As the Baby Boomer generation hits retirement age, America’s senior citizen population is growing to ever greater numbers. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are now more than 40 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 on the road, and that number is expected to continue to rise in the coming years.
Overall, this is excellent news. More and more Texans are living longer, healthier lives. At the same time, more senior citizens driving does unfortunately also mean that there will be more elderly people involved in car accidents.
Car accidents remain a major public safety problem for Americans of all ages. The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that 240,000 older Americans were injured in auto accidents in a single recent year. This is concerning, as elderly people are especially vulnerable to serious injuries. When an accident does occur, older motorists face a heightened risk of severe injury.
At the Burch Law Firm, our New Braunfels car accident lawyers have extensive experience handling car accidents, including those that involve older adults. We understand that there are special considerations in these cases, and we know how to protect the legal rights and financial interests of our clients.
If you or a loved one was injured in a senior citizen car accident in South Central Texas, please do not hesitate to contact our team today to schedule a free review of your legal claim.
Elderly Texans at an Increased Injury Risk in Car Crashes
It is no secret that you face a greater injury risk as you age. Not only do people become more susceptible to injuries in their later years, but recovering from an injury can also take much longer.
As highway collisions can lead to especially severe injuries, this issue is extremely concerning. Car accident injuries can occur in a wide variety of ways, and for senior citizens, injuries can be especially severe, even life-threatening. Some of the most common examples of car accident injuries that our New Braunfels personal injury lawyers see include:
- Broken bones and fractures
- Leg injuries, including hip, knee and ankle injuries
- Torn muscles and ligaments
- Severe nerve damage
- Soft tissue damage, such as whiplash
- Back injuries, including spinal cord damage and paralysis
- Internal organ injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Severe psychological trauma
Older Drivers Face Unfair Stigmatization
There are real reasons to worry about someone’s ability to drive as they age. As people get older, certain abilities that are important for safe driving, most notably hearing and vision, begin to deteriorate. Indeed, virtually every person will eventually reach a point when they will need to hang up their keys, and stop driving altogether. At the same time, the all-too-common stereotype that older drivers are unsafe is dramatically overstated.
In fact, the data shows that older drivers get into accidents at similar rates as middle-aged drivers, and less often than young drivers. According to industry data collected and published by the Insurance Information Institute, drivers between the ages of 65 and 79 get into accidents at about the same rate as drivers between the ages of 30 and 49. While the crash rate for drivers does begin to rise somewhat once they reach the age of 80, it is still considerably lower than it is for young drivers. For example, drivers over the age of 85 are still less likely to get into collisions than are drivers in their 20s.
While this data is clear, most people are largely unaware of it. There is a well-established bias against elderly drivers. Researchers at Georgia State University (GSU) published a paper on public attitudes towards older drivers. The research is clear that these drivers face unfair bias. For example, in a study referenced in the paper, 60 percent of Americans surveyed stated that they believe that senior citizen drivers are “a danger to the road,” A belief that is clearly not backed up by accident data.
It is of little surprise that people feel this way, considering how elder drivers are maligned in the media. A study on media bias that was also referenced in the GSU study found that 58 percent of media reports on accidents involving older driver were “demeaning towards to the elderly person.” This is unacceptable and unfair. Our firm fully understands the stigmatization that older drivers face. You should not be held legally responsible for someone else’s mistake or misconduct.
Proving Negligence in a Texas Car Accident Case
Texas is a fault auto insurance state. This means that you must prove fault in order to hold another party (usually another driver) legally responsible for your car accident injuries. In the vast majority of cases, liability must be established under Texas’s comparative negligence rules. This legal standard has very important implications for car accident victims. More specifically, all car accident victims should be aware of the following two things:
Fault is based on negligence
First and foremost, drivers must know that fault is based on negligence. In the most straightforward terms, negligence is the failure to take proper care in the context of a particular situation. Essentially, if another party’s unsafe actions or inactions caused your accident, then you can hold them liable for your damages.
In car accident cases, negligence can come in an array of different forms. Some of the most common examples of negligence include:
- Speeding or driving too fast for road conditions
- Failure to properly stop or yield
- Following another vehicle too closely
- Making an unsafe lane change
- Failure to maintain lane integrity
- Reckless driving
- Failure to properly conduct vehicle maintenance
- Distracted driving
- Intoxicated driving
Liability is proportionate
Additionally, as the state of Texas is a comparative negligence jurisdiction, multiple parties can sometimes share legal liability for the same highway accident. This can make some car accident injury claims even more complex.
While in some cases, liability is obvious, in others, fierce disputes can arise over who was actually responsible for the crash. As elderly drivers face a well-documented unfair bias, the big insurance companies sometimes try to unjustly pin some of the accident blame onto the older driver, thereby reducing the company’s financial liability.
If you were hurt in a crash, please do not let this happen to you. Accepting an unfair percentage of the accident blame could reduce your compensation by many thousands of dollars. If fault is disputed in your case, you should always be represented by an experienced Texas car accident lawyer.
Injured Victims Deserve Full Compensation
Once you prove liability for an auto accident, you are entitled to recover full compensation from the at-fault party. Unfortunately, insurance adjusters often try to undervalue car accident claims, offering the injured senior citizen victim far less than they actually deserve.
At Burch Law Firm, we have the skills and experience needed to hold defendants and insurers accountable. Depending on the facts of your claim, we can help you or your loved one seek financial recovery the following:
- Damage to your automobile
- Emergency medical costs
- All other hospital or medical bills
- Incidental economic damages
- Costs related to rehabilitation
- Long-term disability
- Lost income, if the injured senior is still working
- Pain and suffering
- Mental distress
- Loss of limb
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Wrongful death
Senior Citizen Drivers and the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule
Many elderly people are more vulnerable to injuries than other victims. As a simple example, a person in their mid-80s may be far more susceptible to suffering a broken bone in a car accident than a person in their mid-30s. These two hypothetical victims could be subject to the same amount of force, and yet the elderly person could sustain far more severe injuries.
Fortunately, victims are protected from insurers who may try to use this fact as a legal defense. In Texas, negligent drivers and their insurance companies cannot escape legal liability on the grounds that a victim was inherently vulnerable to injury prior to the accident.
Specifically, Texas courts use the eggshell plaintiff rule, which requires victims to be “taken as they are.” Put another way, victims who suffer particularly severe harm in a car accident are still entitled to full compensation for their damages from the negligent party. It does not matter that they had unique characteristics that made their injuries worse than they would have been for the average person.
Contact Our Elderly Driver Car Accident Lawyers Today
At the Burch Law Firm, our New Braunfels car accident attorneys have extensive experience representing elderly motorists in auto accident claims. We understand the unique challenges that older drivers face following a serious crash.
To learn more about what our legal team can do for you, please do not hesitate to contact us today to schedule your free initial legal consultation. We represent car accidents victims throughout South Central Texas, including in New Braunfels, San Marcos, Seguin and Comal County.