In rear-end accidents, is liability automatic? That is, if another driver strikes your car from behind, is that driver automatically at fault?
No, not in Texas, where blame for rear-end crashes can be shared.
It’s true that drivers who rear-end other cars often are at fault for failing to maintain a proper speed or for driver inattention. But such drivers may claim that actions of the car in front contributed to the crash.
For instance, did the front car stop illegally in a moving lane of traffic? Did it stop abruptly without reason or suddenly switch lanes in front of the other driver? Did the at-fault vehicle in the rear have a mechanical failure which kept it from stopping?
Such questions must be answered before an insurance adjuster accepts liability for a rear-end crash. Depending on the answer, the blame may be shared — along with the costs. In order to increase the chance that blame is placed on the correct party, you should hire an attorney after a rear-end collision.
Just because automatic liability doesn’t apply for rear-end accidents doesn’t mean you can’t be compensated if someone hits your car from behind. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a rear-end accident, such compensation may be vital to your financial future.
Compensation may not come easily from an insurance company. Insurers often try to deny, delay or underpay claims and instead keep that money for themselves.
But you can compel your insurer to pay what you deserve. How? You can engage an experienced personal injury lawyer from our law firm to handle your case.
Your injury lawyer may start with “hard-ball” negotiations with the insurer to reach a favorable settlement for you, since rear-end accidents can be very costly. Or you may need an injury lawsuit to compel those at fault — or their insurer — to pay what you are rightfully owed for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering due to a rear-end crash.
In either case, you’ll need a rear-end auto accident lawyer to make your claim, in part by exhibiting why liability should be placed on the other driver, since automatic liability does not exist.
Here’s the law, according to Section 545.062 of the Texas Transportation Code:
“An operator shall, if following another vehicle, maintain an assured clear distance between the two vehicles so that, considering the speed of the vehicles, traffic and the conditions of the highway, the operator can safely stop without colliding with the preceding vehicle or veering into another vehicle, object or person on or near the highway.”
Yet this law doesn’t impose “automatic liability,” since it doesn’t account for arguments that the driver in front veered in front of the rear driver.
A car wreck attorney from our law firm can work hard to convince an adjuster or jury of the rear driver’s liability in your case. Similarly, that driver’s lawyer or insurer may insist you were at fault, or at least partly at fault, so that blame is reassigned or shared.
If an adjuster tries to apportion liability incorrectly and refuses to change his or her position, the case may go to a jury to obtain a liability percentage determination.
At that time, a jury then can apportion liability or negligence between more than one driver. That’s because Texas is a “comparative negligence” state, rather than an “all or nothing” state. When a jury finds negligence on both drivers, the jury apportions liability by percentages.
If the liability applied to you is over 50 per cent, you were mostly to blame and won’t recover anything financially.
If the liability assigned to you is less than 50 per cent, you can recover an amount equal to the other driver’s liability. That is, if a jury finds you were 25 per cent responsible for the rear-end crash, and the other driver was 75 per cent responsible, you can recover 75 per cent of the award.
Thus, assigning liability is vital to winning rear-end accidents cases. Your accident lawyer will have to deflect arguments that you stopped suddenly for no reason or in some other way contributed to the rear-end crash. He or she also must show that this car wreck was not an “unavoidable accident” or can be blamed on a “sudden emergency” such as a medical problem.
In a jury trial, 10 of the 12 jurors must agree with you as the plaintiff for your case to prevail. But even then, a verdict of “split liability” may be reached.
Because gray areas for arguments exist, you need a skilled injury lawyer to handle your case — and we have one for you. Our law firm has over 40 years of experience helping thousands of injured Texans get the payments they legally deserved after being injured by others’ negligence, and we can help you, too.
Before you talk to an insurance adjuster about your case, contact our law firm for help. The adjuster may try to get you to say things which undercut your case. Your rear-end accidents lawyer can protect you against such tricks and can fight for your rights to payments for your losses after a rear-end accident.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.