Injured in a Richmond Car Accident?
When you’re hurt in a car accident, your future may feel unstable. You’re hurt, your expenses are high, and you’re suffering because someone was careless. You’re probably wondering how the insurance process works and if they are going to cover all of your current and future expenses as you recover.
Whether you’re treating a head injury from a bad front end collision or recuperating from being struck as a pedestrian or cyclist, find help from the lawyers at The Estes Law Firm. Your Richmond car accident lawyer has the tools you need to overcome your injuries and get the coverage you need as you heal.
Who’s Liable for My Richmond Car Accident?
After a serious car accident, you need to know who’s caused your injuries before you’re able to sue. Texas is a fault state, which means the liable party is also financially responsible for your case.
Liability is simply the legal term for responsibility for an incident that resulted in injury or property damage.
To determine liability, you must first prove negligence. Negligence is when an individual fails to use the reason and common sense of an average person, often resulting in harm befalling someone else.
Types of Negligence
Negligence covers three major areas that you need to know as you navigate through your car accident claim: gross negligence, comparative negligence, and vicarious liability.
Gross negligence is the most severe form of negligence. If the defendant in your car accident case has demonstrated extremely reckless behavior or has behaved in a manner that defies all common sense, they may be guilty of gross negligence.
Gross negligence can look like the following:
- Speeding through a busy supermarket parking lot without regard to the safety of shoppers and pedestrians
- Recording a video for social media on a smartphone while driving down the highway
- Knowingly driving a vehicle in need of serious repair (for example, with broken brakes, or a leaking gas tank)
Comparative negligence (also known as proportionate responsibility in the Texas legislature) comes into play when multiple parties are found to be at fault for an incident.
Determining liability is already a vital part of any personal injury case, but when multiple parties are held responsible for an occurrence, the percentage of fault that each individual is assigned heavily impacts the outcome of your claim.
In Texas, unlike some other states, you can only sue for damages if your percentage of the fault totals less than 50 percent. Comparative negligence comes into play with car accidents more than most other personal injury claims.
Vicarious liability is often the most complex of the three. Vicarious liability comes into play in car accident cases when a minor is driving or an employee is driving a company vehicle.
If the person who caused the accident or injuries is not the person being held ultimately responsible for damages, it’s a case of vicarious liability. Some examples of incidents in which vicarious liability is applicable include the following:
- A child under the age of 18 is running an errand in their parents’ car and gets into an accident
- An employee driving a company vehicle within the scope of their employment causes a collision because they were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- A person allows their uninsured roommate who does not possess a current driver’s license to borrow their car, and the roommate clips a bicyclist when they drift into the bike lane
- An individual suffers an accident after hitting a hidden pothole on the highway that the municipal government has failed to address for several months
- A person’s brake lines fail due to faulty manufacturing, causing them to spin out and crash into a guard rail
These situations are both very different and nuanced in their own way, but the common thread is that the person behind the wheel who caused the accident is not the only person who will suffer consequences, financial or otherwise.
Because the underage child driving likely does not have the financial resources needed to pay for the damages they’ve caused, their parents (and their parents’ insurance) will be responsible for any of the financial compensation owed to the other drivers involved.
The employee had permission to use the business’s vehicle, so their actions may fall under the vehicle owners’ umbrella of liability.
Because the roommate had permission to borrow the vehicle (whether or not the vehicle’s owner was aware of the roommate’s status as uninsured and without a valid driver’s license), the vehicle’s owner and their insurance may be responsible for any medical bills or bicycle repairs owed to the injured bicyclist.
It’s the municipal and state government’s responsibility to keep public infrastructure, including roadways, in a safe and operational state. If the government has been made aware of an issue impacting public safety and fails to address the issue before it causes harm, the government may be held vicariously liable for the damages that result.
Finally, if a person is injured due to the incorrect manufacture or installation of a part inside their vehicle, the manufacturer, installer, mechanic, or some combination thereof may be found vicariously liable for any damages suffered by the driver in the malfunctioning vehicle.
Vicarious liability does not apply in the event that the person driving the owner’s vehicle took it without permission, but victims may still be able to lodge a claim against the vehicle owner’s insurance if the driver who took the vehicle without permission has no insurance of their own.
Every case is different, and determining the type of negligence the defendant is guilty of can have a heavy impact on the course of your case. Consulting an experienced attorney is the fastest and most accurate way to determine a starting point for your case.
Proving negligence is the first step to determining liability. To prove that a person is guilty of being negligent, you must prove the four aspects of negligence: duty of care, breach of duty of care, causation, and damages.
Firstly, the duty of care is the idea that each person has a responsibility to those around them to behave with common sense and prudence in whatever situation they may find themselves in so that everyone’s safety is ensured. In terms of driving safety, a prudent person would understand that it is their responsibility to obey the rules of the road when they are driving.
When a person breaches their duty of care, it means they have failed to use reason or have chosen to purposely ignore the reasonable course of action in favor of something more selfish and irresponsible.
If someone were to start going 95 mph on the highway so they could arrive at work on time, they would be breaching the duty of care they owe to themselves and other drivers on the road. They are knowingly going over the speed limit and putting themselves and other people on the highway at risk.
When someone breaches their duty of care and it causes real-world harm (as opposed to hypothetical harm), it is causation.
Let’s say our example driver is in a frantic rush to get to work. The speed limit is posted as 65, but soon they pass through a work zone marked with bright orange flags, indicating a reduced speed limit. Despite this, they do not reduce speed, and as a result, they crash into a parked police car. This is the causation of their breach of duty.
Damages are the aftermath of causation. In the example we have been using, the damages are the result of the driver hitting the police car.
Let’s say there was an officer sitting in the vehicle when the collision occurred. The officer suffered a minor concussion and whiplash injuries to the spine. The police car has a shattered window and a crumpled back trunk. These are the damages that have resulted from the driver’s negligence, and they are now liable.
But determining who’s liable can be tough. In some cases, your injuries could have been caused by a defective product, poorly maintained roads, or a distracted driver. But what if that driver was acting within the scope of their job? In these cases, their employer, not the driver themselves, may be responsible for your injuries.
Unsure who’s at fault for your claim? Your car accident lawyer can review the details of your claim and help you recover from the suffering you experienced.
What to Do at the Scene of a Richmond Car Accident
To prove negligence and determine liability, you must have enough evidence to validate your case. Some of this evidence you may be able to collect by yourself, but there are other pieces that may be difficult (or even impossible) to obtain without the help of a Richmond car accident attorney.
If you are physically and emotionally able to take photos at the scene of the accident, it would be wise to do so.
Having photographic evidence of things like the positions the vehicles end up in, the surrounding area, and any relevant topography or infrastructure (such as guard rails or lack thereof, the presence of a divided highway, or any signage that could indicate fault) can be massively helpful to your lawyer when building your case.
If you’re able to get the contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the scene, such as passengers, bystanders, or pedestrians, it would be helpful to do so. Even a name and phone number (or email address) could come in handy down the line.
Report Your Car Accident
In Texas, you are required to file a report to the police in the event of an accident if it resulted in someone’s death, serious injuries, or property damage exceeding $1,000. Serious injury is classified as anything that increases a victim’s risk of death and has the capacity to cause permanent disfigurement or the extended (or permanent) loss of a bodily function or extremity.
If the police arrive on the scene, they will make the report themselves, and relieve you of this responsibility. You can request a copy of the police report yourself through the Texas Department of Public Safety, assuming you have one of the officers’ names or badge numbers. You can also ask your lawyer to handle the police report for you.
Keep Your Financial Records
Gathering and keeping your medical records and related bills and invoices in a neat file or binder could also prove invaluable to your case. This information can help your attorney better understand how your accident has affected your physical, mental, and financial wellness, and ensure that your case is valued correctly.
Any bills from the mechanic are also worth compiling and giving to your lawyer. Keeping an orderly file of all of your receipts will be a huge help to your lawyer, your claim, and yourself.
While you may be able to gather some evidence yourself, your attorney will have access to a network of expert witnesses and other helpful contacts that can immensely bolster your case.
Your attorney may choose to call on a medical professional, an engineering expert, a manufacturing professional, or an economist to help illustrate the way your accident has impacted every part of your life.
Compensation for Richmond Car Accident Victims
When you’re hurt in a car accident, you need funds for your recovery. But you may not have the tools to calculate the value of your losses and the hardships you experienced because of your crash. How does a person qualify grief after the death of a loved one?
Luckily, our lawyers have the tools you need to calculate the true value of your claim. If an insurer doesn’t want to indemnify you, we’ll even represent you in court to seek the compensation you’re owed. Below is just a sample of the damages you may have suffered in a Richmond car accident:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Mental trauma
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Texas Laws You Need to Know
But before you take your claim to a Richmond court, you need to know the state laws that impact your claim. If you’re not prepared, you could receive less compensation than you’re due, or none at all.
For example, you only have a few years to file a Richmond car accident lawsuit. Texas residents must file a claim within two years. If you don’t, your claim may be dismissed, leaving you without the funding you need for your recovery.
You may also need to prove you were even partially at fault for the car accident. If you’re found partly at fault for your injuries, your funds may be reduced by your portion of fault. If you’re found 20 percent at fault, for example, you may only receive 80 percent of the compensation you’re due.
When to Start the Claims Process
It’s imperative that you bring your case as soon as possible. The state of Texas has imposed a two-year statute of limitations on car accidents. That means you much bring the personal injury suit within two years from the day the accident occurred. If you wait longer than two years to file your claim, it will likely be dismissed, and you will not receive the compensation you need.
Car Accident Lawyer Fees Explained
As you recover from a car accident, attorney expenses are the last thing you want to think about. Some car accident lawyer fees are exorbitant, taking away much of your compensation earned in the settlement. At The Estes Law Firm, we strive to charge reasonable fees for our services. Don’t let lack of funds be a reason why you don’t seek compensation. Our team will be upfront about any fees at our initial consultation with you.
Richmond Car Accident FAQ
Have questions about your Richmond car accident claim? We have answers.
When you’re ready to get personalized responses from a car accident lawyer, reach out to our attorneys. While you wait for your personalized answers, check out the following answers to some of our most common questions asked by car accident victims.
How long do I have to file my car accident claim?
After the date of your accident, you will have two years to file your car accident claim. The situation doesn’t need to be resolved within this time window – you just need to file your claim within the two-year window.
The only exception to this comes into play in the event of a wrongful death. In Texas legislation, there is the option to essentially pause the clock for a year following the date of the individual’s death. This situation is more complex, and it would be wise to consult your attorney if you think this exception may be relevant to your case.
What happens if I miss the deadline to file my claim?
Most likely, the court will move to dismiss your case. There have been rare instances of deadline alterations, but they are few and far between, and unlikely to apply to your case.
Your best bet is to file your claim as soon as you can, to avoid potentially going over the statute of limitations.
Do I need to call my insurance company?
You will need to call your insurance company to inform them of your accident. You will have to provide details about the accident, but you should be extremely careful about the information you provide to your insurance company. If you offer even a hint that you may have been at fault, they will use it to reduce the value of your settlement.
Do not offer to give a statement on the record under any circumstances without first speaking to an attorney. The general information you can safely provide to your insurance company includes:
- Your name
- The name of anyone else involved in the incident
- The date, time, and location of the accident
- The insurance information of the other driver(s) involved in the accident
- The make and model of your car and the other driver(s) vehicle(s).
Any further details you provide could jeopardize your case. You should avoid discussing things such as what caused the accident, who caused the accident, what you were doing prior to the accident, any injuries you have, whether you suspect them or have confirmed them with a medical professional already, and any other details that could potentially be twisted to reduce the value of your claim.
If possible, try to avoid speaking to your insurance company at all until you have met and discussed your case with a Richmond car accident attorney.
What do I do if my insurance company quickly offers me a settlement?
If your insurance offers you a settlement too quickly, it is almost a guarantee that they are trying to get you to accept less money than your case is worth. Insurance claims take time to properly calculate and require multiple documents to accurately assess what your case is worth. A claim that has properly been investigated will include documents such as:
- Medical documents (hospital bills, prescription invoices, medical test results, and patient file notes)
- Witness statements
- Police accident reports
- Photos/videos of the scene, vehicle damage, and bodily injuries
- A timeline of events
If the insurance adjuster handling your claim doesn’t ask for or doesn’t accept any of the above information, they are likely trying to rush through the process in order to pay you as little as they can for your claim.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that you give your insurance company money from your hard-earned paycheck every month, they are not on your side. Your insurance company is for-profit, and therefore, only on its own side.
For reference, a fair settlement usually takes a minimum of four to six weeks to come to a conclusion. More likely, it will take between three and six months to come to a fair settlement, depending on the complexity of your case.
What do I do if the other driver’s insurance tries to get in touch with me?
Do not speak to them. You have absolutely nothing to gain by speaking to the other driver’s insurance, and plenty to lose. There is no scenario where speaking to the other driver’s insurance will help your case.
Should I see a doctor after my accident, even if I feel okay?
Your health should be your top priority. Even if you don’t feel injured after your accident, it is important to get checked out by a medical professional for a number of reasons.
If you rely on your senses, without intervention from a medical professional, you may not find out about your injuries for hours or even days following the accident. In that time, if you continue as you normally do, you may inadvertently exacerbate your injuries.
Seeing a medical professional as soon as possible following your accident is vital for your health, yes, but it can also provide a valuable data record for your case.
If you are seen by a doctor directly after your accident, the other driver will have no room to claim that you sustained your injuries elsewhere, or are exaggerating your experience to receive greater financial compensation.
Call a Richmond Car Crash Lawyer
When you’re hurt in a Richmond car accident, you need compensation that reflects the caliber of your loss. But the at-fault party may not be willing to help.
The lawyers at The Estes Law Firm are here to find justice in your name. If you’ve been denied compensation, or if you’re worried about the costs of your injuries, your Richmond car accident lawyer can keep you out of debt when you need compensation to pay for expensive medical treatments. Start now by scheduling a free consultation by calling 281-238-5400 or by completing the online contact form below.