As the largest state in the contiguous United States, in Texas, driving is a way of life. Texans take pride and pleasure in road trips across our wide-open spaces. Sadly, the more time you spend on the roadways, the more likely you are to get into an auto accident. Statistics show that on average, a person will have three or four car accidents in a lifetime. That equates to one accident every 17.9 years. Even the most responsible drivers are at risk of being involved in a crash.
About 6 million car accidents take place in the United States each year. In one recent year, there were 12,161 serious injury crashes in Texas. A person was injured in an accident every 2 minutes and 7 seconds. A person was killed in an accident every 2 hours 25 minutes. In San Antonio alone, there were 608 crashes with serious injuries.
The Basics of Personal Injury Lawsuits
If another driver’s negligence caused your car accident injuries, you may file a personal injury claim. Personal injury claims serve to hold the other party accountable and provide you with monetary damages for your losses. If an accident resulting in your injuries was caused by another’s negligence, you may bring a personal injury claim. Negligence is defined as “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” To prove negligence, you must establish:
- The existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff;
- Defendant’s breach of that duty;
- Plaintiff’s sufferance of an injury; and
- Proof that the defendant’s breach caused the injury.
To obtain compensation, you will need to prove who was responsible for the accident. Additionally, you must prove that the accident caused your injuries and calculate the value of your damages.
Damages are monetary compensation awarded to someone who has been injured due to the negligent actions of another party. Damages may consist of losses the victim has suffered or will suffer in the future due to the accident, such as:
- Medical expenses: Medical expenses may include the cost of an ambulance, emergency treatment, hospital stays, medication costs, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages: Victims are entitled to compensation for current and future lost wages. Serious injuries may mean a diminished earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering: A car accident victim may be able to seek compensation for the pain and suffering resulting from the accident. Pain and suffering may include emotional or mental problems, such as depression and anxiety. It may also mean a loss of enjoyment of life.
- Loss of consortium: If someone has suffered a catastrophic injury or death, family members may be entitled to compensation. Family members are compensated for the loss of the benefits of a family relationship.
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are awarded in personal injury cases where the actions of the defendant involved fraud, malice, or gross negligence. They will only be awarded in addition to an award or special or general damages.
Common Car Accident Injuries
At first, you may think you have not been injured, or that your injuries are minor. However, it is vital to seek medical attention following a car accident. Severe injuries usually require expensive long-term medical care. Also, your injuries may have other consequences affecting your employment, relationships, and general quality of life. To receive the compensation you deserve, you must keep records of all medical bills. This includes treatment at the scene of the accident, hospital stays, rehabilitation, home care, tests, and prescriptions. Victims may suffer severe injuries such as:
- Brain injuries. Someone involved in a car accident may suffer a bump, blow or jolt to the head, resulting in a closed head injury. In Texas, 144,000 individuals sustain a traumatic brain injury each year—that’s one every 4 minutes. Symptoms of a brain injury may be delayed, but these injuries are very serious and recovery is often extensive.
- Spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord injuries result from damage to the spinal cord or the nerves involved with the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries often result in a loss of function, such as mobility and/or feeling.
- Soft tissue damage. The sudden force of a collision may injure the neck, spinal discs, joints or organs.
- Burn injuries. Burns are extremely painful, difficult to treat, and often leave the victim permanently scarred.
- Broken bones. Broken bones are another frequent consequence of a car accident. These include fractures of the legs, arms, hands, and feet as well as pelvic fractures, and skull fractures.
After the Car Accident
No matter what the circumstances, car accidents are traumatic. You may be shocked, confused or in pain so that it is hard to know what to do. Start by taking these steps:
Stop and Evaluate the Situation
If you have been involved in an accident, you must stop. Even if the other driver has left the scene, always stay and report the incident. Check on yourself and others to determine if anyone needs medical attention. If so, call for help right away.
Ensure Your Safety
Did your car come to rest on the shoulder of the road? Or is it in the middle of a crowded highway? If possible, move your car to a safe place. Otherwise, leave the car, and get yourself and others to safety. If you can, turn on your hazard lights and place warning devices around the vehicle.
Call the Police
The other driver may ask you not to report the accident. They may fear problems with the law or the insurance company. However, don’t let another driver influence you not to call for help. Under Texas law, you must report an accident if someone is injured or property damages are more than $1000. The police officer is then required to fill out an accident report. If an officer fills out an accident report, you do not have to fill out a report of your own. The police report will be an official record of the accident. You may need the report for a future insurance claim or legal action.
Inform the 911 dispatcher of:
- Your location, including nearby landmarks
- Whether you or anyone else is injured, was thrown from the car, or is trapped in the wreckage
- About any dangers at the scene, like leaking fuel or overturned cars
Seek Medical Treatment Right Away
Some injuries are obvious, but others may be difficult to see. Remember that some symptoms do not show up until much later. However, injuries may still be life-threatening. Accept medical treatment at the scene and tell the emergency responders about all of your symptoms. Don’t downplay anything, such as a headache or blurred vision.
If you weren’t taken directly to the hospital from the scene, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
When there has been a car accident, the parties should exchange certain information. The information which should be exchanged includes:
- Names, addresses, phone numbers;
- Driver’s license numbers;
- License plate numbers;
- The make, model, and year of the vehicles;
- Car insurance information; and
- The location of the accident.
Take pictures of the accident scene and the damage to the cars, from several angles, including the interior. Remember to take pictures of traffic signals, road signs, skid marks, or debris. Photos and videos can be compelling evidence. They may be needed later to establish the facts and serve as proof of what happened.
Avoid Discussing Fault With the Other Party
Naturally you will feel upset following an accident. Sometimes people apologize even when they are not at fault. Avoid making any statements that can be used against you later. Even seemingly innocent statements such as, “I’m sorry” or “I wasn’t paying attention,” could be used to allege your fault. You are not being dishonest or unkind. At this point, you do not have enough information to know who is at fault.
Many people feel the urge to talk to someone, so they share pictures or details of the accident on social media. However, social media posts about the crash may be damaging to your future claim.
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
It is essential to consult an attorney before discussing the accident with other parties. You should seek legal advice before speaking with representatives of an insurance company or signing any papers or release forms.
Get Help From a Car Accident Attorney
In Texas, the statute of limitations provides strict time limits for filing lawsuits. An experienced personal injury attorney will explain your legal options and work to obtain the compensation you deserve.