That is, of course, unless the car accident that left you with a totaled vehicle and overdue hospital bills wasn’t caused by anything you did. If the other driver was responsible for causing the accident, you’re entitled to compensation for all of your financial losses up to the limit of that other driver’s insurance policy. Whether you can convince the insurance company that the fault lies with their driver and not with you, however, is another story completely.
Lucky for you, we’ve got detailed information on what it takes to prove fault in a car accident. This will help you understand the car accident claim process, protect your rights as an accident victim, and ensure that you’re not left worse off than you were before you got into an accident through no fault of your own.
What the Law Says About Car Accident Fault
In many states, “no-fault” car insurance is the law. In these jurisdictions, you don’t make claims against the at-fault driver’s insurer for compensation. Instead, your own insurance company foots the bill, especially if you’ve purchased “personal injury protection” cover from your insurer. There are some unfortunate side effects of no-fault insurance, though, with the worst being that your insurance premiums are guaranteed to skyrocket after you make a claim against your own policy.
However, that’s not true for the state of Texas. Here, the law is clear: if it can be established that a car accident was caused by a particular driver involved in that accident, this driver — and their insurance company — is legally responsible for providing compensation to the other drivers involved. In Texas, this is codified in section 601.051 of the Texas Transportation Code, which makes it illegal for someone to operate a motor vehicle in the state without establishing financial responsibility for it through an insurance company.
The benefits of living in an at-fault car insurance state are clear, especially when you end up involved in an accident without doing anything wrong. Having the at-fault driver’s insurance company pay out means that the burden is placed on the party that caused the accident in the first place. Additionally, your own insurance premium is much less likely to increase as much as it would otherwise, especially since you’re not costing your insurance company tens of thousands of dollars in compensation payments!
A Wrench in the Works
Yet just because you’re in Texas doesn’t mean you’re off the hook completely. As in many at-fault states, Texas also uses a concept referred to as modified comparative negligence to determine the level of fault that is assigned to the drivers involved in an accident. In other words, if anything you did behind the wheel might have contributed to the accident occurring, you may be assigned a percentage of the fault for the accident. If so, then any compensation you receive will be reduced to match that measure of fault.
The end result, as codified in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code starting at Section 33.001, is a more equitable approach to compensation for car accidents. The law also provides protections to car accident victims by prohibiting anyone who is determined to be more than 50 percent at fault from claiming damages. In this way, even if you may have been slightly at fault for causing an accident, as long as the other party involved is more responsible you’ll be able to receive at least some compensation.
What You’ll Need to Prove FaultProving fault in a car accident is based on evidence. That means you’ll need to gather proof that the accident you’ve been involved in was caused by the other driver that’s sufficient enough to convince that driver’s insurance provider that they are legally responsible.
There are a number of ways that evidence of fault can be gathered. They include, but certainly aren’t limited to, the following:
- Photographic Evidence: A picture speaks a thousand words, and that makes photographic evidence of the accident an important resource when it comes to proving fault. In this case, there’s no such thing as taking too many pictures — if it’s possible, take as many photographs as you can. Include all vehicles involved in the accident, any injuries that occurred on site, and the layout of the road and surroundings as well.
- Statements from Witnesses: In the wake of an accident, be sure to get the contact information from anyone that witnessed the accident. Names and phone numbers are usually enough. This provides you with an avenue for support in case you (or, more likely, your attorney) needs to prove your case. You can also check with the police on the scene and obtain a copy of your accident report, as the information contained therein can also support your claim of not being at fault.
- Medical Evidence: If you’ve been in a car accident, always seek medical attention — even if you don’t feel as if you’ve suffered any injury. Your medical records can help in demonstrating any injuries you do have as a result of the accident, their severity, and how they might have been caused. All of these things can affect your claim and how much compensation you are entitled to receive.
- Reconstructing the Accident: In some cases, an accident reconstruction expert may need to be employed to take all gathered evidence and piece together what really happened during the event. This is one of the reasons why you should take so many pictures of the crash and the surrounding area. In cases where there are conflicting narratives, accident reconstruction can spell the difference between a successful claim and an unsuccessful one.
Going All the Way
If you’ve gathered enough evidence to prove fault lies on the other driver, their insurance company will likely admit that their driver was at fault and that they are responsible for compensating you for your losses. However, not every car accident case is as cut-and-dry as that; in many instances, insurers will either admit fault but not offer a settlement amount that’s sufficient to make you whole, or they won’t admit fault at all.
All is not lost in this case, though. You have the option of taking your driver’s insurance company to court and present the evidence you’ve gathered to a jury of your peers. In this case, you’ll need to retain a good attorney to represent your interests in court. If your lawyer prevails in convincing the jury that the other driver was responsible for the accident, then it doesn’t matter that the insurer won’t admit fault — it becomes a matter of law. You’ll then receive the compensation to which you’re entitled from their insurance company.
As a final overview, keep in mind the following things if you’ve been in a car accident:
- In Texas, the individual at fault for the accident is responsible for compensating the victim (you)
- Any contributory negligence on the victim’s part may reduce that compensation
- You will need to gather as much evidence as you can to prove fault to the other driver’s insurance company
- If the insurer refuses to admit fault, or does not offer a large enough settlement, you are entitled to take the insurer to court
If you have more questions, or if you’ve been in an accident that you feel was not your fault, contact a professional attorney today.