Articles Posted in Automobile Accidents

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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.

Peeling OutGenerally, 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.

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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.

Legal News GavelThe 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.

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Liability in Texas car crashes is generally governed by negligence principles. Negligence refers to a party’s failure to act in a way that an ordinarily prudent person would act under the circumstances to prevent an unreasonable risk of harm. Under Texas law, the elements of a negligence claim are:  1) a legal duty owed by one person to another; 2) a breach of that duty; 3) damages; and 4) proximate causation of the damages by the breach of duty.

Legal News GavelThe standard of care one person owes another depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident as well as the relationship between the parties. Generally, the standard of care refers to the care and diligence that an ordinarily prudent person would use to prevent injuries under the circumstances. Therefore, a plaintiff must show that a defendant did something (or failed to do something) that a person exercising ordinary care would not have done under the circumstances.

In car accident cases, in order to hold another driver liable, a plaintiff must show that the driver was negligent and also that the other driver’s negligence proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Proximate cause refers to both the direct cause of the damages and the foreseeability of the damages. In cases involving more than one negligent driver, each driver is jointly and severally liable for the resulting damages.

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When someone is injured due to the allegedly negligent act of a government employee or entity, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries through a Texas personal injury lawsuit. However, as a general rule, government entities are not liable for injuries caused by their negligent actions related to carrying out government business. In some specific situations, however, government immunity is waived. This is normally through statutorily defined exceptions contained in the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA).

Legal News GavelIn order for an accident victim to pursue a valid claim against a government entity, the victim must comply with the procedural requirements set forth in the TTCA. One of the major requirements of the TTCA is the notice requirement. As a general rule, notice must be provided to the agency that is being named as a defendant. However, in some cases, notice need not be provided if the agency has actual notice through other means.

Courts have held that a government can be said to have actual notice of a potential claim if the agency has subjective knowledge that there was an accident involving death or injury, the government agency’s fault contributed to the accident, and the government knows the identity of the parties. A recent case illustrates how courts strictly interpret this requirement, and how an accident victim’s failure to comply with the requirement may adversely affect their case.

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Legal News GavelIn a recent Texas car accident case, an on-duty police officer rear-ended the plaintiff’s van. Afterward, the police supervisor came to the scene and spoke to both the police officer and the plaintiff. He prepared the investigative reports.

Later, the plaintiff sued the city for damages under the Texas Tort Claims Act on the ground that the officer’s negligence caused the collision and his serious injuries. He claimed that the city had been given actual and formal notice. The city denied the allegations and argued in a plea to the jurisdiction it hadn’t been given timely actual and formal notice of the claims.

The plaintiff argued the notice requirement was satisfied because he’d actually told the officer and his supervisor about his injuries at the time of the accident. The trial court denied the city’s plea to the jurisdiction.

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Legal News GavelIn a recent Texas appellate case, a plaintiff appealed the denial of her motion for a new trial after an adverse jury verdict. The plaintiff was a lawyer who was hurt in a car accident when her car was hit by the defendant’s car.

The plaintiff’s body and head were jerked forward, but the seatbelt held her back. She didn’t think she was hurt and continued her daily activities. Later in the day, she got a headache, and a doctor at an ER saw her. Since her primary complaints were a cough and back pain, she was diagnosed with an infection and back strain and prescribed pain meds.

Three weeks later, she saw a chiropractor. At the first visit, she completed a questionnaire showing she didn’t feel pain immediately after an accident. At the time of her visit, she had numerous pains, breathing difficulties, and headaches, and she was diagnosed with various types of sprains or strains. She was treated by the chiropractor for three months and referred for an MRI. Her knee didn’t show structural damage.

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Legal News GavelIn Blevins v. Pepper-Lawson Construction, the plaintiff appealed after a jury awarded him $170,850 for injuries suffered when he hit a construction vehicle driven by an employee of a masonry company.

The case arose one evening when the plaintiff was driving near a high school under renovation. A subcontractor of Pepper-Lawson Construction was doing some masonry. The plaintiff tried to pass a car but instead hit the mason’s construction vehicle. He was hurt and sued Pepper-Lawson, the mason, and the driver of the construction vehicle.

At trial, he argued that the construction vehicle should not be driven on a public road without a road kit (headlights and tail lights), and there was a failure to warn. A witness testified at trial that she was driving in the same area, which was well lit. A motorcycle sped around her in the right lane, followed by the plaintiff’s truck, which was also speeding. She believed they were racing and stopped her car because she saw that the plaintiff was driving as if he didn’t see the construction vehicle and was going to hit it.

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Legal News GavelIn Gonzalez v. Villafana, the plaintiff sued the defendants for damages suffered in a car crash with a car operated by Nestor Villafana but owned by Ramon Walle. The case arose when Walle, a muffler shop owner, visited a friend at his tire shop, hoping to talk about buying some land from the friend. Villafana was also a friend of the tire shop owner visiting the shop. Walle was in the shop for 30 minutes when his wife called to tell him about a customer at the muffler shop. Villafana asked for a ride to the muffler shop so that he could get a taco nearby.

Walle drove him. At the muffler shop, both men left the car, with Walle assuming Villafana would go get something to eat. Walle left his keys in the ignition. However, 30 minutes later, another friend called to tell him he’d seen his car in an accident. Villafana had been driving the car. Walle didn’t know the car was gone until he was informed about the accident.

The plaintiff sued Walle for negligent entrustment and Villafana for negligence. Walle filed for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion and severed the plaintiff’s claims against Walle from the claims against Villafana so that the judgment was final as to Walle.

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Legal News GavelIn Homman v. Kugler, a husband and wife involved in a single-vehicle accident sued a retail outlet and its owner, who was also the man who loaded their trailer. The plaintiff worked for David’s Patio, and on the day of the accident, he was driving a pickup and trailer for the defendant retail outlet to pick up angle irons. The owner of the retail outlet used a forklift to put the loan on the trailer. The plaintiff used only a single strap to secure the load and then drove back to his company.

The plaintiff started to get onto the freeway, but the trailer began swaying, pushed forward, and lifted the back wheels of the pickup. The pickup spun, balancing on two wheels on its side, and then the trailer broke off and rolled away. The pickup sat back down on its four wheels. The plaintiff wasn’t cited for the accident and did not see a doctor right away.

He went back home feeling sore. The next day, when he woke, he felt sore from his upper buttocks to his skull. He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with herniated and bulging discs. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and epidural steroid injections. He was also told he needed fusion surgery on his lower back, but he hadn’t gotten this surgery at the time of trial.

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romania-highway-1469428In Texas Department of Transportation v. Kirk, the plaintiff sued several entities, including the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), to recover compensation for injuries suffered when he lost consciousness and control of his vehicle on Hwy. 277. Before crashing the car, he started to suffer dizziness and blurred vision. When he lost consciousness, his car left the road and hit a guardrail, some of which came through the passenger side, causing injuries.

Later, the plaintiff claimed that the end terminal of the guardrail had an ET-Plus design, which was developed and sold by various defendants, although not TxDOT. It had been designed so that it would absorb collision impact. The plaintiff also claimed other parties had altered the design so that it didn’t function in the same way.

TxDOT filed a motion for summary judgment and to dismiss, arguing it had sovereign immunity. The motion was denied, but the trial judge gave no reason why. TxDOT appealed.

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