Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

Published on:

One of the first considerations in a Texas car accident case is which of the parties involved should be named as defendants. This is an important decision for several reasons. First, failing to name a potentially liable party could result in the named defendants shifting blame onto the unnamed party. Second, given the low insurance requirements in Texas, an accident victim can very easily sustain more serious injuries than can be recovered under a single insurance policy.

Of course, only parties that were potentially negligent can be named in a Texas personal injury case. However, it is a common misconception that the at-fault driver is the only negligent party. In many cases, an at-fault driver was not the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident and was permitted to use the vehicle by a friend, family member, or employer. This is where the doctrine of negligent entrustment comes in.

The doctrine of negligent entrustment allows an injury victim to hold the owner of a vehicle liable for negligently allowing another person to use the vehicle. Under Texas case law, a plaintiff must be able to establish:

  • The owner entrusted the vehicle to the driver;
  • The driver was unlicensed, reckless, or incompetent;
  • The owner knew the driver was unlicensed, reckless, or incompetent;
  • The driver was negligent; and
  • The driver’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Continue reading →

Published on:

In some Texas car accident cases, one or more drivers involved in the accident may be issued a traffic citation, causing some to wonder what impact that could have on a subsequent personal injury claim. Under Texas law, a motor vehicle driver must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances presented. This means that the level of care that is required in ordinary circumstances may not be sufficient in other situations. For example, the reasonable care required may be different when it is raining or snowing, or while driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

If a driver is issued a citation for a traffic violation, some evidence concerning the violation may be able to be used in a Texas personal injury claim. If a driver violates a traffic law or similar statute, evidence of that violation may constitute negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law. However, the violation of a statute does not always mean there will be a finding of negligence per se. If the court determines that the defendant was negligent per se, then the jury will be instructed that is the case and the only issues for the jury to determine are causation and damages.

Texas courts consider various factors in determining whether a violation of the statute constitutes per se liability, including whether the plaintiff’s injury is due to a direct or indirect violation of the statute, and whether the statute would impose liability without fault.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Determining fault in a Texas car accident can be a very complex matter, depending on the surrounding circumstances. While some accidents involve few parties and present straightforward issues, other cases involve complex fact patterns that require judges and juries to consider and apply numerous legal doctrines.

One of the more common issues that can arise in a Texas personal injury lawsuit that may make the case more complicated is the presence of multiple parties, each of which shares some amount of fault in causing an accident. A common example of this type of case is a Texas chain reaction accident.

In these cases, Texas courts apply what is commonly known as the doctrine of comparative fault. In Texas, however, the doctrine is referred to as “proportionate liability.” Chapter 33 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code discusses proportionate liability and how it applies in Texas personal injury cases.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Texas plaintiffs can have difficulty bringing claims against a governmental entity due to governmental immunity. However, there are many exceptions to governmental immunity that allow plaintiffs to bring claims against governmental entities. In a recent case before a Texas appeals court, the court upheld a claim against the Texas Department of Transportation after the plaintiff was involved in a car accident.

The plaintiff was driving a tractor-trailer on Highway 83 traveling toward Laredo. Another tractor-trailer stopped in front him, and he slowed and went onto the shoulder to avoid colliding with the tractor-trailer. The plaintiff hit an 8 ¾ inch drop-off between the shoulder and the ground. One of the truck’s tires went onto the ground and as the plaintiff tried to bring the tire back onto the shoulder, the tire popped, causing the tractor-trailer to tip over onto its side. The plaintiff brought a premises liability claim against the Texas Department of Transportation, but the Department argued that it was immune from suit. A jury found the Department was negligent, and the court awarded the plaintiff $250,000 in damages. The Department appealed the decision, arguing again it was immune from suit.

Governmental Immunity under Texas Law

Governmental immunity protects the political subdivisions of the state from suit, such as counties, cities, and school districts. A Texas governmental entity is normally immune from lawsuit unless specifically waived under Texas law. The plaintiff has the burden of showing how immunity has been waived. Governmental immunity is waived for certain claims under the Texas Tort Claims Act.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Late last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas car accident case requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case against the defendant city should proceed toward trial over the city’s motion for summary judgment. In its motion, the city claimed it was entitled to government immunity because it did not have notice of the fallen stop sign that allegedly caused the accident in which the plaintiff was injured. Ultimately, the court rejected the city’s argument and denied its motion because there were disputed facts regarding the applicability of immunity in the case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when she was side-swiped while driving through an intersection in Houston. The plaintiff was traveling northbound at the time of the accident. At this specific intersection, traffic traveling in the east-west direction did not have a stop sign. There was a stop sign for both northbound and southbound traffic, which is where the dispute between the parties arose.

After the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city, claiming it was liable for her injuries because the stop sign for northbound traffic had been knocked over and was lying on the ground after the accident. The city claimed that the sign was not knocked down, and was visible at the time of the accident.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas car accident case discussing whether the plaintiff’s case against an allegedly negligent driver’s employer should proceed to trial where the accident occurred while the employee was not on-the-clock. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant employer’s no-evidence motion was properly granted because the plaintiff could not establish that the driver was acting in the performance of his duties as an employee of the defendant at the time of the accident.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when a truck collided with his vehicle. The plaintiff initially filed a lawsuit against the driver, but later withdrew that case after filing a lawsuit against the driver’s employer. The plaintiff claimed that the employer was vicariously liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The evidence showed that the employee had recently left the work site for the day, and was giving a co-worker a ride back to his hotel. On the way back from the job site, the employee stopped to show his co-worker the site of a future job. As the employee turned into the future job site, he struck the plaintiff’s car. It was also established that the defendant paid for the employee’s gas.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Recently, a federal appellate court issued an opinion in a case that was filed against several parties, including the city of Austin, Texas, following a fatal traffic accident that occurred during the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival. According to the court’s opinion, a drunk driver who was fleeing police drove through a block that had been closed off for the festival, killing four people. One of the victim’s family members filed a Texas wrongful death claim against the city and the festival organizers, claiming that the defendants failed to adequately block off the street to protect festival-goers.

The court dismissed each of the plaintiff’s claims against each of the defendants. First, the court determined that the family failed to show that the festival organizers controlled the area where the victim was killed. A city generally owns the public roads, but the family alleged that the festival organizers had a city permit that made it the occupier of the area where the driver was killed. However, the court pointed out that the right-of-way permit, which was attached as an exhibit, stated that all traffic controls had to be provided “in accordance with the approved traffic control plan.” The city-approved traffic control plan stated that the block was open to regular vehicular traffic. Therefore, the city still controlled the street, and the festival organizers had no duty to act.

Next, the court went on to determine that the city was immune from liability. Under Texas law, a municipality is generally immune from suit under the longstanding principles of governmental immunity. However, while a city is immune for torts that are committed while in the “performance of its governmental functions,” it is not immune for torts “committed in the performance of its proprietary functions.”

Continue reading →

Published on:

Although the Texas Supreme Court had previously held that seat belt non-use could not be considered in a civil case, it more recently decided such evidence can be considered for a limited purpose. It explained the new change in the following case.

The Facts of the Case

After a crash between a tractor-trailer and a pickup truck, the driver and passengers of the pickup truck sued the tractor-trailer’s driver and his employer. At the time of the crash, the pickup truck driver was trying to pass the tractor-trailer, and the tractor-trailer crashed into him as it began to turn left.

The case went to trial and the jury found that the tractor-trailer driver was 50% at fault, the employer was 10% at fault, and the pickup truck driver was 40% at fault. At the time of the crash, the pickup truck driver and his two passengers were not wearing seat belts. The jury found that because the plaintiffs were not wearing seat belts, they caused or contributed to their own injuries, and found that each of the plaintiffs was 100% responsible for their own injuries.

Continue reading →

Published on:

In some accident cases, a personal injury claim may be brought against a minor who is claimed to have been at fault. Such cases can be complicated, and the laws concerning the liability of minors vary from state to state. In Texas, minors are generally liable for their own torts; moreover, parents may be liable for their children’s acts in some cases.Generally, a person is not required to control the acts of another person. Yet, in the case of parents and their children, a parent may be liable if the parent negligently allows the child to act in a way that is likely to harm another person. A parent may also be liable if he or she gives the child a weapon or other dangerous instrumentality, or if the parent fails to control a child who is dangerous to others.

Parents are generally required to exercise reasonable care in controlling minor children to prevent them from creating an unreasonable risk of harm to others or from intentionally harming others. Some states have laws that provide that parents are liable for the damages caused by minor children while driving vehicles for family purposes. Texas does not follow that rule, but parents may still be held responsible in some circumstances.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a written opinion in a Texas car accident case involving the question of whether the defendant employer could be held liable for the allegedly negligent actions of an employee. Ultimately, the court concluded that the lower court improperly granted the defendant employer’s motion for summary judgment, finding that a genuine issue of fact remained as to whether the employer was vicariously liable. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s judgment and remanded the case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked for a company that drilled oil and gas wells. On this particular job, the plaintiff and the rest of the crew were put up in company housing about 30 miles away from the drilling site. A contract between the plaintiff’s employer and the owner of the land where the wells were to be drilled stated that the supervising crew member would be compensated for driving the crew members to and from the drilling site.

Thus, for this particular job, the plaintiff’s crew supervisor provided the plaintiff and the rest of the crew with transportation to the drill site. One day, the supervisor was involved in a car accident that killed two members of the crew and injured the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employer, arguing that it was vicariously liable for the supervisor’s negligence in causing the accident.

Continue reading →