Texas Auto Accident Laws and Resources
From Dallas to Texarkana to San Antonio, Texas is replete with thousands of miles of roads that millions of Texans travel each year. Roads in Texas span from the south Texas Hill County to the panhandle and far out west to the Big Bend desert.
More than 15 million drivers are licensed in Texas, with each averaging approximately 9,000 miles of driving per year. In this huge and populous state, there are plenty of car accidents. If you drive through Texas or live here, it is important to understand the laws and regulations of driving in the Lone Star State.
Statistics and Notable Settlements
Car accident statistics for 2016, according to the Texas Department of Transportation:
- The number of car accident fatalities in 2016 was 3773, which was an increase of 5.45% to 3578 in 2015.
- There were 14,202 serious crashes in the state that year, and 17,582 people having serious injuries.
- The total number of vehicle miles traveled in the state in 2016 was 261.994 billion, which was an increase of 1.5% over 2015.
- Fatalities in rural area accidents was 51% of the total fatalities for 2016. This was a total of 1942 deaths in rural accidents.
- There were 638 people killed in head on accidents.
- There were no days in Texas in 2016 without at least one road death.
- There were 1.44 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles traveled in 2016, a 3.6% increase from 2015.
- One person was killed over two hours and 20 minutes.
- One person was injured every two minutes.
- Approximately 44% of traffic fatalities in Texas in 2016 involved people not wearing seatbelts.
- 265,076 people were hurt in traffic accidents in 2016.
- There were 455 people killed due to distracted driving, which was a decrease of 5% from the year before.
For 2014, it was reported that Houston was the worst city for driving. There were 60,472 crashes in the city, which was almost 20,000 more than other towns in the state. There were 227 fatalities and 1222 injuries.
One of the most notable settlements in a Texas car accident in recent years was a $31.5 million judgment against an auto body shop that made an incorrect repair on a 2010 Honda Fit. The couple who was severely burned and injured in a resulting accident was awarded the large judgment in a 10-2 verdict. This is allowed if the same 10 jurors agree on all parts of the damages and verdict. The roof caved in during the accident, which was attributed to an improper repair by the auto body shop.
Texas Negligence Laws
To recover damages for injuries in Texas, you must prove the other driver was at fault for your accident injuries. This state has what is called a modified comparative negligence rule. This means the jury or judge will determine the degree of fault for all drivers in the accident. If you were not more at fault than the driver that is being sued, you can recover damages. Note that the court will reduce your damages according to your degree of fault for the accident.
Texas is a fault state. This means the party that is found to be at fault for the accident is responsible for paying for the injuries and damages of the other party.
It is important to be aware of the concept of gross negligence in Texas. In legal circles, gross negligence in this state is considered an act that is so extreme that it shocks one’s senses. There is no exact standard for what gross negligence is under state law, but the idea encompasses callousness, recklessness and maliciousness that go well beyond civilized behavior. There is no legal definition provided in the statute because the courts want juries to determine this standard by a case by case basis.
One of the most obvious examples of gross negligence is an accident involving a drunk driver. Another possibility is someone who suffers a severe injury by a person engaging in a street race.
If the jury or judge decides the case involves gross negligence, exemplary damages can be awarded on top of regular economic and noneconomic damages in a lawsuit. For exemplary damages, they are limited to the greater of $
200,000; two times the amount of economic damages plus $750,000; or two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount of non-economic damages.
Texas Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after an accident in Texas is two years from the date of the accident.
Auto Insurance Requirements in Texas
Texas requires each driver to carry a minimum of auto insurance coverage. The minimum standards for this state are as follows:
- $30,000 in bodily injury per person for each accident
- $60,000 in bodily injury for all parties for each accident
- $25,000 for property damage
- $2500 for personal injury protection
- $30,000 and $60,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury
You do have the option in this state to reject PIP and uninsured motorist coverage, but this is not recommended. There are many drivers in Texas without insurance. If you are injured in an accident by someone with minimal or non existent coverage, you could be forced to pay for your own injuries and damages.
Other Texas Driving Laws
There have been many changes to driving laws in Texas in recent years:
- The state has a texting ban for both novice and adult drivers.
- There is a ban for using handheld phones and texting for all drivers in school zones; a violation is assessed a $200 fine.
- The minimum fine for not stopping for a school bus is $500. Many school buses have cameras and will document your license plate.
- The penalty for leaving an accident scene in Texas now carries a maximum fine of $10,000, and a jail sentence from two to 20 years.
- Drivers in Texas must move over or drive 20 MPH below the speed limit when a Texas Department of Transportation worker or vehicle is present on the road.
Caps on Damages in Texas
There are some limits on damages in Texas in a car accident. The limit on damages is $100,000 if the accident happens in the scope of a government worker’s job. For exemplary damages, they are limited to the greater of $200,000; two times the amount of economic damages plus $750,000; or two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount of non-economic damages.
Texas Car Accident Resources
If you are in a car accident in Texas, you will need to deal with a lot of anxiety and stress. Below are some common resources and tips that can help you to get through this difficult time.
- You are required to submit a Driver’s Crash Report within 10 days of an accident if the accident caused injury or death or involved damage of $1000 or more.
- If you have been hurt in a car accident, you will want to know how much your claim is worth. Use our online tool at Lawsuit Info Center to help you determine what your injuries may be worth.
- If you have been in an accident with a tractor trailer, these commercial vehicles are required to carry more coverage. Talk to a personal injury attorney today to determine what your case could settle for