Houston Car Accident Lawyers
The aftermath of being injured in a car accident can be a very difficult time for people. There is physical recovery to go through and there may be mental trauma. Legal battles, not something people look forward to even when enjoying perfect health, seem like an even bigger chore now.
Yet a lot may be riding on a proper assessment of what took place in your car accident. There may be a dispute over which driver is at fault. Even if the other driver is at fault, their insurance company might be low-balling you on a settlement offer. A car accident attorney is who must protect your interests at this vulnerable time in your life.
A Houston car accident lawyer from our office can work with you to demonstrate the elements of negligence that are necessary to win your lawsuit. Call Carter Law at (713) 597-6562 or contact us online today.
To win a car accident lawsuit and be awarded a fair settlement, it’s necessary to prove the four elements of negligence. These are the cornerstone of any personal injury lawsuit, and a car accident case is no different. Your lawyer must demonstrate to the court that the other driver owed you a duty of care (duty), that the duty was breached (breach), the breach then caused the accident (causation), and the accident damaged you (damages). All four need to be present to win your case.
Breach of Duty
In car accident cases, the first element–the existence of a duty of care is often self-evident. Everyone that takes a car onto the road owes a duty of care to those around them. The second step, proving the breach of duty, is the area that may be truly contested.
To illustrate breach of duty, let’s pick an obvious example. You are driving down McKinney Street near the Fulbright Tower. You clearly have the green light. Another car, approaching from the left, and not paying attention to what’s going on, drives right through their red light and crashes into you. Saying this driver breached their duty is the legal way of saying the accident is clearly their fault.
There are a lot of cases though, where breach of duty isn’t so obvious. What if it’s raining heavily, and the other driver tried to stop, but skidded into the intersection and caused the crash? The other driver tried to do the right thing. Did they still breach their duty of care?
In circumstances like these, a court will consider the standard of care, and ask whether or not the other driver did all that would be expected of a reasonable person to prevent the accident. Yes, they did try and stop. But were they driving too fast for conditions? A court will examine the speed at which a reasonable person would operate their vehicle at a busy intersection in a downpour.
Now, let’s take this scenario out of downtown and onto the Katy Freeway. The other driver is behind you. You tap your brakes to slow, and the other driver rear-ends you. This is a situation where both drivers may be accusing the other of breaching their duty. You believe the other driver was either too close or going too fast for the rainy weather that you’re in. The other driver says you slowed down unnecessarily, and the accident is your fault.
The court will look at the standard of care you both exercised. Witnesses to the accident will be called. Cellphone photos taken at the scene can be introduced as evidence. The police report can be introduced into the record. Everything about the accident–from the weather to your respective driving, to the condition of your vehicles (e.g., were the brakes properly cared for) to whether either one of you was inattentive at the wheel–is all fair game for the court.
A lot of little details will ultimately create the broader picture of who breached whom. You want an attorney who will be on top of everything that can help you win your case.
It’s not enough to win the lawsuit. You have to win the final settlement figure as well. A Houston car accident lawyer from this office can help. Call Carter Law at (713) 597-6562 or contact us onlinetoday.
The third step of the negligence process–establishing causation–is another area that’s less likely to be in dispute in a car accident case than in other personal injury claims. If you establish that the other driver breached their duty of care, it will take some exceptional circumstances for the breach not to be the reason for the accident.
The final step–damages–might not be as clear-cut as it first appears. Let’s go back to our scene on the Katy Freeway. When the other driver rear-ended you, the airbag in your car released. You suffered a broken nose. On its surface, it would seem the medical bills that stem from this injury would be a natural for inclusion in the settlement.
But let's say that, like many people here in the Houston area, you played high school football. You broke your nose twice during your senior season, staying in the lineup while your team advanced through the playoffs. Your nose is more vulnerable than most to any kind of contact.
The defendant’s insurance company is likely to argue that your pre-existing condition is the reason your nose was broken in the accident. If you’ve had other incidents of the nose breaking since high school, the insurance carrier’s case will be stronger. Your attorney needs to be ready to counter by bringing in expert witnesses who can attest that the velocity at which the airbag came at you was the primary cause of your broken nose.
A dispute like this will likely be settled under Texas’ modified comparative fault rules. This governs the settlement as a whole and essentially says that you can collect in precise proportion to how much fault the defendant has for the accident itself and for your damages.
On the micro-level, this might mean the court will determine that you deserve to collect for the broken nose, but perhaps only 60 percent of what would otherwise have been awarded.
On the macro-level, the court can assess proportionate blame for the entirety of the accident. Maybe it’s ruled that you share 30 percent of the blame. That still puts the other driver primarily at fault, but it means you can only collect 70 percent of the final damage settlement. If your share of the blame rises to 50 percent or higher, then nothing can be collected.
It’s worth repeating that every detail matters. If you have a $750,000 case and blame shifts by even two percentage points, that’s $15,000 that changed hands. Your lawyer is there to build your case into one strong enough to win, and then to drive that percentage as high as possible on your behalf.
Call us today at (713) 597-6562 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.
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