of the total number of people killed or injured in traffic accidents. However, it is estimated that only about 10 percent of bicycle crashes are ever reported to police. The National Safety Council estimates that the annual total cost of bicycle injuries and deaths is at about $4 billion per year. The average age of a bicyclist killed in a crash with a motor vehicle is 45, and 88 percent of bicycle crash fatalities are male while 71 percent of the crashes happen in urban areas.
Types of Injuries from Austin Car Accidents
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that motor vehicle crashes are most commonly responsible for deaths during the first three decades of an American’s life. In 2015, according to the CDC, approximately 96 people a day were fatally injured due to vehicle crashes. The Center adds that over 2.3 million individuals are sent to hospital emergency departments because of motor vehicle accidents annually. Even though motor vehicle crash deaths have decreased since 2005, the number of traffic-related fatalities in 2015 increased to 35,092, which is the most deaths since 2008.
Common Austin Car Accident Accident Injuries
An Austin car accident is always traumatic for those involved. But when an injury occurs, the consequences can be severe and, too often, long-lasting.
Neck, Back, and Head Injuries
Vehicle accidents are sudden, and even if a driver or passenger is wearing his or her seatbelt, impairment due to high-speed impact can take place. Repercussions can include:
Facial Trauma – Along with scrapes and cuts on the face, eye trauma is a frequent result of a sudden impact. Individuals’ can suffer temporary or even permanent vision loss. Any impact to the head can cause damage to the ear, as well. A collision may also affect a person’s facial bone structure or teeth.
Concussion – This is one type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) created by a jolt, blow, or bump to the head or a slam to the body that causes an individual’s head, and therefore the brain, to move backward and forward rapidly and forcefully. Physicians may suspect a concussion has occurred if the patient has any of these symptoms:
- Loss of vision
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- A headache
- Difficulty speaking
- Dilated pupils
Back and Spine Trauma – When an individual suffers trauma to the back or spine, physical therapy, rest and other treatments are required. However, paralysis of the limbs or other parts of the body can also transpire.
Whiplash – When a person’s neck moves from hyper-flexed to hyperextended in a rapid back and forth manner, damage may occur in the soft tissues of the cervical vertebrae. This type of injury most often takes place in rear-end accidents. It is not unusual for the specific neck, head, and spine complications to appear if the malady is left untreated. Some symptoms of whiplash are similar to those that follow a concussion. Others include:
- Back pain
- Neck and shoulder stiffness or pain
- Arm pain or weakness
- Jaw pain
- The range of motion in the neck impaired
- Sleep disturbances
Traumatic Brain Injuries – When the head experiences a severe blow, sometimes a patient can suffer very few negative consequences. But, in other cases, patients will face a long road to recovery due to:
- Prolonged coma state
- Slurred speech
- Concussion symptoms
- Lack of coordination
- Weakness or numbness in arms and legs
- Persistent diarrhea
- Ongoing vomiting
- A minimally conscious state
- Intracranial hematoma related to head injury (possibly life-threatening)
- Brain death
The Mayo Clinic points out that many other parts of the body are in danger of impairment because of vehicle crashes, such as:
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PLC) tear in the knee (often caused by a dashboard injury)
- Nasal fracture, a break or crack in a bone of the nose
- Dislocated or fractured elbow (extremely painful and blatant distortion of the joint)
- A broken collarbone (a complicated break may require surgery)
- Broken ribs
- Broken wrist or hand (caused by falling onto an outstretched hand)
- Dislocated shoulder
- Hip dislocation
- Pelvic trauma or break
- Broken legs/arms
Not all injuries caused by a vehicle collision are noticeable directly after the crash occurs. In some cases, the damage will not present until several days have passed. Some of the most prominent symptoms that appear after a few days are:
Back, shoulder, or neck pain – Although you may feel shaken and emotional after a traumatic automobile accident, lumbar injury symptoms sometimes do not surface for hours, days, or even weeks. Some delayed symptoms are:
- Sudden back pains
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Stiffness in the neck and shoulders
- Swelling or pain in the abdomen
Other resulting injuries include:
- Discogenic pain – Having to do with the spinal discs
- Lumbar sprains – Stretching of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the lower back
- Disc herniation – A rupture of the central part of a disc that allows the disc tissue to press on any adjacent spinal nerves
- Spinal stenosis – A ruptured bone fragment or disc that invades space in the spinal canal
- Soft tissue injury – The soft tissue in the back of the body, ligaments, muscles, and tendons, can be torn or over-stretched
Texas Motor Vehicle Crash Facts – 2017
- In 2017, the death toll due to motor vehicle crashes decreased from 3,794 recorded in 2016 to 3,721.
- Texas was the location for 14,299 serious injury crashes in 2017 which resulted in 17,546 injuries.
- In the rural areas of the state, 52.4 percent of state’s traffic fatalities took place. Rural traffic accidents accounted for 1,950 deaths.
- Single vehicle crashes took the lives of 1,313 in 2017 which was 35.29 percent of all motor vehicle deaths during 2017.
- Seven hundred sixty-one individuals were killed in accidents occurring at intersections or that were in some way related to an intersection.
- Five hundred fifty-two people died in head-on crashes.
- The number of people not wearing their seatbelts in fatal crashes made up 40.1 percent of those who died.
- The number of individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents was 254,853.
- A total of 614 pedestrians suffered fatal injuries.
- Fifty-seven pedal cyclists died.
- The number of people killed in traffic accidents that occurred due to a driver being under the influence was 1,024.
- Distracted driving was the cause of the deaths of 449 drivers and passengers.
Austin Crashes and Injuries
- In 2017, Austin, Texas was the location of 73 fatal motor vehicle crashes.
- The fatalities in 2017 numbered 78.
- Four hundred fifty-seven suspected severe accidents took place, and 536 suspected significant injuries.
- Possible injury crashes numbered 3,171, and possible injuries affected 4,944 individuals.
- The total number of motor vehicle crashes came to 15,319
Avoiding Austin Car Crash Injuries
Allow us to review how we can decrease the number of accidents in Texas. Do not drink and drive or drive under the influence of other substances. Watch for signals, signs, and zoning flags at all times. Remain vigilant for pedestrians and cyclists. Use your seatbelts and stay within the speed limit. Turn on your lights when driving through inclement weather conditions. Report road conditions that are hazardous. Many vehicular injuries can be prevented by following a few simple practices.
You Need an Experienced Austin Car Accident Attorney
Austin is fun and festive, but if another driver has left you injured, you’re probably feeling left out of the scene. The dedicated legal team at The Law Offices of George Salinas is here to help. Our experienced Austin personal injury attorneys have the skill, knowledge, and compassion to aggressively advocate for the compensation to which you are entitled, so please contact or call us at (512) 851-1004 to schedule an appointment today.
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