If you were to make a list of risky and potentially life-threatening activities, driving your car might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet every year there are thousands of motor vehicle accidents on Texas roads, requiring hundreds of thousands of drivers and passengers to seek medical treatment. And based on official statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation (TDOT), 1 person is killed an average of every 1 hour and 57 minutes in the state in a motor vehicle crash. So while driving may be a normal, everyday activity for you, the reality is that you take your life into your hands every time that you get behind that wheel.
Fortunately, most car accidents only result in minor injuries. But any injury can lead to substantial medical bills and a loss of income if you are forced to take time off from your job to seek treatment. There is also the damage to your property–such as your car–and the emotional trauma of the crash itself. All of these damages can quickly add up. And under Texas law, you can hold the negligent driver who caused these damages responsible for their actions.
Our Cypress car accident lawyer can help. At the Stano Law Firm, we can review your car accident and help you develop a plan for seeking full and fair compensation under Texas law. We can assist you in filing an auto insurance claim and, when necessary, a personal injury lawsuit. While most car accident claims are resolved through settlement rather than courtroom litigation, having an experienced attorney at your side can significantly improve your chances of a favorable resolution. That is why our team focuses exclusively on personal injury claims, with a particular emphasis on car accidents.
How Common Are Car Accidents in Texas?
The majority of car accidents do not make the news. Many are what people often call “fender benders.” But anytime there is a collision or crash involving a motor vehicle, there is a significant risk of serious injury or death. And in a state like Texas that is known for its love of cars, trucks, and other vehicles, accidents occur far more often than you may realize.
Based on 2022 statistics compiled by TDOT, the number of car accidents in Texas is staggering. Here are just a few key highlights:
- There were 18,880 people who sustained “serious injuries” in 15,299 auto accidents during 2022.
- At least one person was killed in an auto accident every day of 2022.
- There were 4,481 car accident deaths in 2022, with roughly one-fourth of those fatalities occurring in crashes at or near an intersection.
- There were 224,092 reported car accident injuries in 2022.
- Roughly 26 percent of car accident deaths in 2022 were caused by a drunk driver.
- There were 484 people killed in car accidents caused by a distracted driver.
So as you can see, car accidents are not a rare occurrence. And your likelihood of being involved in a crash increases when you live in a densely populated area such as Harris County. Even the most careful driver is susceptible to another motorist’s reckless and irresponsible behavior.
The Role of Negligence in Texas Car Accidents
Negligence is a term used to describe a person’s failure to exercise a duty of care imposed on them by law. When it comes to car accidents, negligence occurs when a driver either fails to obey the rules of the road or acts in a reckless manner that puts other people at risk of injury or death. Negligence does not require intent. Put another way, you can sue and collect damages from a negligent driver without having to prove they intentionally injured you.
Proving negligence in a Texas car accident lawsuit requires the plaintiff–i.e., the victims of the car accident–to prove four things:
- The defendant–the driver being sued–owed the plaintiff a duty of care under Texas law.
- The defendant breached that duty, either by inaction or inaction.
- The defendant’s breach was the “cause in fact” of some injury to the plaintiff.
- The plaintiff can show they suffered actual damages as a result of that injury.
In many Texas car accident cases, proving negligence is not that difficult. If a driver runs a red light and strikes another vehicle that was lawfully in the intersection, that is generally a clear-cut case of negligence. That said, many defendants will dispute the issue of negligence. They may even try to shift blame onto the plaintiff for the car accident.
This is more than just defense posturing. Like most U.S. states, Texas follows a “modified comparative fault” rule in personal injury lawsuits, such as claims arising from car accidents. This means that if a case goes to a judge or jury, they must apportion relative fault for the accident among all of the parties involved. If the plaintiff is found partly at-fault, that will reduce the amount of damages they receive accordingly. For example, if a plaintiff sustained $100,000 in damages from a car accident but is found 15 percent at-fault, the defendant would only have to pay the plaintiff 85 percent, or $85,000, as compensation. But a plaintiff cannot recover any compensation if their share of the fault exceeds 50 percent.
What Damages Can You Seek Following a Car Accident in Cypress, Texas?
Personal injury lawsuits are civil in nature. This means that if a defendant is found liable for causing a car accident, they can be required to pay financial compensation known as damages to the plaintiff. Broadly speaking, there three categories of damages available under Texas law for injuries sustained in a car accident:
- Economic Damages: Any “out of pocket” loss that can easily be quantified in terms of dollars falls within the heading of economic damages. For most car accident cases, this will include medical bills and lost wages, as well as estimated future losses in these areas. Economic damages can also include any long-term rehabilitation costs or the replacement of damaged property.
- Non-Economic Damages: Often called “pain and suffering” damages, this category covers losses that do not carry a fixed bill or dollar amount, such as emotional trauma and a general loss of enjoyment of life. As non-economic damages are inherently subjective, it is generally left to a jury to decide how much compensation is appropriate. Texas has no formal “caps” on non-economic damages in car accident lawsuits. However, in 2023 the Texas Supreme Court held there must be a “rational basis grounded in evidence” for a specific award of non-economic damages.
- Exemplary Damages: Also known as punitive damages, exemplary damages are meant to punish defendants for acts of fraud, malice, or gross negligence. This means that exemplary damages are not available in every car accident lawsuit. And Texas law further caps the maximum amount of exemplary damages a court may award, except in certain cases, such as accidents caused by drunk driving.
What Happens If Someone Dies in a Texas Car Accident?
Fatal car accidents are handled differently under Texas law than cases where the victim survives. A deceased person cannot file a personal injury lawsuit. Instead, state law provides for what is known as a wrongful death claim. Only the victim’s spouse, children, or parents, and the personal representative of their estate, may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The standard for proving a defendant’s negligence is the same as any other personal injury claim. But the family members may seek damages as compensation for their own losses arising from the fatal accident, such as the loss of the victim’s financial support and their grief and mental anguish.
In addition to the family’s wrongful death damages, the estate may also pursue a survival action against the negligent defendant. This effectively takes the place of the personal injury claim the victim would have filed had they survived the car accident. Damages in survival actions may include the victim’s pain and suffering before they died.
Why You Need to Speak with a Cypress Car Accident Attorney
Following a car accident, the negligent driver’s insurance company may approach you with an initial settlement offer. This is almost always not enough to fully compensate you for your losses. But the insurer is betting on the fact you are desperate for any amount of money and will gladly sign away your right to sue in exchange for a pittance.
Do not fall into this trap. You should never attempt to resolve a potential personal injury claim arising from a car accident without first speaking to an attorney. The Stano Law Firm can sit down with you and provide you with information about your rights under the law and whether it makes sense to settle or file a lawsuit. So if you need to speak with a qualified Cypress car accident attorney, call us today at (832) 722-0390 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout Harris County, Texas.