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How do you win your case? Car accidents can be overwhelming. If you have been injured in a car accident and believe that someone else is at fault, you naturally feel that you are entitled to recover compensation for your damages. Screaming at her or him is not going to help you. Proving liability is the key, as the at-fault driver often denies responsibility and their insurance carrier refuses to make any payments.

Can an unbelted passenger win their Texas car accident case?

Were you injured in a crash where another driver was at fault but you were not wearing a seat belt? If so, you may be wondering if you are allowed to pursue a Texas car accident case to recover your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. This post examines Texas seat belt laws and how they can alter or eliminate injury claims.

Texas seat belt laws

Under the Texas Transportation Code, Section 545.413, all occupants of a vehicle must wear a seat belt. Further, adults must make sure that any person under 17 years old is belted.  Failure to do so is a class C misdemeanor punishable with a $25 to $50 fine. Texas law does not prevent an injured person from bringing a personal injury claim or lawsuit. However the insurance adjuster and defense attorney will raise the seat belt defense and you may receive no monetary damages. Although this may seem harsh, because the crash was not your fault so the other driver should have to pay you back for the damage they caused, it makes sense. Seat belts are there to protect vehicle occupants and are of course legally required. Further, the law requires all parties to a suit to mitigate, i.e. lessen, their damages. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in 2015 in Nabors Wells Services, Ltd. vs. Romero that evidence of seat belt was admissible at trial. A collision occurred in South Texas after a commercial vehicle was making a left turn and a SUV passed it early in the morning. It rolled over three times and several people were ejected. Tragically, one of those people died and the others were seriously injured. At trial, the evidence as to who was wearing his or her seat belt and the conclusions of the insurance company's expert witness were hotly contested. The plaintiffs were awarded a total of $2.3 million, but that figure was reduced by the 49% fault attributed to the driver. Later, on further review, several of the awards were vacated due to the failures to wear seat belts. Read more: Supreme Court rules that non use of seat belt admissible at trial In addition, Texas has adopted a more fair system of modified comparative negligence, along with 32 other states. This means a judge and jury hear evidence regarding the relative fault of all drivers involved in the collision. The amount a person receives is reduced by their percentage of fault. The plaintiff's failure to wear a seat belt could allow the fact-finder to attribute 50% or more fault for causing or failing to mitigate their injuries. Some states have a strict negligence law that prevents the plaintiff from receiving any damages if he is found even 1% at fault.

Seat belts saves lives

You might think everyone buckles up, but unfortunately up to 10% of people don't see the need or resent the restriction. If you are not convinced that you need to buckle up, a new report shows that almost one-half of fatalities happen to motorists who are not belted. Texas passed the law requiring drivers to wear seat belts 35 years ago. It is hard to believe this wasn't always required, since they were invented in the early 19th century.
Fortunately, seat belts have reduced our country's high highway death rate. In 1985, that first year they were required, almost 44,000 people lost their lives in a crash. That number dropped to about 36,500 in 2018. That figure is still extremely high. Fort Worth and the state have adopted a Zero Vision program where they aim to have no deaths on our highways by the year 2050 or sooner. When the new law was enacted, many people refused to wear lap belts, the way some refuse to wear masks. But ironically, Texans quickly agreed to wear the belts and were even among the leaders in the country doing this new act. Now we take it for granted that everyone will use safety measures to protect themselves and each other.

Fight for fair compensation

Our law firm has been in a number of battles over this issue. For example, Mr. Berenson represented the family of a man who tragically died due to the negligence of an enormous international business several years ago. Although her police report said that the deceased man was wearing his seat belt, in her deposition the police officer said that he was not. We challenged her testimony, got the court to allow our accident reconstruction expert to inspect his car a second time, proved that the pre-tensioner had tightened and left a mark, and obtained a substantial recovery for his family. If you or someone you love sustained injuries after a Texas car accident, contact us at 1-888-801-8585 or fill out this short form.

Car accident police report is essential for a personal injury claim

If you have been injured in a car or truck crash, Berenson Injury Law will get the Texas car accident police report for you at no charge or obligation. Call us at 817-885-8000 (toll-free at 1-885-801-8585) or fill out this contact form. The car accident police report is critical. How police report can make or break your case. It contains all of the necessary information which enables you to process your claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company or with the court to enable you to recover your vehicle damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages as fast as possible. Without an independent car accident police report that a police officer can testify about in a court of law, your chances of getting paid can be hampered. At your trial, it is often Exhibit A and the police officer who wrote it is your first witness. If he or she testifies in their police uniform that they investigated the crash, talked to all drivers and witnesses, and concluded that one person was at fault, the jury is going to believe them all or almost all of the time. But without a report, you won't know the name of the officer, and if you find out, he won't remember your crash from the 10 others he worked that day or night. Although they would remember the scene below, where our clients lost their husband and father in a horrific crash where a giant piece of highway construction equipment suddenly darted across an interstate highway.     When we get the report, we will immediately call or email you to discuss it. We will explain what the report says, find out more information about your collision and injuries, and give you an honest opinion about what we can do to help you. We will discuss fees and expenses. We will answer all of your questions and explain how the legal/medical/insurance system works. You may be able to handle your claim yourself, especially if you and your passengers were fortunately not injured and are only needing to get your vehicle totaled or repaired. If this is the case, we will tell you what to do. Again, all of this is at no charge to you. So it's a win-win. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Why do you do this?

We know that businesses - especially law firms - don't give things away for free. So you might be skeptical. But after someone has been injured in a vehicle collision, they often lose their vehicle and are feeling tremendous pain. And even if this were not happening, the red tape of pursing an insurance claim can be overwhelming. Many people don't know what to do. You really can't get a good result on your case. They system is stacked against you if you are not a personal injury attorney, the way the medical system can be incomprehensible to the average person. That keeps many folks from getting paid back for their vehicle damage, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages they sustain. We don't think that's fair. Mr. Berenson thinks that giving out free car accident police reports helps people here in North Texas and he is happy to do it. He likes to help out. Here are some of his recent community service projects. He never charges for his firm's internal expenses that can add up to hundreds of dollars. Things like couriers and Federal Express deliveries, certified mailings, mileage, copies, and travel. And of course police reports. He is all about making his clients as much money as he can and also saving them as much as possible, which makes them even more money. If you do not think you need a personal injury lawyer or want to handle your case yourself, we understand. There is absolutely no obligation to hire us. Information everyone in a wreck should know But of course we would like the opportunity to represent you and help out with what can become a nightmare if not handled correctly by a specialist.

How we get the police report

  Berenson Injury Law primarily handles car, truck, 18-wheeler, motorcycle, and pedestrian crash cases. We represent injured people all over North Texas but also help those in other areas in our state and and occasionally in other states (although we prefer to refer them to local attorneys who can better serve them in other states). Bill Berenson has specialized in car and truck accidents for over 40 years. His law firm has adopted highly efficient processes that enable us to quickly obtain vital information that helps our clients recover from their injuries and get the largest financial settlements. We subscribe to several data bases so we can go online and get critical information that helps our clients instantly.

Can you get other legal documents that I will need?

Yes of course. That's what we do. The police report is just the starting point. We also get the following documents and reports for our clients:
  • 911 recordings
  • Criminal histories, assets,  and background checks on the other driver
  • Texas Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety records
  • Tarrant County Medical Examiner's autopsies
  • Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission reports (for DWI crashes)
  • Tarrant County District Attorney documents
  • Fort Worth Fire Department files
  • Medstar and other ambulance reports
  • National Transportation Safety Board reports
  • National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports
  • Commercial driver employment files

Why do you need a police report after you have been in a car accident

The police report will have the following information:
  • Date and time
  • Location
  • All drivers with identifying information including their insurance companies and policy numbers
  • Vehicles
  • Speed limit
  • Traffic control devices
  • Intersection distance (if not at one)
  • Property damage
  • Injuries
  • Ambulances
  • Tow trucks
  • Alcohol/drug case
  • Criminal charges
  • Admissions of fault by other driver
  • Eyewitnesses
The officer will also state who they found to be at fault and which traffic laws were violated. That becomes critical in the resolution of the claim with the insurance company or the court and jury if you file a lawsuit. Otherwise, the trial can degenerate into a swearing match where each driver claims they were in the right and the jury is left to decide what to do. Here is the code sheet if you have a report and are trying to decipher what the Factors and Conditions chart means on page two above means. In the above police report, a new case we are handling, the driver of a tractor-trailer (unit 1 and 2) violated #3 which means they "backed without safety" and seriously injured the driver in a small car behind them. Finally, a good drawing establishes the position and direction of all vehicles, including all-important eyewitnesses (W in the map below), roads, traffic control devices, and other relevant scene information. This nails down liability so the at-fault driver cannot claim he was not negligent. Can I get my own police report? Yes. It can be hard to get, but if you want to turn down our free offer, you can get a copy in one of these ways.
  1. Online
Go to the Department of Transportation and click here. You will need on the identification number, names of drivers, your driver's license number and vehicle identification number. Or click on this link from the Fort Worth Police Department. Note that it may take up to two weeks for the report to be downloaded unless you can to a faster data base.        2. In person or by mail In Fort Worth - Fort Worth Police Department Address: 1000 Calvert Street, Fort Worth 76102 Telephone: 817-392-4200 More information is on the FWPD's web site. In Dallas Address: 1400 South Lamar, Dallas 75215 Telephone: 214-671-3001 Click on this link. Also click on the DPD's web site.

We can help you

If you have been injured in a car, pickup truck/SUV, or an 18-wheeler collision, you owe it to yourself to talk to a top Fort Worth car wreck lawyer. Mr. Berenson has represented thousands of injured people for over 40 years. He is a board certified specialist in personal injury law and only handles vehicle crash cases --  not also medical malpractice, slip and falls, dangerous drugs, and other tort cases. And no, he does not get involved with divorces, criminal defense, wills, etc. Pro tip: Whoever you hire, make sure he or she is a specialist in the field. We charge the same fee as non-specialists. The first meeting (on the phone due to COVID-19 precautions) is free and we don't get paid until you get paid. Please contact us if we can help you.  

Inspectors found that a main entry gate had failed safety codes but the glamorous new $540 million Dickies Arena - magnified from our law office's windows - still opened in November. But one month later, a man who was on the overnight cleaning crew tragically died as a result of allowing that gate to remain in its dangerous condition. We described this horrific event in a previous blog. In case you missed this story, on December 7th in the early morning hours, Juan Carlos Julian, Jr., 24, was locked out of the building. But even though safety regulations prevented someone from being able to reach through a locked gate, he stuck his arm through the iron bars to hit the nearby button to let himself inside. He was crushed to death after his arm was trapped. To prevent this from happening, safety measures require that the open-close switch must be more than 10 feet away from the gate's moving arm. They also require gates with gaps of more than two and one fourth inches have screened wire mesh. Fort Worth adopted this national building code. But a city official admitted that the arena made a deal to allow it to open on time. The gate would remain as long as it was kept locked in an open position. That obviously didn't happen. A lawsuit has been filed in Dallas County by the man's family against the company that runs the arena, Trail Drive Management Corp., and its two building contractors, The Beck Group and TDIndustries. This was an accident just waiting to happen.

  More and more drivers across Texas are installing a dashboard mounted camera in their cars and trucks. Although most are using it to help them avoid crashes, we recommend that all drivers buy a dash cam because it can help you prevail in a disputed liability claim. We have a staggering 80,000 plus car wrecks each year in Dallas and Tarrant Counties, so there is a chance of this happening to any driver here in North Texas.

How can a dash cam help you in a lawsuit or claim?

Video footage can win or lose a car crash trial. Watching the actual depiction of where the vehicles were, how fast they were going, and how they came to a stop will allow insurance company adjusters, attorneys, and juries determine which driver was at fault. Video evidence is convincing and usually impossible to refute. Cameras can record what happens in front, behind, and to the side. They will also capture conversations made after an accident and whether the other driver appeared intoxicated or violent. For the relatively small amount of about $200, evidence of how the wreck happened is preserved. On the other hand, eyewitnesses can have completely differing versions of what happened -- if they even actually saw the crash happen and can accurately remember it weeks or months later. Our personal injury law firm also try to find the footage from street cameras and area businesses which may have recorded the crash.

Which one should I buy?

Here's a good article to show you the best one to buy. And here is one that was advertised on the internet for only $49.95 in a pop up ad today.

What are the advantages of a dash cam?

There are many times the dash cam could be useful to you. What if your car is rear-ended when you are at a complete stop and the other driver tries to claim that you slammed on your brakes? This footage can be sent to his claims adjuster or used in a court proceeding. A jury is going to believe what it can see. So the video can prove that you were not speeding, were in your lane, yielded the right of way at an intersection, and did not rear-end the car in front of you first, allegations that can be made by the other driver. Dash cams can be forward or rear-facing and record automatically. They can also be set to work while the vehicle is parked which can help apprehend hit-and-run damage should you have parked the vehicle and left. They can save you the substantial expense of hiring an accident reconstruction expert to go to the scene, take involved measurements, go to the wrecking yards, analyze all vehicles, download black boxes, etc. Having footage also prevents you from getting ensnared in a fraudulent insurance claim and will keep your insurance rates from going up. It can reveal the license plate, make, model, and color of a  vehicle, and even the driver's face, in a hit-and-run, which happen more than you might realize here in North Texas. The investigating police officer’s dash cam video can be priceless, especially if the person that hit you was driving while intoxicated. It can also preserve what independent eyewitnesses said after the collision, although you need to get identifying information since the statements are hearsay. We have seen our clients have their claims approved and cases won when we obtained their dash cam video. It is hard to believe that a dash cam is not standard equipment the way that a back-up camera is required for all new cars sold after May of 2018 and available for the past 10 years. A report conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board proved that dash cams reduce crashes and make drivers safer. That's why many commercial vehicle companies now require that dash cams are installed on their 18-wheelers and trucks.

Is using a dash cam legal in Texas?

Yes, using one does not ordinarily invade another’s privacy rights, as Texas is considered a “one party consent state.” Since you are aware that the recording is being made, Texas law allows a recording if you are in public. The camera cannot obstruct your view of traffic.

Are there any disadvantages?

Yes, if you are at fault, even partially, it will be proof of that as well. Or if you are seen dialing phone numbers, playing with the infotainment system, looking away while eating or drinking, listening to loud music, or yawning, an adjuster or attorney may argue that you were distracted or tired.

We can help you

If you have questions about a car or truck accident you were in, you need to speak with a personal injury lawyer. Please contact Berenson Injury Law to schedule a free no obligation meeting by calling us toll-free at 1-885-801-8585 or by using our convenient form.  

Steps You Should Take If You Are Hurt in an 18 Wheeler Crash

You may be looking for advice on how to proceed after a tractor-trailer hit you because you tried to deal with the company and got a low offer of settlement. Insurance companies know that many people will accept far less money than the fair settlement value or expected jury verdict amount. Maybe they've never made you an offer. But if you were injured in an 18 wheeler crash, your damages can be substantial. How do you know whether you should hire a personal injury lawyer and file a lawsuit or settle out of court? We at Berenson Injury Law know what to do. We've filed many vehicle collision lawsuits over the last 38 years. We filed another yesterday on behalf of a Fort Worth man who has had to go through two surgeries after a tractor-trailer crashed into his car and other vehicles, tragically killing a woman. Here's a photo from the scene on Interstate 35.
You might not think this could ever happen to you and we certainly hope it doesn't. But there are a shocking 34,000 collisions involving commercial vehicles that took the lives of 601 people and injured over 17,000 people in the United States. That's the number of people who watch a sold out concert or game at the American Airlines Center, to put the destruction in perspective.
Commercial truck collisions are often difficult legal battles because they cause serious injuries. You need to hire a good personal injury attorney who can build a strong case and win your case in court or mediation.

Does the State of Texas have a duty to warn drivers about a dangerous road condition? Last week’s decision by a Texas appellate court ruling said that it did.The Dallas court affirmed a jury’s verdict in favor of a motorcyclist who crashed when his wheels hit a large crack in the highway. The trial court capped the $1,200,000 verdict at $250,000, the maximum damages allowed under the Texas Tort Claims Act, and the state appealed. Brian Milton was traveling on FM Road 148 in Kaufman in 2012 at night. He couldn't see the deep cracks in the road pictured here until he hit one and crashed his bike into a ditch. Milton had never driven on this road before. He was severely injured. Testimony from state employees and other evidence showed that the TxDOT clearly knew about the problem before the crash. The responding officer noted the “big cracks” in the roadway. A few days later, Milton’s wife took this photo of the severely eroded highway. And just one month earlier, a TxDOT worker had taken pictures of the poor road conditions and ordered signs to warn drivers about the failing road but the signs weren’t placed in the correct location. In addition, the agency had begun roadwork nearby but had not yet made its way to the area of the crash where work orders were in place.

After being in a car wreck, a person is often injured and in shock. In the middle of this unexpected turmoil and pain, he or she may forget to call 911. That's a serious mistake. You need a police report. If you can't identity that driver or have an officer testify in court that he caused the car accident, good luck collecting compensation for your damages. While you are waiting for the police to arrive, make sure all drivers give you identifying information. Write down or photograph driver's licenses and insurance cards and take photos of vehicles showing property damage, license plates, the scene with the position of vehicles (if not moved yet) and injuries. And don't forget to get the names, emails and phone numbers, and observations from witnesses.

Importance of police report 

The report contains a wealth of useful information that a personal injury lawyer needs to prove liability and initial damages. The report will have the date, time, location, road, speed limit, vehicles, drivers, licenses, liability insurance, property damage, injuries and severity codes, alcohol and drug use, ambulances, hospitals, and other crucial facts. Key observations including a diagram showing the position of vehicles, traffic control devices are included. Potential problems like obstructions to view, weather issues, and vehicle defects will be noted. Admissions of fault and excuses by drivers and the names and phone numbers of eyewitnesses are written down. For example, I am about to file a lawsuit against a young man who was speeding and crashed his sporty car into my client's SUV, causing him to flip over multiple times and severely injure him. The police report also notes that the defendant driver claimed the reason for him crashing was that he was "tired" -- at 4:30 in the afternoon. Who on a jury is going to believe that? The police officer found the kid was speeding. The report lists which driver the officer believes was at fault and includes traffic citations and codes for traffic laws that were broken. Here's the list of these details and what the fault codes mean. After we are hired, my staff immediately buys the report and goes to work. An assistant drove to Hurst to pick one up today. We highlight key details and investigate troublesome findings. If the report has errors, we ask the officer to correct them. We try to locate and interview drivers, passengers, and witnesses. In "he said, she said" cases, these recordings can be decisive. If the other driver failed to stop at a red light or stop sign, we try to get a statement from him. We also do a complete internet search of his background including prior crashes and criminal history, including DWIs. We look at his assets and try to learn how much insurance coverage he purchased and also review your auto policy with you to see if additional benefits are available. We can attempt to subpoena the other driver's phone records to determine if he was texting or ask an expert to analyze any available video footage.

After a car crash, a police officer comes to the scene, interviews the drivers, and writes a detailed Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report (CR-3). Its importance cannot be overstated.

Accident Report

Why? It provides an unbiased account of the crash and is written by a trained expert. The insurance company and/or jury will use it to help decide what happened, who is at fault, and how much money to pay you. The officer records the information about all of the people who were in the vehicles, such as seating position and severity of injuries. The officer also notes whether the drivers were impaired by drugs or alcohol and sometimes even the blood alcohol level -- one of the most powerful ways to enlarge your recovery. I have been reading these accident reports almost daily for almost 40 years and know what to look for. It is essential to get and scrutinize the report as soon as possible. The report is often useful to you. But it can be inaccurate or just plain wrong and be kept out of evidence as hearsay. How this report is handled can make or break your case whether you are trying to obtain a high settlement or jury verdict - or any money at all. I go over these reports with a highlighter. The items in orange to the right are some of the things I look for.

Identification and Location 

The top section on page one gives basic information about the crash including the date, time and location. If it happened at night, an injury lawyer immediately investigates if alcohol, drugs, drowsiness, or recklessness are involved.

Drinking and Driving

Which road the wreck was on, traffic lights, street signs, stop signs, video cameras, speed limits, and other considerations are vital pieces of information. For example, school zone, construction zone, and high speed interstate cases are treated much differently than low speed residential street, four way stop, or parking lot accidents. Pinpointing the exact place and time of the accident is essential in reconstructing and locating evidence at the crash scene. Lighting, weather, obstructions to vision, rush hour traffic, holidays, and other considerations must be factored into the evaluation.

Vehicle, Driver and Persons

There are two sections on the remainder of page one that ask for information about two drivers involved in the crash. The officer records the name, address, age, sex, race, driver's license status, state, and type, level of injury, seating position and severity of injuries of the drivers. The officer also notes whether they were impaired by drugs or alcohol and sometimes even the blood alcohol level -- one of the most powerful ways to get a large recovery of money in a DWI case. All passengers are listed with some of this same information.

Facebook Status Used by Dallas Prosecutor To Do What?

OMG, we are all so addicted to our Facebook and Twitter feeds, right? But today's article about an Assistant District Attorney so drunk early Saturday morning that she crashed into a tree near her home in East Dallas was especially shocking. Not only because the lawyer paid to prosecute the masses driving while intoxicated was herself guilty of DWI. She then had the nerve to ask the arresting officer to let her off because they were Facebook friends! Social media is so pervasive that it impacts all areas of the law including the one I specialize in, car wrecks. Can someone's use of Facebook hurt their claim for reimbursement of their personal injury damages? Yes, more than you might imagine.
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