Thousands of car accidents happen every year throughout Texas. And if you are one of the many people who was partially at fault for a car accident this year, you may be wondering whether you can still recover compensation.
Your ability to recover damages and file a civil action depends on a number of factors, one of the most important being your percentage of fault. The following considers how fault is determined in Texas, and whether or not partial fault for an accident bars a person from pursuing legal action.
Texas Fault Laws: Who Pays for an Accident?
In Texas, each driver is required to carry liability insurance, which is used to pay for damages incurred by another party when the policyholder causes a crash. This means that drivers are responsible for paying for the accidents that they cause. Accident victims are also allowed to file a lawsuit directly against the other driver for damages when a crash occurs.
How Is Fault Determined?
Fault, or negligence ─ the failure to act with a reasonable degree of care ─ is determined using all available sources of evidence after a crash. It is important to hire a car accident attorney as soon as possible after a crash to help you gather evidence that may be vital to your case, such as:
- Photos of physical damage
- Medical reports
- Police reports
- Forensic evidence
- Car accident reconstruction experts’ reports
- Witness statements
- Video footage
The insurance adjuster responsible for handling your claim will also conduct an investigation to determine fault. If you are found to be at fault or partially at fault for an accident, the amount of compensation that you are offered may be reduced, or you may be barred from recovering compensation at all.
Can I Recover Compensation if I Was Partially at Fault?
Per Texas’ proportionate responsibility laws, a person cannot recover damages if he or she is more than 50 percent at fault for an accident. Essentially, this means that you cannot pursue a legal action when you are mostly at fault for a crash (although you may still be eligible for compensation provided by any no-fault insurance coverage you might hold, ranging from health insurance coverage to Med-Pay coverage).
But what if you were less than 50 percent at fault for a car accident? As explained by Texas’ code, each defendant in a claim is liable for damages in proportion to their degree of responsibility. This means that if another driver was 60 percent at fault for the accident, then he or she will be held 60 percent liable for damages. Another way to think of it is that your compensation will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault: If you were 40 percent to blame for the car accident, your recoverable damages award will be reduced by 40 percent.
Why Working with an Attorney Is So Important
In order to recover compensation after a crash in Texas, you must establish fault. If you are found to be partially at fault, your compensation will be reduced. If you are found to be mostly at fault, your compensation will be barred. Because of these rules, it is extremely important that a person understands the claims system, how to prove fault, and what to do if there’s a disagreement over an insurance adjuster’s fault assessment.
An attorney can help you throughout this process. Your attorney will gather all evidence necessary ─ including the testimonies of experts, such as accident reconstruction and vehicle design experts ─ in order to build your case and determine exactly who is at fault. Your attorney can also help substantiate the amount of damages that you suffered to assess what full and fair compensation should be.
Your attorney’s job also extends to negotiations. When you are offered a settlement amount by an insurance adjuster, your attorney will review the offer. If the offer is not fair or does not fully address the amount of losses you have suffered, your attorney can reject the offer on your behalf and begin the process of negotiating a higher settlement amount. In many cases, claims go to mediation, a process during which your attorney can further represent you.
Finally, when claims cannot be settled through negotiations or mediation, your attorney can take your case to court and litigate on your behalf.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation Today
Even if you were partially at fault for your crash, there is a very good chance that you still have the right to pursue a legal action. To learn more about your options, contact our New Braunfels car accident lawyer for a free case consultation today. At Burch Law Firm, we will work hard for you!
Call or fill out our online form to get started.
Troy Burch has practiced law in New Braunfels since 1990 representing residents of New Braunfels and the surrounding communities. Troy Burch graduated with high honors from Texas Christian University and from Baylor Law School.