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Auto accidents in Texas are a common occurrence. Often times these accidents result in significant injuries or even fatalities. If you or your loved one was involved in an auto accident, it is critical to understand your rights. The car accident lawyers of Pastrana & Lee are here to help.
A Successful Claim for Damages
First, you, the injured person (“plaintiff”) must show that the person that caused the accident (“defendant”) owed you a duty. Basically, to establish duty, you must show that the defendant owed a duty to you to act in a certain reasonable fashion. Generally, Texas law finds that motorists owe a duty to pay attention to the road and not to be distracted by cell phones, for example.
Second, you must show that defendant breached such duty. You as the injured plaintiff must show that defendant failed to do something, or even refrain from doing something, that is considered to be his or her duty. For instance, if a driver is reading a magazine while driving and hits another vehicle in the process, he has breached his duty to pay attention to the road.
Third, plaintiff must show “cause-in-fact”. You must prove that your injury was in fact caused by defendant’s breach of such duty. For example, the young boy would not have been hit and injured by the driver had the driver been paying attention and conforming to his duties owed.
Fourth, you as plaintiff must establish proximate cause. Fundamentally, to show this, you must illustrate that it was obvious to a reasonable person that reading a magazine while driving, for example, could result in someone’s injuries. In other words, the accident must have been foreseeable.
Fifth, the plaintiff must show damages. Damages in negligence actions are not presumed; they must be shown. The plaintiff must have suffered some actual harm to be compensated.
Types of Damages Recoverable
Many damages in an automobile accident case are considered “compensatory” damages. Basically, compensatory damages are aimed at compensating the injured person for a variety of losses stemming from the accident. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Medical treatment, both past and present;
- Lost income;
- Pain and suffering;
- Vehicle damage or property damage;
- Future lost earnings.
Normally, Texas automobile accident cases do not make it to trial. Most are resolved by car accident lawyers in a settlement before trial. However, if you do go to trial for your injury, and if your jury finds that the defendant is liable for your injuries, the jury will then make a specific finding as to the extent of that liability. In other words, the jury will make a determination if the defendant bears all of the blame for the accident, or does some degree of fault belong to you, the plaintiff; this is discussed below.
Texas’ Modified Comparative Fault Rule
Texas uses a “modified” comparative fault rule to determine amount of liability. This comes into play when the plaintiff is also found to be at some degree of fault for causing the accident. For example, suppose that the jury decides that your total losses stemming from your accident amounted to $100,000. Yet, further evidence indicates that you were 40% at fault for the accident and the other driver was 60% at fault. Per Texas’ modified comparative fault rule, you would receive 60% of the total damages award, or $60,000.
This particular rule allows you to recover some degree of damages as long as your fault was 50% or less. You must be found to be at the same degree of fault, or less, than the defendant. To be sure, if you were found to be more than 50% at fault, then you would be barred from any sort of recovery under Texas’ modified comparative fault rule.
Statute of Limitations
Per Texas law, if you are injured in a car accident, you have two years to file your claim. This two year period begins on the date of the accident. A different time limit applies when the government or a government employee caused the accident; for example, if you are rear ended by a U.S. mail carrier. In those cases, you have to act fast. You must file an administrative claim regarding the incident, but you have a shorter period of time to do so.
Experienced Car Accident Lawyers Can Help
For your best chances of being awarded the money you deserve, you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Fortunately, the car accident lawyers at the office of Pastrana & Lee are here to help. Our attorneys will work hard to ensure you are reasonably compensated for injuries sustained.