You’re driving along, worried about the minutia of your day, when suddenly another car collides with you. A car wreck is a scary experience, and the initial shock and adenine of an accident are enough to frazzle anyone.
Do you have enough knowledge of auto accident laws in your state to make an informed decision on what to do next?
No matter who is at fault, both drivers need to be prepared to come forward and exchange information. What you do in the moments right after you are involved in a wreck is critical.
Keep reading to learn some of the most important auto accident laws every Texan should know.
Auto Accident Laws: The Basics
First off, you should familiarize yourself with the initial laws and requirements for anyone involved in a wreck. You should know what to do and how to interact with the other driver to avoid breaking the law.
Even if the police are not notified or the wreck is a minor fender-bender, both parties should always exchange contact information. This includes your name, address, and driver’s license. Perhaps most crucial is relaying insurance information and vehicle registration.
If you leave the scene of the wreck before providing any of this information, you could be at risk for hit-and-run charges. Even if you hit an unattended vehicle, you still are liable for communicating this information.
1. Texas Hit-and-Run Laws
Unfortunately, even if you follow the law yourself, that doesn’t guarantee all other drivers will also. That is why there are laws in place to heavily penalize anyone who does hit-and-run.
As a personal injury attorney will tell you, driving laws within Texas have recently become more stringent towards these types of crimes. In the Lone Star state, there are three degrees to hit-and-run charges.
If the damage is done just to the vehicle in a hit-and-run, but no harm to the other driver, it is a misdemeanor. The severity of the damage and condition of the vehicle could increase the level of a misdemeanor that the criminal will face.
However, if the other driver is injured, the penalties by Texas law are more severe. This could equal years in prison and fines of thousands of dollars. Some of the highest penalties involve second or third-degree felonies.
2. Auto Accidents: Who Is At Fault?
In most cases, both drivers will be conscious and still active on the scene after an auto accident occurs. If there are injuries to anyone involved, call 911 immediately.
For the future, make sure you take plenty of videos and pictures of the wreck and your car’s condition. You should also call your own insurance company to relay the situation. Many people only think to do this if they are looking to pursue the other driver in the court of law.
In reality, it is very important to have evidence and to independently report the accident to your insurer, no matter how minor the wreck. This can help cover your bases in the future if the other driver pursues you!
Once the police arrive on the scene, they will assess the situation and possibly determine who is at fault. You are required to answer any questions the cops ask you, and you may or may not get a chance to tell your side of the story. Whatever the police determine, you will have a chance to challenge it in court with a car accident attorney.
3. Fault vs No-Fault Policies
Within the U.S., there are two different branches that auto insurance falls under. There are fault states and no-fault states. In a no-fault state, both auto insurance companies will do most of the heavy lifting and butt heads.
While Texas was very recently a no-fault state, they have since switched to a fault state in regards to damages and compensation. This is a critical difference since it means that the victim can pursue the driver (or their insurance company) in court.
For the states that have a no-fault system unlike Texas, they will file a more general damages claim with their insurance. In those states, it doesn’t matter who is at fault. They are limited in their ability to pursue each other for criminal charges.
In fault states like Texas, it is even more important to have the insurance you need. You’ll also want the best representation in court from a top-notch personal injury lawyer. Settlements will be larger in Texas for victims of car wrecks, but you will have to spend time, money, and energy proving it in court.
4. Texas Comparative Negligence Laws
Even if a defendant in court knows that they are at fault, they may try to prove that the wreck was a 50-50 scenario. There is a comparative negligence Texas law that states that you must prove the accident was at least 51 percent their fault.
Again, the best way to do this is to act quickly when the wreck occurs. This includes not only photo and video evidence but also eyewitness accounts from others near the scene.
If you think you may be injured, don’t wait to head to the hospital. Get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. If they do find something wrong with you, that will be even more evidence on your side.
5. More Texas Auto Insurance Details
In light of the fault state category Texas falls under, there are specific auto insurance laws that every Texan should know and follow. You need specific insurance to protect yourself if a claim is ever filed against you for fault.
Texas law requires that you have a certain amount of liability insurance. All drivers in Texas need an insurance policy that covers three pre-set dollar amounts per person in the event of a wreck. This includes:
- 30,000 dollars per person
- 60,000 dollars per accident
- 25,000 dollars for property damage.
If you do not have a policy that is at least these amounts, stop what you are doing right now and get this squared away. Remember to always have proof of insurance with you at all times when driving.
Driving in The Lone Star State
Driving in Texas is no more dangerous than in any other state. Car accidents may seem to be infrequent occurrences, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always be prepared.
When you get behind the wheel, you need to make sure you know all of these important auto accident laws so you can make the right decisions if a wreck does happen.
Are you looking for a personal injury law firm in Houston? If you are in need of legal representation, contact us today for assistance.