Drivers in Texas need to be familiar with the state’s laws to avoid traffic violations and better understand their rights if they sustain damages after a car accident.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation’s Texas Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Facts Report for 2021:
Texas experienced a rising number of motor vehicle traffic fatalities — 4,489 in 2021 compared to 3,896 in 2020.
There were 15,764 serious injury crashes in Texas in 2021.
In 2021, 239,539 drivers sustained injuries as a result of traffic accidents.
Distracted driving contributed to the deaths of 433 people in 2021.
Due to an increase in the frequency of serious traffic collisions in the state, drivers should take the time to learn more about Texas car accident laws, how Texas handles fault in car accident claims, and when they may be able to sue for compensation after a car accident.
Reporting a Car Accident in Texas
The Texas Department of Transportation states that drivers should call the police to report a car accident if any of the following situations apply:
The vehicles involved in the accident are unable to be moved.
A person is injured or killed in an accident.
One of the drivers is uninsured.
One of the drivers appears to be intoxicated.
One of the drivers seems to be under the influence of drugs.
One of the drivers flees the scene of the accident.
Texas car accident laws also require drivers to file a Crash Report, Form CR-2, within ten days of the accident if the accident resulted in death, injury, or property damage of more than $1,000 and was not investigated by a police officer.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
If a driver is involved in an accident that damages a vehicle, the driver must stop at the scene without obstructing traffic. The driver must also remain at the scene until authorities arrive. If the accident occurs on a freeway, the driver should move the vehicle to the side of the road or an adjacent street if possible.
Leaving the scene of this type of accident may result in a Class C misdemeanor charge if total damages are less than $200 and a Class B misdemeanor if damages are more than $200.
The law requires the driver to stop immediately or return to the scene if involved in an accident that causes personal injury or death. The authorities must be contacted as soon as possible if someone needs help.
Leaving the scene of this type of accident can result in a third-degree felony if the accident results in serious injury or a second-degree felony if it results in death. Otherwise, fleeing the scene may result in a fine of up to $5,000, one to five years in jail, or both.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Not all car accidents are black and white. While some collisions are clearly the fault of one party, there are some instances in which multiple parties share the blame for an accident.
To account for these situations, Texas follows a modified comparative negligence rule. This rule assigns a portion of the fault to each party that shares blame for an accident. This may also include the victim in some situations.
Each party is responsible for a portion of the damages that corresponds to the percentage of fault that they are assigned.
Since Texas follows a modified comparative negligence rule, a person cannot receive compensation if they are found to be more than 50% at fault for a crash.
This rule also means that a victim’s award may be reduced depending on how much they are to blame for an accident. For example, if you sue another driver for damages after an accident and the jury decides that your total award should be $100,000 but also determines that you are 30% at fault for the accident, you would only receive $70,000.
Striking Unattended Vehicles
Striking unattended vehicles is a common accident, and many drivers may not know what to do in such a situation.
In Texas, the law requires that a driver who strikes an unattended vehicle post a written notice on the vehicle they hit. This notice should include the driver’s name, address, registration number, and driver’s license.
Failure to leave a written notice may result in a Class C misdemeanor charge if total damages are less than $200 and a Class B misdemeanor if damages are more than $200.
Accidents Involving Structures
Auto accidents don’t always involve multiple vehicles.
In Texas, if you crash into a fixture, structure, or highway landscape, the law requires you to notify the property owner and provide your name, address, registration number, and driver’s license.
Failing to notify the property owner may result in a Class C misdemeanor charge if total damages are less than $200 and a Class B misdemeanor if damages are more than $200.
Texas Open Container Laws
Texas’ open container law prohibits drivers from having an open or unsealed container of alcohol in their vehicles, regardless of whether or not the vehicle is parked.
While Texas recently gave restaurants the go-ahead for to-go alcohol sales, purchasing alcohol as part of a to-go order can still violate the state’s open container law if the alcohol is not sealed correctly. If ordering alcohol from a restaurant, drivers should ensure the container is sealed, and avoid breaking the seal until they get home.
Violating this law may result in a Class C misdemeanor, which includes a fine of as much as $500. If a police officer finds an open container in a driver’s vehicle, they may also ask the driver to complete a sobriety test.
Child Passenger Safety Laws
According to safekids.org, Texas requires drivers to use a child restraint for children seven years or under and less than 57 inches tall. A minimum fine of $25 for a first-time car seat violation. If children are not properly restrained, the driver faces fines of up to $250, plus court costs.
Children can start using seat belts when they are eight years old and over 57 inches tall. Seat belt laws apply to all seats.
Click It or Ticket
Texas’ Click it or Ticket campaign urges Texans to wear their seatbelts to comply with state law and increase their safety while driving or riding as a passenger.
Texas law requires everyone over eight years old in a vehicle to wear a seatbelt or face fines and court costs of up to $200.
Texas Auto Insurance Requirements
Texas law requires drivers to show proof they can pay for any accidents they may cause, which is done primarily by purchasing auto liability insurance.
According to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), Texas law requires drivers to have 30/60/25 coverage. This means you must have at least $30,000 of coverage for injuries per person, up to $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage.
While this is the minimum amount of liability insurance Texas requires drivers to have, it’s worth considering purchasing more liability insurance to ensure you can pay for the damages and injuries you cause if you are involved in a car accident. Otherwise, you may have to pay for the remaining damages out of your own pocket.
If you still owe money on your vehicle, your lender will likely require you to have collision and comprehensive coverage. These coverages pay to repair or replace your car after an accident or if your car is stolen or damaged by something other than an accident.
Other coverages that drivers might consider purchasing but are not required by Texas law include:
Medical payments coverage: Covers medical bills for you and your passengers. It also covers you if you are injured while riding in someone else’s vehicle, riding a bike, or walking.
Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage: Like medical payments coverage, PIP coverage pays for medical bills if you or your passengers are injured in an accident. It also pays for lost wages and other nonmedical costs that may arise after an accident-related injury. This coverage is included in all Texas auto insurance policies by default.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Covers damages if you are struck by a driver who either does not have any insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover all of your damages. This coverage can also pay for damages after a hit-and-run accident. Texas insurance companies offer this coverage by default, and you must notify the carrier in writing if you do not want this coverage.
Rental reimbursement coverage: Pays for rental car fees if your vehicle is stolen or being repaired after a collision. Depending on your policy, this may also cover other travel expenses, like taxis or ride-hailing services.
Towing and labor coverage: If your car can’t be driven, this coverage will pay to tow your car to another location. It may also pay for labor costs if you need a jump-start or a new tire.
You can learn more about auto insurance in Texas, including types of coverages, your rights when buying insurance, and understanding auto insurance premiums, by visiting the TDI website.
How Much Can Someone Sue For a Car Accident in Texas?
Texas law acknowledges that accident victims have the right to receive full compensation for the damages that they sustain after an accident that is caused by another person’s negligence.
This may include compensation for:
Loss of wages
Loss of earning capacity
Pain and suffering
If an accident results in death, the deceased’s family may also be able to receive compensation for loss of financial support, burial expenses, and funeral expenses.
If you choose to file a lawsuit after an accident, any evidence you can collect will be important to your case and could help you reach a larger settlement. This may include photographs, videos, witness statements, insurance claims, and medical records.
Texas does not limit damages per claimant for pain and suffering except in medical malpractice cases. This also applies to other damages that the state classifies as non-economic damages, including loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, and disfigurement and scarring.
Compensation for other types of damages, like property damage and medical bills, will largely depend on the victim’s ability to present evidence of the damages they sustained as a result of the accident. If you are involved in an accident, you should keep receipts, pay stubs, tax records, and other documents as proof of the damages you sustained as a result of the collision.
In some cases, punitive damages may apply. Punitive damages are awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions involve malice, gross negligence, or fraud. For example, punitive damages may be granted if you are struck by a drunk driver and suffer a major personal injury.
Texas imposes a limit on punitive damages at the greater of $200,000 or two times the amount of economic damages plus non-economic damages up to $750,000.
The Statute of Limitations in Texas
Texas has a statute of limitations that sets a time limit on the right to sue someone after a car accident.
In Texas, car accident victims must file a lawsuit against the at-fault party within two years of the date of the accident. This statute of limitations also applies to wrongful death lawsuits, so if someone intended to sue the at-fault party for the death of their loved one, it must also be within two years of the date of the accident.
If suing for personal injury, this time limit does not start until the discovery of injuries. This is important as car accident victims may not discover certain injuries until days or weeks after the accident.
After the statute of limitations deadline passes, the victim no longer has a right to file a lawsuit. If they choose to do so anyway, the defendant can bring this to the court’s attention. In this case, the court will likely grant a motion to dismiss.
In car accident cases involving a government entity (e.g., a public bus accident), the victim will need to provide notice of their claim within a shorter time — usually six months. The victim must also give the state or municipality a chance to respond to the allegations.
Is Texas a no-fault state?
Texas is not a no-fault state. As a fault car insurance state, all drivers must carry minimum insurance amounts to ensure they are able to pay for any damages they cause if they are at fault for an accident.
Legal Resources for Texas Car Accident Victims
Many drivers, particularly those who have never been in an accident, may not know what to do or what steps to take after a collision. It’s important to understand your rights, know how to find an experienced lawyer, and learn more about Texas car accident laws to get the compensation you deserve and start recovering from your injuries.
These resources help Texas car accident victims find the information and services they need to get compensation for the damages they sustain after a collision.
Texas Department of Transportation
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is a government agency that oversees transportation in the state.
On the department’s website, drivers can find information regarding driving safety, driving laws, crash reports and records, and transportation statistics.
Car accident victims can use this website to learn more about what to do after a collision in Texas and read about driving laws that may be relevant to their claims.
HG.org is a reputable law information website that drivers can use to find lawyers anywhere in the United States and learn more about Texas car accident laws.
Drivers can use the website’s lawyer search tool to filter lawyers by country, state, or city, and you can narrow down your search to find experienced car accident lawyers in Texas. The results include the names and contact information of lawyers, as well as an overview of each lawyer’s law firm. The website also provides information regarding each lawyer’s fees and consultation policies.
Users can also visit the “Do You Need a Lawyer?” page to learn more about whether or not their specific situation necessitates legal assistance.
Texas Department of Insurance
The TDI offers resources to help car accident victims get help with insurance issues and file complaints.
You can contact the TDI to:
Ask questions about auto insurance.
Check a company’s complaint record or make sure an agent is licensed.
File complaints with insurance companies or agents, which may help drivers get refunds or higher claim payments.
Compare auto insurance policy rates.
You can also learn more about auto insurance requirements in Texas and how to file a claim after an accident.
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