Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Accident in Texas?
If you are involved in a rear-end crash in Houston or elsewhere in Texas that causes you to suffer serious injury, you may be eligible to file a claim against the other driver. You could recover compensation that covers your medical expenses, lost wages and other accident-related damages. Your ability to recover compensation and the amount of compensation that you could recover will largely depend on who was at fault for the rear-end accident – the driver in front, the one in the rear or, perhaps both drivers.
Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Accident in Texas?
If a person drives carelessly or recklessly and, as a result, causes a rear-end accident, then that person is considered to be “at fault.” The person can be held liable for any harm which he or she causes others to suffer as a result of the accident, including bodily injury and property damage.
When you file a personal injury claim after a rear-end accident in Texas, you must establish who was at fault. Typically, you must show that the other driver was negligent. In other words, you must show that the other driver owed you a duty of care, breached that duty of care, and as a result of that breach, you suffered actual injuries. Proving negligence requires a thorough investigation.
Your lawyer should look at every angle in a rear-end crash. The lawyer should:
- Review the police report
- Talk with witnesses
- Take and/or examine crash scene photos
- Gather all other available and relevant evidence such as black box data, cell phone records and driver chemical test results.
In most cases, a personal injury lawyer should also consult with knowledgeable professionals in different fields. For instance, an accident reconstruction specialist can help a lawyer to piece together the evidence, determine why a rear-end accident occurred and identify who was at fault.
What Causes Most Rear-End Accidents?
Most rear-end collisions involve two drivers: The one in front, and the one in back. They often occur after the vehicle in front stops for some reason. For instance, the car may reach a stop light or stop sign at an intersection. The impact occurs because the driver in back fails to stop or swerve on time.
Some examples of rear-end collisions involve:
- Unexpected hazards in road. Consider a situation in which two vehicles are heading down a road, one directly in front of the other. Suddenly, an animal, child or pedestrian darts into the middle of the road. The front driver slams the brakes. The rear driver slams into the back of the front car. The front driver may be at fault for the sudden stop. However, the rear driver may have been speeding, tailgating, impaired or distracted by texting or talking on a phone. If the rear driver had reasonable time and distance to avoid the wreck, most of the fault may fall on that driver.
- Poor visibility. If visibility is poor due to conditions such as rain or fog, the rear driver may struggle to see the car in front. So, if the front driver slows down or stops, the rear driver may be unable to stop or adjust speed on time to avoid a collision. The front driver could be at fault for unreasonably changing speed. The driver may have needed to put on hazard lights to warn other drivers. The rear driver could be at fault, again, if the driver could have avoided the crash if he or she had not been negligent.
- Cut-offs and unsafe lane changes. In this situation, the front driver may clearly be at fault. The driver may abruptly change lanes or even turn without signaling. The rear driver, caught by surprise, may be unable to stop or swerve on time to avoid the front car.
- Lack of brake lights. This is another situation where fault would lean towards the front driver. Here, due to carelessness or a mechanical defect, the front driver does not use or cannot operate the car’s brake lights. Without seeing those red lights, the rear driver may be unable to notice that the front driver has stopped or slowed down – especially if it is at night or visibility is poor.
- Unjustified sudden stop. Stopping because there is an object, animal, or person in the road is justified. However, there is no excuse for slamming on one’s brakes for no reason or as an act of aggression. If a rear-end crash happens as a result of an unjustified and unreasonable action by the front driver, then that front may be to blame for the crash.
As you can see, every angle must be explored when you investigate a rear-end crash. Determining fault can be highly complex. If many other vehicles are involved, and a “pile-up” occurs, determining fault gets even trickier.
Are You Always At Fault If You Hit Someone From Behind?
As you could see in the scenarios we provided above, a rear-end accident is not always the clear fault of one driver or the other. Both drivers may partially be at fault. When drivers share fault, the Texas modified comparative fault rule will apply. This rule is sometimes called the “51 percent bar rule.”
Under this rule, a party who contributed to his or her own injuries is not always barred from a recovery. The party cannot recover any damages only if he or she is 51 percent or more responsible for causing the crash and his or her injuries. Otherwise, the party’s damages are reduced in proportion to his or her degree of fault.
For example, if a driver in a rear-end crash is found to be 30 percent at fault for the collision and suffered $100,000 in damages, that driver can hold the other driver liable for only 70 percent of that amount, or $70,000. If the driver was 51 percent or more at fault, the driver would be barred from recovering anything.
How Long Do You Have to File a Rear-End Accident Claim?
In addition to comparative fault rules, it is also important to understand the statute of limitations for car accident claims in Texas. A statute of limitations is a cap on the amount of time that a party has to bring a civil action after suffering an injury or property damage. If you fail to file a claim within the statute of limitations period, you will likely be unable to recover any damages.
In Texas, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident is two years – typically, starting from the date of the accident. A property damage claim also has a two-year statute of limitations. If your loved one died in a rear-end accident, you would have two years from the date of the death in which to bring a wrongful death claim.
How a Houston Rear-End Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You?
If you have been involved in a rear-end car accident in Houston, you should work with a skilled attorney as early as possible in the aftermath of the crash. Your attorney should handle all aspects of your claim and work hard to improve your chances of securing a settlement fully and fairly compensates you. Some of the services which an attorney can provide include:
- Managing the investigation of your case. As you heal and recover from your injuries, your attorney will be responsible for handling an independent investigation of your case. This includes the hiring of any necessary experts.
- Organizing all claim documents. You will need to get a number of documents in order in order to seek compensation. These documents can range from medical bills and records to receipts for other expenses related to your injuries. Your attorney is responsible for handling all of this, organizing your case and presenting it in a compelling manner.
- Proving fault. Your attorney will work aggressively to establish the fault of the other party and dispute any allegations of fault made against you.
- Negotiating your case. Finally, you should know that an insurance company – whether yours or the other driver’s insurer – may not be keen to pay you what you deserve. An attorney can negotiate on your behalf and, if necessary, be prepared to fight for you at trial.
Get Help from Our Houston Rear-End Car Accident Lawyers Today
For a free consultation with an experienced auto accident lawyer at Fleming Law, P.C., contact us today. We are skilled attorneys who know how insurance companies often try to take advantage of injured people and their families. We will aggressively protect your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve after a rear-end accident.
Michael P. Fleming is a highly experienced litigator who has argued and won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a Houston resident who was twice elected to serve as the Harris County Attorney. He is also an avid runner who has completed eight marathons, to date, including two in Ireland. Only a small group of Texas lawyers are Board Certified as specialists in both Personal Injury Trial Law and Real Estate Law. Michael is one of them. He also proudly holds his B.A. degree from the University of Saint Thomas and his J.D. degree from the University of Houston College of Law.