What Is Automobile Negligence?
You’re sitting at a stop sign, and someone rear-ends you in Southlake, Texas. In this type of accident, liability may be relatively simple: The driver in the rear failed to stop, and their negligence caused your injuries.
However, not all Texas car accident cases have such an obvious definition of automobile negligence. Many accidents have multiple at-fault parties, and determining automobile negligence is complicated.
If you were in an accident recently, you should contact a Dallas car accident attorney at The Francis Firm to determine if someone else is liable for your injuries.
Understanding Automobile Negligence In Texas
The first thing to remember is what negligence is under Texas law. Most crashes in this state involve someone being negligent. Of course, most of us would say being ‘negligent’ is being sloppy or reckless. But the law in Texas has a precise definition. Negligence means someone else:
- Owed you a duty of care, such as the rules to stop when a car is in front of you.
- Violated the duty of care and hit your car.
- You have damages that can be compensated for, such as medical bills and lost wages.
If your car accident attorney cannot prove these three elements, your claim will be unsuccessful. For instance, an intoxicated driver blows through a red light and almost hits you. The drunk driver did not follow his duty of care, but you were unhurt, so there is no case.
On the other hand, if the drunk driver hits your car and breaks your arm, you have a valid personal injury case. This is because they violated their duty of care to drive safely and caused your injuries.
Texas And The Comparative Negligence Standard
Texas has a comparative negligence standard when deciding liability for car accidents. This means you can recover damages in some cases, even if you were partially responsible for the accident. However, how much you can receive in damages depends on your share of the fault.
Let’s say a drunk driver hit you in an intersection and broke your leg. However, you were texting and driving, so the jury says you were 40% at fault. You have $20,000 in damages, so you would only receive $12,000 in compensation or 60% of the total.
Texas has additional complexities to the comparative negligence rule. The law has what is called a 51% bar. This means if you were 51% or more responsible for the accident, you cannot recover damages in a claim or lawsuit.
This limit sounds unreasonable to some clients. However, the exception eliminates lawsuits where someone could argue you owe them damages because you drove 2 MPH over the speed limit.
Burden Of Proof For Negligence In Texas
Next, let’s look at the burden of proof in a Texas car accident. If you file a car accident lawsuit in Dallas, you have the burden of proof to show each element of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. What does this mean?
The preponderance of the evidence shows that the other party caused your injuries more likely than not. If a Texas car accident jury finds a piece of evidence more likely to be true than false, they are instructed to assume it’s true. In a personal injury lawsuit, they do not have to be 100% certain. Being more likely than not is the legal standard.
The preponderance of the evidence is similar to the 51% bar rule we highlighted earlier. If the jury thinks there is a 51% chance the other driver caused your broken arm, then they must assume it is true.
However, this 50% rule does not apply to the jury deciding the case. For example, to recover auto accident damages in a Texas lawsuit, 10 of the 12 jurors have to agree. If less than 10 agree, you lose.
That’s why it is helpful to have an experienced Southlake car accident lawyer who can settle a case and win at trial. Sometimes it is best to settle a car accident case before it goes to a jury. One never knows what a jury will decide, even if you think liability for the accident is apparent.
Gross Negligence In Texas
If your attorney proves the other driver was negligent, you could receive compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost earnings, and more. However, Texas law has an exception for gross negligence.
Gross negligence means the other party was deliberately and excessively reckless. They had no regard for your safety. If the jury decides the defendant was grossly negligent, you could be entitled to punitive damages in a Southlake car accident lawsuit.
Some common examples of gross negligence in car accidents are:
- Intoxicated driving. If a drunk driver is well over the limit and gets in an accident that breaks your leg, they may be grossly negligent. They knew it was dangerous and illegal to drive drunk but did it anyway.
- Company owner. The gym owner knew the squat rack was broken. He didn’t tell anyone about it. You used the squat rack, which collapsed and injured your back and knee. You may be able to sue for gross negligence.
- Street racing. Street racing is illegal in Texas and is becoming common in Dallas and Houston. Street racers show a reckless disregard for others’ safety and may have to pay punitive damages in a lawsuit.
When a preponderance proves gross negligence of the evidence, the judge or jury may award punitive damages. This is additional punishment for gross negligence.
Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys Now
If you were in a car accident, there could be a lot of confusion and stress. Who is responsible? How will you pay your medical bills and mortgage?
Many car accidents are caused because another driver or entity was negligent. You should speak to a Fort Worth car accident attorney at The Francis Firm to find out if you have a case. You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and medical bills. Remember that The Francis Firm attorneys are paid by contingency fee. So if you don’t win the case, you don’t pay legal fees.