Being the fourth most populous city in the country, Houston has a significant number of car accidents of all types. In each incident, one or more parties can be at fault for causing the crash. Sometimes, things go smoothly or liability is obvious and the police report shows who was at fault and that person or company becomes responsible for paying for the damages caused. Other times, parties can debate over who caused the collision and who should thus bear the responsibility of paying for the resulting injuries and property damage. The more vehicles that are involved in a car accident, the more complicated determining liability can become.
Determining who is at fault is the most important part of a car accident claim. Often, crashes result from the negligence of multiple parties, which makes them even more complicated. Even more so, insurance companies may deny liability even if their insured driver seems to be at fault. When two or more parties cannot agree over who caused a crash, a car accident case is considered contested. While most car accident claims are settled out of court, some claims are disputed (or contested) and a lawsuit will need to be filed in order to resolve them.
How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?
Texas is an at-fault state for car accidents, which means the party responsible for the collision is financially liable for damages caused. Since determining fault will generally dictate who pays for the damage, knowing how to figure out who caused the crash is incredibly important. The following items can assist in showing who acted negligently or otherwise caused a car accident:
- Police report
- Accident scene photos and/or videos
- Vehicle damage
- Witness testimony
- Surveillance video footage of the crash
- Insurance company investigative documents
- Traffic laws and safety standards that may have been violated – traffic citations
- Medical records and bills
To prove fault in a Texas auto accident case, you must be able to do so by what is called a preponderance of the evidence. This means you need to prove your version is more likely correct than the other party’s by establishing the allegedly at-fault driver breached their duty of care to you as a fellow roadway user by engaging in a negligent or reckless action or by failing to act. The types of actions that can be considered a breach of this duty include distracted driving, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failing to follow traffic signs and signals, speeding, and more. Once you establish their negligence, you must show that negligent act is what directly caused your damages and that this was a foreseeable result of their behavior.
Texas uses modified comparative fault or proportionate responsibility to award damages, which means that each party pays the portion of the damages for which they are legally liable. In addition, Texas also follows a 51% rule, which means if you are 51% or more responsible for causing the car accident yourself, you are barred from recovering anything. These legal nuances show the complexities that can surround a contested car accident case and why you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer before trying to fight such a claim on your own.
How To Dispute Fault in a Car Accident Case
If someone else is trying to blame you for a car accident they caused, you should dispute it right from the start at the scene of the accident. You take similar steps to those you’d take after any collision but you do so with an eye toward proving you were not at fault. Be sure to get the names and contact information for any witnesses, take photos and videos of the damage to all vehicles and of the accident scene, and of course seek medical attention as needed as soon as possible.
If an insurance company finds you at fault, tell them you disagree over the phone and in writing but be brief with your words or work with a lawyer to help you draft the correspondence. Even just voicing your own disagreement could change things and lead to an additional investigation, but regardless it shows a continuous record of your maintaining you were not the cause of the car accident.
Houston Contested Car Accident Lawyers
If you do decide to dispute a fault-finding after a car accident, know that insurance companies take lawyers more seriously than claimants without counsel. If you’re unrepresented, the chances of being ignored or bullied by an insurer are much higher, especially if they believe they have sufficient evidence to blame you for the accident. If you were injured and need help with a contested car accident case, you should contact the experienced personal injury trial lawyers of JD Silva & Associates today for more information about your option and how we can help.