Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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Earlier this month, six El Salvadoran citizens were killed and five others seriously injured in a Texas car accident. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the single-vehicle crash occurred when an SUV crashed into a roadside ditch near Robstown. Apparently, shortly before the accident, the vehicle was being pursued by police. However, law enforcement gave up on the pursuit due to the wet conditions. The SUV was traveling at estimated speeds of up to 50 miles per hour before the crash.

The authorities have not yet released several important details surrounding the fatal accident. For example, it is unclear what the basis of the traffic stop was and whether it justified a high-speed chase. Additionally, it is unknown how long after the authorities called off the chase the crash occurred. What is known is that the people involved in the accident were undocumented.

Because police gave up on the pursuit, they were not immediately aware of the accident, which was only reported after passers-by noticed two injured men walking along the side of the road. Once the crash was reported, emergency medical crews responded to the scene, removing several from the wreckage.

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While any Texas car accident lawsuit has the potential to become very complicated, as a general rule the more parties that are involved in an accident, the more complex a subsequent personal injury case will be. In Texas, courts apply several doctrines to determine which accident victims are entitled to compensation for their injuries and the amount of compensation each at-fault party owes the plaintiff.

Under Texas’ comparative negligence law, an accident victim who is less than 51% at fault for causing the accident that resulted in their injuries can pursue claims for compensation against the other parties involved in the crash. After the case, the jury will assign each party, including the plaintiff, a percentage of fault. Under Section 33.013 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, each defendant is then liable only for their percentage of fault. Thus, a plaintiff may be required to recover several judgments to obtain full compensation for their injuries.

If, however, a defendant is more than 50% at fault, the defendant is considered jointly and severally liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. This means that, while a defendant who is more than 50% at fault is technically only responsible for their percentage of fault, at the plaintiff’s option, the defendant can be required to pay the full damages amount to the plaintiff. Then, the defendant would be able to pursue a claim against those defendants with a lesser percentage of fault. When joint-and-several liability applies, the burden of recovering on smaller judgments is shifted onto the defendant who is primarily responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas car accident case illustrating the importance of expert testimony. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a subsequent report issued by the plaintiff’s expert was admissible. Ultimately, the court concluded that the report was properly excluded, and affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant manufacturer.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed in a single-vehicle car accident after his Jeep Wrangler swerved off the road and into a concrete pillar. There was no known cause for the accident, and investigators noticed that the grass under the Jeep was charred, as though there had been a fire. A few days after the crash, the manufacturer issued a recall of the transmission oil controller (TOC). Evidently, a defective TOC could result in the undercarriage of a vehicle catching fire.

The plaintiff’s surviving loved ones filed a Texas product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. In support of their claim, they consulted with an expert. However, after reviewing the data, the expert could not definitively state that the recall defect caused the fire. After learning of the expert’s opinion, the plaintiffs moved for additional discovery related to Jeep fires that were caused by other defects. After reviewing this data, the plaintiff’s expert submitted an amended report, concluding that a defective TOC caused the fire.

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In a recent case, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected a Texas personal injury claim against Apple. The plaintiff alleged that a driver’s “neurobiological response” to a text message notification caused a fatal car crash.

According to the facts alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint, a text message came in that the at-fault driver looked at while driving on the highway. When the driver received the text message, she looked down at her phone to read the message. In doing so, she averted her eyes from the road. When she looked back up at the road, it was too late, and her car crashed into another car, which had two adults and a child inside. The two adults were killed and the child was seriously injured.

The victims’ family sued Apple, the manufacturer of the phone, claiming that Apple was liable under the theories of negligence and products liability. The plaintiffs claimed that, although Apple was aware of the dangers of texting while driving and had obtained a patent for a lock-out mechanism for texting while driving, the company did not put the lock-out mechanism in any version of the at-fault driver’s phone. The plaintiffs claimed that Apple was liable because the receiving of text messages triggers “an unconscious and automatic, neurobiological compulsion to engage in texting behavior.” The plaintiffs also claimed that Apple failed to warn customers about the dangers of texting while driving. Apple filed a motion to dismiss, and a federal court granted the motion. The plaintiffs then appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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In Texas, drunk driving is taken seriously by lawmakers, police, and prosecutors. Yet, despite the decades-long efforts of government agencies and non-profit organizations, drunk driving is still a major problem in Texas. Indeed, each year there are approximately 17,000 Texas DUI accidents, claiming the lives of nearly 1,000 Texans annually.

While a Texas drunk driver is subject to criminal penalties, they can also be held accountable for their actions through a Texas personal injury lawsuit. To establish that a drunk driver is responsible for an accident victim’s injuries, the accident victim must be able to prove the four elements of a Texas negligence lawsuit: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

Typically, in a lawsuit arising from a Texas drunk driving accident, the elements of duty and breach are often established through the doctrine of negligence per se. Negligence per se is, in essence, a shortcut that lawmakers allow certain accident victims to take when developing their claim. When the elements of negligence per se are met, the defendant is found to have been legally negligent. This satisfies both the duty and breach elements of a negligence claim.

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While some Texas car accidents are caused exclusively by the negligence of one party, many accidents are the result of shared responsibility. In these cases, Texas courts use the state’s proportionate liability statute to determine which accident victims can pursue a claim against the other parties involved in the accident.  Specifically, the law allows for anyone involved in a Texas multi-vehicle accident to seek compensation for the injuries they sustained, provided that their percentage of fault is determined to be 50% or less.

Typically, a jury will determine a party’s percentage of fault at the court’s instruction. One question that frequently arises in many Texas car accidents is whether the jury can consider a motorist’s failure to wear a seatbelt as a factor in determining a party’s potential negligence.

Seatbelt Non-Use Evidence

When it comes to seatbelt non-use evidence, courts typically take one of three different approaches. Some courts can allow seatbelt non-use evidence to be considered by the jury when determining a motorist’s percentage of fault. Other courts only allow a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt during the damages phase of the trial, after liability has been established. And finally, some courts prohibit seatbelt non-use evidence altogether.

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Any individual in Texas who operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated commits the offense of driving while intoxicated. This includes intoxication not only by alcohol, but also by illegal drugs and even prescription drugs, as long as the drugs have an intoxicating effect on the driver. If a driver is arrested for a Texas DWI, this evidence can be useful in a subsequent personal injury case against the driver.

Of course, as in any case, a plaintiff in a personal injury case must still prove each of the elements of the claim she is bringing. This means that a driver’s arrest and conviction for DWI does not necessarily result in the driver being found liable in a civil case. For example, in a Texas personal injury case, a plaintiff must prove all the elements of negligence, including that the defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff’s injuries. This means proving both that the crash was a result of the defendant’s conduct and that the defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff’s injuries. A defendant might argue that the plaintiff was at fault for the crash, or at least contributed to it, or that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the accident, among other defenses.

NTSB Finds Driver Was Impaired by Marijuana and Prescription Drugs in Fatal Texas Crash

A driver involved in a Texas car accident that left 13 people dead was under the influence of marijuana and prescription drugs, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). As one news source reported, the NTSB investigated the crash and recently released its findings. The NTSB found that the driver failed to control his pickup truck because he was impaired by marijuana and had misused prescription drugs.

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In a recent dram shop case before a Texas court of appeals, the appeals court considered whether the bar could be held liable for over-serving a customer who was later involved in a car crash.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was driving his motorcycle one night when a car crashed into him. The vehicle failed to yield and turned left in front of the plaintiff, who was unable to stop. The car’s driver ran over the plaintiff, who had fallen from his motorcycle, and then backed up, running over him again, before fleeing the scene.

Before the crash, the driver of the car had been drinking for several hours at different bars with a friend. They went to one bar, then to defendant’s bar, then to a third bar, then to a fourth bar where they were refused service, and then back to the defendant’s bar, where they continued drinking. The driver eventually left the bar, and struck the plaintiff on his way home. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s bar provided, sold, or served alcohol to the driver of the car when he was obviously intoxicated “to the extent that he presented a clear danger to [him]self and others.”

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Drunk driving is a serious concern throughout the country, but the issue is even more concerning in Texas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13,138 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in Texas from 2003 to 2012. The rate of drunk driving deaths was higher in Texas than the national average across all age groups, according to data from 2012. In addition, the percentage of adults who reported driving after drinking too much was higher in Texas than nationally.The CDC recommends that states have harsh drunk driving laws, including zero-tolerance laws, sobriety checkpoints, and ignition-interlock devices installed on cars for all offenders, as well as mass-media campaigns and school-based instructional programs, among other strategies.

Texas DUI Law

All states have drunk driving laws in place to protect the public from drunk drivers. In Texas, the state’s blood-alcohol limit is 0.08% for individuals 21 and older, and 0.04% for commercial drivers. Additionally, there is a zero-tolerance law in effect for individuals younger than 21 years old. Being involved in a DUI accident can have devastating consequences, and individuals who are injured in a Texas drunk driving accident may pursue a claim against the drunk driver to recover compensation for their injuries.

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  • The legal doctrine of negligence generally governs most injury claims. Thus, understanding what a plaintiff must to prove is an important part of any Texas injury case. Negligence means that a party acted or failed to act in a way that an ordinarily prudent person would have acted in those or similar circumstances. This is referred to as the standard of care.

The standard of care required in a given scenario depends on the facts of the case. Some considerations might include the dangerousness of the activity involved and the relationship between the parties. Therefore, a plaintiff must show that the defendant did something a prudent person exercising ordinary care would not have done (or failed to do something an ordinarily prudent person would have done) in those same circumstances.

In Texas, to prove a negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove 1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty; 2) the defendant breached that duty; and 3) the breach proximately caused the plaintiff damages. That means that in a Texas car accident case, a plaintiff has to prove that another person failed to meet the standard of care, which caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In some cases, the standard of care has been defined. For example, negligence per se is a concept where a certain standard of care has already been established. In that instance, a statute states what a reasonably prudent person would have done, and then the jury is asked whether the defendant violated the statute or regulation.

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