It is no surprise to longtime residents that I-45 is Galveston's most dangerous roads. It seems like every other day there is a huge traffic jam with an ashamed motorist trapped on the shoulder. But today your number was called, and now you're the defeated roadster waiting for the tow truck. Thoughts come at you at a million miles-per-hour (not unlike the speeder in the SUV who clipped your car), but you honestly have no idea what your legal rights and responsibilities are. Accident law is not complicated, but you need straight answers and FindLaw delivers with this guide to your Galveston car accident.
The first step after an accident is to assess the situation and call for medical assistance if needed. Don't drive away from the scene or else you risk criminal liability as a hit-and-run driver. Instead, pull your vehicle over to a safe spot that doesn't obstruct traffic and switch your hazards on.
Next, Texas law requires you to exchange certain information with all other parties involved in the accident. Specifically, you need to provide names, addresses, phone numbers, driver's license numbers, tag numbers and insurance information. However, it is best for your case if you don't apologize or admit fault for causing or contributing to the accident, as these statements can be used against you in court.
You'd be smart to jot down a detailed description of the vehicles and parties involved, and the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident. If you have access to a camera, try snapping some photos of the accident scene and vehicle damage.
If the accident resulted in death, injury or more than $1,000 in property damage, and the police were not called to the scene to create an accident report, you must file a Crash Report, Form CR-2 with the Texas Department of Transportation within ten days of the accident. You can mail the completed form to:
Texas Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 149349
Austin, TX 78714
This is a lot of information to remember after a traumatic accident, so why not print out a helpful checklist to store in your glove box just in case?
Texas drivers are required to carry auto insurance in case you cause an accident. To meet the state's financial responsibility law, all Texas drivers must purchase minimum insurance coverage of:
- $30,000 for each injured person;
- up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and;
- $25,000 for property damage per accident.
If your coverage is not enough to pay all of the other driver's costs, the other driver could sue you personally to collect the difference.
Statute of Limitations
Almost all lawsuits have a ticking clock counting down the time you have to begin your lawsuit called the statute of limitations. The statutory period for filing most property damage and personal injury claims in Texas is two years. This means that you have up to two years from the date of the accident or injury occurred to file your lawsuit, or else the judge will dismiss your lawsuit without even considering its merits.
Filing a Lawsuit
All you need to file a lawsuit is a civil case information sheet and a complaint, which is a brief document that explains the basis for your lawsuit, names the people you are suing and requests monetary compensation. You can file your lawsuit at the Galveston County Justice Center, located at 600 59th Street. Both the County Court and the District Court are located in the same building, but the County Court only handles lawsuits worth up to $10,000 while the District Court handles larger lawsuits.
Types of Lawsuits
The most common lawsuit following an auto accident is negligence. Negligence governs accidentally caused injuries. You must show that the other party was "at fault" for the accident, which means they were not exercising a reasonable level of care under the circumstances.
For serious accidents involving a fatality, the deceased individual's family members may be able to sue for wrongful death. This type of lawsuit aims to recover lost wages, lost companionship and funeral expenses.
Alternatively, you could try suing the vehicle manufacturer themselves in a products liability lawsuit. To succeed, you must point out a design or manufacturing defect that caused the accident. Proving a defect usually requires the analysis of an automotive expert, and the case can get quite technical.
It is often the case that both parties are partially responsible for causing the accident. In these situations the Texas proportionate responsibility law assigns each party "fault" as a percentile, and the plaintiff's recovery is reduced in proportion to his or her responsibility. For example, if your vehicle requires $1000 to repair as a result of the accident which was found to be 10% your fault, you will be able to recover 90%, or $900.
Texas' "51% rule" adds a slight twist to the traditional comparative negligence doctrine. Under this rule, a driver found to be more than 50% responsible for an accident will recover nothing. Note that a driver exactly 50% (or less) at fault may recover, but their damages would be diminished by the degree of their fault.
One doesn't expect a ranch hand to be able to pilot a ship out of the Port of Galveston, but you think you can pursue a lawsuit with no legal training? Instead of taking on the slick insurance lawyer yourself, consider scheduling a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. This type of lawyer almost always works on a contingency fee basis, which means they are paid a percentage of your recovery. In other words you pay nothing up front, they don't get paid until you win and they have every incentive to maximize your recovery.
Prepare for the worst be browsing FindLaw's section on accident law basics, or figure out how to get your Galveston personal injury case filed today.