Auto accidents are a very common occurrence in Texas, which makes familiarity with Texas car accident compensation laws an unfortunate necessity for many drivers. This article discusses what you need to know about Texas car accidents, including what to do after an accident, Texas' fault and modified comparative negligence rules, and how to get appropriate compensation for your injuries and losses.
What Should You Do After an Accident?
Here is a list of what to do if you are in an accident:
- Don't leave the scene; leaving the scene of the accident, even if it's minor, could be considered an illegal hit-and-run
- Get to safety out of traffic and check everyone for injuries (and consider providing first aid to any car accident victims)
- Call the Texas highway patrol or the police department for help and medical assistance; you will want to make sure you get a copy of the police or accident report
- Collect contact information and driver's insurance information from the people who were driving any vehicles involved in the accident
- Take pictures of the scene and get the contact information of any witnesses; also, check with nearby businesses or homeowners for a copy of their security camera footage, if applicable
- Call your insurance adjuster and notify them of a possible car accident claim
- Get checked out by a doctor
You can and should consider doing all of this before you think about bringing a personal injury lawsuit.
Texas Car Accident Compensation Laws: At a Glance
To learn more about Texas car accident compensation laws, take a look at the chart below.
Statute of Limitations
Two years (§ 16.003(a))
Limits on Damages
• $100,000 if the accident occurred during the scope of a public servant's job (§ 108.002)
• Liability limited for claims arising from community service (§ 65.106)
• Exemplary damages limited to greater of three sums (§ 41.008):
- Twice the amount of economic damages + $750,000, or
- Twice the amount of economic damages + the amount of non-economic damages
- However, this doesn't apply if the conduct was a felony
50% Modified Comparative Negligence (§ 33.001)
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Texas “Fault" and “50% Modified Comparative Negligence" Laws
To recover damages for your injuries, you will need to prove that another driver was at fault for your injuries. If you took a turn a little too quickly right before another driver rammed your passenger door, you may still be able to recover because the State of Texas is a "modified comparative negligence" jurisdiction. This means that the judge or jury will determine the levels of fault of all of the drivers involved in a car accident, and then as long as you were no more at fault than the driver you are suing, you will be able to recover damages. The Texas court will merely reduce your damages in proportion to your level of fault.
Types of Damages Allowed in Texas
Typically, when people think of car accident damages, they think of "economic damages." Economic damages are out-of-pocket expenses you might incur as a result of a car accident.
Some typical economic damages available:
- Vehicle repairs
- Lost earning capacity
- Household services
- Lost wages
- Future medical expenses
Generally, non-economic damages are also available to injured parties. Non-economic damages encompass the hedonic damages, such as pain and suffering, disability, or loss of companionship that you or a loved one might suffer. In rare cases, you may be able to recover exemplary damages if your injuries were caused by the willful act, omission, or gross negligence of another driver.
Limits on Damages in Texas
Even if exemplary, also known as punitive, damages are available in your case, the State of Texas has a complicated method of limiting those damages. The maximum you will be able to recover in exemplary damages is the greater of three sums: $200,000, two times the amount of economic damages plus $750,000, or two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount of non-economic damages you were awarded. However, this does not apply if the conduct is classified as a felony.
If the party responsible for your claim was engaged in a city or county community service program at the time of the accident, Texas limits any damages you might receive from that city or county to $100,000 per person, $300,000 total per accident in the case of personal injury or death and $10,000 total per accident in the case of property damage.
In all cases, Texas has a state-imposed limit for how long you can wait to file a lawsuit to recover damages for injuries suffered in an accident, also known as a statute of limitations. You can wait no longer than two years to file a claim for injuries to you and/or your personal property (such as your car).
Contact a Texas Car Accident Attorney Regarding Compensation Laws
If you were hurt in an accident in the Lone Star State and another party is responsible, Texas has protections in place to help you bounce back. The Texas legal system can be difficult to navigate and can make it tough to estimate the strength and value of your claim, but you do not need to navigate the system alone.
Contact a Texas attorney to learn the strength of your car accident case and the amount of compensation available for your case.