You're driving down Gateway Boulevard in El Paso on your way to one of the nation's best kept secrets: the National Border Patrol Museum. As you approach the intersection near Starbucks, some crazy driver barrels out of the driveway and right into your passenger side door. Great. There goes your Saturday. What's next? Do you have to stop? Should you call the El Paso Police? Do you need to exchange insurance information? Most importantly, will you make it to the Border Patrol exhibit before sundown? While we don't know museum operating hours, here's some general information about the law surrounding car accidents in El Paso.
Don't leave the accident site. It's the law. A driver who does not stop after an accident in Texas can be charged with a criminal offense. Depending on whether death or bodily injury occurs from the accident, an individual can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense if they fail to stop their vehicle after an accident.
Also, you should do your best to provide immediate assistance to other motorists, passengers or pedestrians that may have been injured in the accident.
Call for Assistance
Call 911 in any but the most minor of accidents. It's better to be safe than sorry. The police will be able to control the accident site and make an official report which may prevent later disputes about what occurred and who caused the accident.
Be prepared to exchange information with the other driver. This includes:
- Name, address and contact details;
- Driver license numbers;
- License plate number of the vehicles involved; and
- Auto insurance information for the motorists involved.
Also, write down the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident.
It is often a good idea to take photographs of the accident scene. Pull out your phone and snap pictures of the accident from as many angles as possible. This is especially true if you hit a parked car.
Notify Texas DOT
Not everyone is a fan of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Alas, they are a necessary institution. If a police report has not been filed and the accident resulted in injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more, you are required to complete and submit a Driver's Crash Report within ten (10) days of an accident.
See a Doctor
If you are injured, don't hesitate to seek medical assistance. Sometimes you won't notice any pain until the next day. It's best not to gamble with your health. See your doctor and explain to her any symptoms you might have and that you've been in a car accident.
How Can an El Paso Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
If you have to go to court and fight your case, it may be a good idea to consult with an experienced car accident attorney. Many attorneys take auto accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, you do not pay the lawyer his or her attorney fees if you lose the case. If you win, you pay the lawyer a percentage of the money you get. A settlement is considered a "win" and you'll have to pay attorney's fees out of that amount. Many also offer free consultations, to boot.
At any rate, the next step is to report the crash to your insurance company. Your insurance provider will open an investigation and a claims adjuster will contact you and do any or all of the following:
- Request a copy of the police report;
- Take photographs of your car;
- Contact the other driver(s);
- Talk to any witnesses;
- Ask you to sign a medical release form to review your records;
- Contact your medical provider;
- Request for you to get estimates on vehicle damage.
Here's some tips on handling insurance investigators.
If you decide to sue, you'll have to initiate a personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer will file the lawsuit in at one of El Paso's courthouses.
To win a car accident case, a plaintiff typically needs to prove the other driver was negligent. Sometimes there is more than one person who is at fault in causing an accident. Whether an injured person can recover damages from the other driver depends upon Texas law.
Texas uses a 51 percent modified comparative negligence standard. Basically, the amount of money a plaintiff can recover from an at-fault driver is affected by whether or not they were also partially at fault for the accident.
If the judge or jury determines a plaintiff was more than 51 percent at fault for an accident, they will not be able to recover anything.
All of the above information is meant to serve as a general outline of how typical car accident cases and the law in El Paso work. If you have questions about a specific case, it is important to remember that the facts and circumstances of each case vary widely and play a crucial part in any case. Talking to a local attorney is one way to get specific answers that apply the law in a given case.