Given the many major roadways and interstate highways that crisscross Texas, motorists in the Lone Star State need to ensure that they adhere to safe driving practices, as the failure to do so may not only result in a possible motor vehicle accident, but severe injury and death as well.
Indeed, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), there was one reportable traffic accident every 75 seconds on Texas roads in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. As a consequence of these Texas motor vehicle accidents, 230,506 individuals were injured and an additional 3,399 were killed – an increase in traffic fatalities of more than 10 percent when compared to just one year earlier. Sadly, these numbers indicate that much can still be done to improve safety and reduce injuries on Texas roadways.
Traffic accidents of every type, from trucking to drunk driving
Since Texas has many transportation hubs – for instance, three major interstate highways run through San Antonio alone – it is no wonder that almost every conceivable type of vehicle can be involved in an accident on a Texas roadway. In fact, a report from TxDOT indicates that Texas traffic accidents involve a wide variety of vehicles, including police cars, ambulances, buses, and even farming equipment.
However, probably one of the most dangerous vehicles when it comes to traffic accidents is an 18-wheeler truck. Notably, the risks associated with trucking accidents are often attributed to the sheer size of these vehicles – after all, a small car has little chance of prevailing when a several ton truck bears down upon it. Unfortunately, trucking accidents are more common in Texas than many would like. In fact, TxDOT reports that 18,825 semi trucks were involved in Texas crashes in 2012.
Car collisions involving drunk drivers are another type of accident that occurs far too often in Texas. During 2012, nearly one-third of all Texas traffic fatalities were attributed to accidents involving a driver who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. For innocent individuals involved in alcohol-related collisions, one of the most frustrating aspects is the simple fact that the accidents could have easily be prevented if the drunk drivers simply chose not to get behind the wheel.
However, in the end, it is important to remember that regardless of the type of car accident an individual is involved in, there is one common denominator shared by them all: the possibility of injury.
Frequent injuries associated with Texas car accidents
While some vehicle collisions may only result in minor scrapes and bruises, not all car accident victims are so lucky. Unfortunately, almost any motor vehicle accident has the potential to cause severe injury, especially given the high speeds that many vehicles are capable of reaching. Indeed, over 87,000 people sustained serious injuries due to Texas car accidents in 2012, according to TxDot.
For example, neck and back injuries are actually quite common given the violent nature of motor vehicle accidents – particularly in rear-end collisions which routinely cause whiplash. And, while these types of injuries may cause severe pain and loss of motion, they may also lead to paralysis if the injury is severe enough. Often times, extensive medical treatment and therapy are needed to rehabilitate from serious neck and back injuries.
Other common car accident injuries include, but are not limited to:
Lacerations from broken glass and metal
Broken bones, including ribs, arms, legs, wrists and ankles
Traumatic brain injuries and concussions caused by blows to the head
Texas car accidents: Liability for injuries
Following a Texas car accident, legal liability for injuries caused by an at-fault driver can typically be established through a negligence suit. Essentially, in order to prove a negligence claim, a car accident victim must be able to show:
The driver who caused the accident owed a duty to others on the road
The driver in question breached this duty
The victim’s injuries were proximately caused by this breach
Generally, establishing the existence of a duty is simple as Texas law recognizes that every driver must exercise reasonable car while operating a motor vehicle. Thus, failure to use reasonable care may be considered a breach of this important duty – meaning a driver may be held liable if he or she injures an innocent party in the process. For instance, some of the more common circumstances in which drivers are found to be negligent include when they are engaged in drunk driving or are distracted by their cellphones.
However, drivers may also risk motor vehicle accident liability if they breach an administratively created duty, such as the case with truck drivers. For example, federal regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver may be behind the wheel before he or she has to pull over and sleep. If a truck driver suffers extreme fatigue due to his or her disregard for these rules, and causes trucking accident, he or she may be liable for any resulting injuries.
Additionally, Texas employers may be responsible for any injuries attributed to motor vehicle accidents caused by employees who were driving as part of their job, or if the accident was due to the employers’ failure to properly maintain their vehicles. Ultimately, however, holding employers liable following an accident can be a complex matter and is heavily dependent upon the circumstances.
If a victim is successful in proving his or her case in Texas court, he or she may be entitled to a variety of damages, including compensation for lost wages and medical expenses. Moreover, if a victim sadly perishes as a result of his or her injuries suffered in an accident, his or her family may be able to file a Texas wrongful death action against the responsible parties.
It is important to note though, that Texas law also contains a comparative responsibility statute that states a car accident victim cannot “recover damages if his [or her] percentage of responsibility is greater than 50 percent.” Basically, this means that if a victim is found to be even 51 percent to blame for the accident, he or she is completely barred from seeking any damages, even if the victim suffered significant injuries and there is another driver partially at fault for the accident.
What to do following a Texas motor vehicle accident
Following a motor vehicle accident, an injured victim should immediately contact the police and seek medical treatment if needed, in addition to exchanging identification and insurance information with the other motorists involved in the accident. Also, a victim should attempt to take photographs of the scene of the accident as soon as possible in order to collect vital evidence that may be needed later.
Most importantly, a car accident victim should seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney before agreeing to any settlement with the insurance company or signing any release forms. The failure to obtain knowledgeable legal advice may result in the victim missing out on damages that he or she would otherwise have been entitled. A skilled attorney can not only assist in protecting your rights against the insurance company, but also help hold all liable parties responsible for their actions.