Corpus Christi is like a mix of the best of Texas: lots of jobs, cheap real estate, low cost of living, and water front property. But even in the most ideal place, accidents happen. This is doubly so when out on the road. If you've been in a car wreck, you may be wondering if there's any help to be had, and if so, where to begin? Here's some useful information about how a car accident case works in Corpus Christi.
First Steps after an Accident
The first thing you should do after an accident is to stop your car as safely as possible. In Texas, as in other jurisdictions, not stopping after you have caused property damage or injury to another person is considered a hit-and-run, and is severely punished. If no one is badly hurt and both vehicles can be moved out of traffic, it's best to move aside to allow other cars to pass. However, if it seems in any way unsafe to move the vehicles, leave them as they are.
Next, see if anyone requires emergency medical attention and if they do, call 911 right away.
If no one is seriously hurt, give the other driver your name, contact information, and insurance policy, and be sure to get the same information from him. Also, take note of the make and model of the other driver's car, their license plate number, the road and weather conditions, and any damage to either vehicle. If it is safe to do so, take a few pictures of the cars, any property damage, and the site of the accident. If there were other witnesses present, be sure to record their names and contact information in case you need to get their perspective on what happened. Be careful not to comment on your injuries or who deserves the blame for the accident, because these statements could hurt your case later on. Just get basic information at this point. The pamphlet Motor Vehicle Accidents: First Steps (PDF) has a helpful list of the all the information to gather after an accident. It may be helpful to print a copy and keep it in your glove box.
Call the Police
Texas law requires you to notify local police as soon as possible after an accident. If you had to call 911 to address a medical emergency, you don't need to call the police again. Otherwise, it's best to call the Corpus Christi Police on their non-emergency number (361-826-CITY (2489)) as soon as possible after the accident so that the police can conduct an investigation and file a police report. If the police did not investigate the crash, the drivers involved in an accident must file an "Driver's Crash Report" with the Texas Department of Transportation. Be sure to keep a copy of the report for your records.
Finally, if you are injured, see your doctor or an urgent care facility for treatment and be sure to keep a copy of any medical records generated. You should notify your insurance company as soon as you can so that you do not miss the deadline for filing a claim.
Determining Who Is at Fault
In general, the person who is at fault must pay for the damages to the other party, including automobile repairs, medical bills, and other types of damages. A lawsuit over a motor vehicle accident is a type of personal injury suit, and they typically allege negligence on the part of a driver. It should be noted, however, that Texas follows a contributory negligence rule, which means that the plaintiff may not recover damages if they were more than 50 percent to blame for the accident.
Judges and juries can consider a variety of factors when figuring out fault for a motor vehicle accident, including the following:
- Whether one or both of the drivers were intoxicated;
- Whether the drivers were obeying all traffic laws and observing posted speed limits;
- The condition of the vehicles involved; and
- External conditions like weather, visibility, or obstacles in the road.
The Role of Insurance
Texas requires that every driver carry automobile insurance with the following minimum terms:
- Bodily injury and property damage minimum: $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident. This amount will be used to pay for the damage you cause to other people; and
- Personal injury protection minimum: $25,000 per person. This amount will pay for your own injuries in a crash.
If a driver does not have an adequate insurance policy, their driver's license and car registration will be suspended until he gets a policy that meets the legal minimums. The driver will also need to pay a fine.
After an accident, you will need to notify your insurance company as soon as possible so that they can process your claim, if necessary. If the accident was not your fault, you may also wish to consider filing a third party claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company.
In either case, the insurance company will investigate the accident using the available police reports, photos, medical records, and repair bills. If the insurance company determines that the accident was no one's fault, then they will generally pay for damage to your property. If the insurance company determines that the damage was due to another driver's negligence, they may file a claim with that driver's insurance company or advise you to do the same. If the insurance company determines that the accident was your fault, they may reimburse the other party for the damage you caused. They may also pay for an attorney to defend you in a lawsuit.
If you have questions about your specific case or have suffered an injury as the result of a car accident, you may wish to contact a local attorney specializing in car accident law for information that applies to your circumstances.