Should I Get a Lawyer After a Car Accident?

should I get a lawyer after a car accident

In most cases, a person in a car accident should consider contacting a Texas car accident attorney. In all cases, a person injured due to a car accident should seek the advice of a Texas car accident attorney. Car accidents may seem like trivial nuisances to some, but many car accident victims know the risks of not seeking legal counsel after a collision.

Car Accident Statistics in The State of Texas

Texas has seen a rise in the number of traffic accidents and traffic accident fatalities, especially as the state and the rest of the county have gradually lifted COVID-19 restrictions. According to data compiled by the Texas Department of Transportation (TDOT):

  • The number of traffic-related fatalities has risen from 3,896 in 2020 to 4,489 in 2021, a 15.22 percent increase.
  • 613 people in Texas were killed as a result of head-on collisions.
  • Pedestrian fatalities saw a 15.24 percent increase between 2020 and 2021.
  • 19,448 people sustained a “serious” injury directly related to a car accident in 2021.

Services Provided by a Car Accident Attorney

A Texas car accident attorney provides numerous services for their clients. These services often include providing an initial consultation to allow a client or potential client to discuss the facts of their case, investigating key facts, collecting relevant evidence, haggling with insurance companies, and filing a lawsuit on the client’s behalf. Below is a summary of the most common services you can count on receiving from an experienced personal injury trial lawyer.

Investigation of Facts and Collection of Evidence

All personal injury lawsuits are fact-specific. A Texas car accident attorney must collect relevant documentation of the accident and pursue critical witnesses and statements about the crash. Commonly used records include police reports completed by responding officers, medical records detailing injuries, photos taken of the accident scene, accident reconstruction reports, and insurance policies, among others.

Negotiating with Insurance Companies

After experiencing a car accident, each driver should contact their insurance company immediately. Typically, this occurs at the scene of the accident or in a secure location once everyone involved has received medical attention. Dealing with an insurance company can be tricky because insurance companies often utilize loopholes and arcane legal and factual arguments to prevent paying policyholders. However, a skilled Texas car accident attorney can negotiate on their client’s behalf to ensure coverage needs are met for the policyholder.

Filing a Lawsuit

Suppose a Texas car accident attorney believes their client has a viable claim and suffered damages resulting from the actions of another or is being denied insurance coverage for their losses resulting from the accident. In that case, the lawyer can file a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages. A skilled Texas car accident attorney will file a quality lawsuit that meets the many stringent requirements established by courts and state law.

To properly litigate a case, a plaintiff must file a lawsuit, provide notice to all interested parties, file substantive and procedural motions, engage in discovery, argue procedural and legal issues in open court, hire expert witnesses, depose witnesses, etc. Thus, seeking counsel from an experienced Texas car accident attorney for assistance is prudent.

Settlement Services

Throughout litigation, both parties may periodically engage in settlement discussions to seek a resolution before going to trial. Settlement is often frowned upon by many, but is an effective tool for case resolution without the overwhelming expenditures of time and money that often accompany trial advocacy. The reality is that many parties often want to resolve car accident cases as quickly as possible.

Settlement allows parties to exchange monies and services to resolve a case faster than typical litigation. Furthermore, the outcome of a trial is never guaranteed, resulting in much uncertainty for both parties. An experienced Texas car accident attorney knows when a case should be pursued to the fullest extent in court or whether settlement presents a better option for the plaintiff’s financial interests.

Assessing Car Accident Liability in Texas

Every personal injury lawsuit, including car accident cases, hinges on determining fault: whether the actions or omissions of one or more parties caused the accident. Primarily, car accident cases hinge on the common law theory of negligence.

Understanding Negligence

Negligence occurs when a party has acted outside the bounds of their prescribed duty to act as a reasonably prudent person or entity, thereby causing harm to others. Negligence boils down to a simple four-part test to determine whether a party acted negligently:

  • Duty: the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  • Breach: the defendant breached their duty of care to the plaintiff.
  • Causation: the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff to suffer harm.
  • Damages: the plaintiff suffered actual harm resulting in financial damage.

What if I was at Fault?

In certain instances, the facts may show the plaintiff contributed to the accident and is thus also at least partly liable. However, unlike states with a modified form of contributory negligence, in Texas, being partly at fault (up to a certain point) only decreases the damages awarded to a plaintiff by the percentage of fault attributed to you.

Other Forms of Liability

Uncommonly, a plaintiff may file suit after a car accident for other forms of liability, notably strict liability. This tort theory asserts that defendants are strictly liable for their actions, regardless of whether they owe a duty to the plaintiff. For example, in a car accident case, a defendant may be strictly liable if they were operating another vehicle considered abnormally dangerous or if they acted intentionally or deliberately when causing the car accident.

Understanding Damage Awards for Car Accidents

In most personal injury cases, including car accidents, plaintiffs are entitled to two forms of damages, which depend on the circumstances and underlying theory of the action. These include compensatory and punitive damages.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are designed to compensate a plaintiff by rendering them whole or as if they were never in the accident in the first place. Compensatory damages can be split into two types: economic and non-economic.

Economic compensatory damages include paying medical bills, therapeutic services, lost wages, and property damage – the damages that are most easy to quantify with a financial amount. Non-economic damages, however, attempt to compensate the plaintiff for damages related to issues that are difficult to quantify. These types of compensation include pain and suffering, loss of work ability, decreased quality of life, and loss of consortium (inability to maintain intimacy with family and friends).

Punitive Damages

In rare cases, a plaintiff may seek punitive damages if a defendant acted intentionally or was grossly negligent. Punitive damages are designed to curb behavior or persuade an institution to change its policy to prevent the actions that led to the accident in question. However, Texas law caps punitive damages at the greater of $200,000 or two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount equal to non-economic damages up to $750,000.

Houston Car Accidents

The experienced Houston car accident lawyers of Dax F. Garza, P.C. have handled hundreds of motor vehicle accident cases, achieving exceptional results for our clients. If you or someone you know have questions about being injured in a car accident, we offer free consultations to all personal injury victims and the surviving family members of those wrongfully killed.

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