The most maddening thing about being in a car accident in Fort Worth -- or anywhere in Texas -- is that it was easily avoidable. It would not have happened if the other driver had followed basic traffic laws. But sadly our number of motor vehicle crashes is soaring along with our sky-rocketing population. What used to be a sleepy Cowtown when Mr. Berenson moved here back in 1979 after graduating from SMU Law School in Dallas is suddenly the 12th largest city in the country. Almost one million people live in Fort Worth and there are 7,500,000 in the Metroplex -- and more every day. Cattle ranches are now bustling suburbs. A sprawling new subdivision in North Fort Worth with 10,000 houses was just announced. But more people = more vehicles = more roads = more collisions. And to make the chances of being injured even higher, it seems that almost every one has an oversized truck or SUV and and is texting as they race around town.
There have been hundreds of car wrecks in Texas since the historic winter storm shut down our state this week. If you have been injured in a Texas icy road accident, you need to know how to proceed. This article will answer questions you may have including
- What should you do at the scene and later on?
- When and how can you make an insurance claim?
- Can you file on the other driver's liability company, your company, or both?
- How can you prove the other driver was at fault?
- Will you have to file a lawsuit?
10 steps to take if you have been in a Texas icy road accident
Can an unbelted passenger win their Texas car accident case?
Texas seat belt lawsUnder 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 compensationOur 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.
New federal legislation will curb giant injury and death toll on roadsHurray! The U. S. House of Representatives has just passed the Moving Forward Act. It allots one-half trillion dollars for transportation initiatives that will make our roads safer. It now moves to the Senate, where hopefully it will be passed and then signed into law. This legislation is urgent. (The photo was taken during the Marine Corp Marathon when Mr. Berenson was running a marathon in every state.) That is because, forgotten in the grim daily news about the pandemic, is that each year over 36,000 Americans die and two million others are injured in motor vehicle collisions. They happen 24/7. They can happen to anyone who is driving. Here in Texas, we have not had a day without at least one death on our highways for almost 20 years. That's disgraceful. Virtually all of these car and truck crashes are caused by human error and are clearly preventable. But we need to crack down on them since relying on drivers to follow the traffic laws and simply keep their eyes on the road has clearly been unsuccessful. The Moving Forward Act (H.R.2) includes a grab bag of badly needed safety measures. These will make our highways and vehicles safer by doing the following things:
- Requiring driver assistance systems like lane drift warnings, blind spot monitors, and emergency automatic braking to be standard (not expensive package price options as they are now) features in new vehicles. They can stop collisions before they happen.
- Implementing technology to curb DWIs and DUIs by detecting intoxicated or impaired driver behavior, leading causes of crashes in our highways; a
- Enhancing commercial truck safety by improving under ride and side guards and keeping tired 18-wheeler drivers off of our roads.
Historic bad weather has hit much of the country on possibly the biggest travel day in history - today. What a terrible combination. Dangerous storms are heading towards the Panhandle of Texas, West Coast, Rocky Mountain states, Midwest, and East Coast. Snow, ice, and slick roads already cause about 500,000 crashes each winter. In case you are traveling today to one of the affected states, here is useful information that can hopefully keep you from being in a car wreck and protect you if, God forbid, you are in one.
Winter weather driving tips
- Make sure your mechanic has inspected your vehicle before you leave, including your tires.
- Carry emergency gear, blankets, and food.
- Monitor the weather and driving apps like Waze and Google Maps even more than usual.
- Tell others when you leave, your route, and when you expect to arrive.
- Drive extra cautiously.
- Leave at least five seconds between your vehicle and the one in front.
- Apply the gas and brakes sparingly to avoid skidding.
- Don't come to a stop.
- Should you get stuck, stay inside your car or truck.
- Make it more visible with a colored cloth tied to the top of the window or antenna and leave your lights and flashers on.
What to do if you are in a crash in these terrible driving conditionsAs with any crash, you need to take steps that will get your vehicle repaired or totaled, obtain medical treatment so you can heal quickly, and get reimbursed for your financial losses. But the dangerous road might affect the critical liability aspect of your claim. If the street is icy or wet, does the other driver's insurance company still have to pay for your vehicle damage, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages? Or can that driver claim the collision was an unavoidable accident? And can you be held responsible for their damages? These can be difficult, fact-specific questions. The law in every state requires a driver to operate their vehicle safely and use reasonable care. That means recognizing the hazards on bad roads that a reasonable person would or should recognize. After a vehicle wreck, often the best course of action is to file on your own collision damage. That is usually much quicker than waiting for the other driver's company to investigate and accept or deny liability. You will receive your deductible back and can be towed and given a rental car if you have purchased that coverage. There are also other portions of your auto policy you can file on that will help you pay your bills up front.
Why you should hire a car accident lawyerThey will help you win your case by doing these crucial tasks:
- Investigate how the crash happened, get the police report (which can be even more difficult when you are in a different state) and obtain eyewitness statements, photographs, scene diagrams, background information on the other driver, and other necessary information. They can work with local investigators and injury lawyers.
- Arrange medical treatment and help you get those medical bills paid.
- Explain the often complicated legal, insurance, and medical issues and walk you through the process.
- Negotiate a favorable settlement or file a lawsuit to protect your legal rights.
Related posts:Icy roads in Fort Worth: what to do Weather-related auto accidents: more storms here tomorrow
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 youIf 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.
Hundreds of thousands of new residents are adding to the high rate of car crashesOur DFW area was the fastest-growing area in the U.S. last year. Fort Worth almost added the most people in the country. Cowtown is suddenly the 13th largest city in the U.S., with our population almost doubling to about 900,000 people in less than 20 years. And other cities in North Texas, including Frisco, McKinney, and Rowlett, were among the top 10 fastest-growing cities last year. But that's not all good news. With this rapid population growth comes a serious problem that I see on a daily basis: more car accidents in Dallas-Fort Worth and sadly, more injuries and deaths. The word has clearly gotten out about how great it is to live in Texas. Millions of people have found out this is the one of the best places to live on the planet. Texas adds almost 400,000 new residents a year, the most of any state in the U.S. But Texas highways were already among the country's most dangerous. Here in North Texas parts of I-35 and I-20 are on the top 10 worst roads lists in the U.S. An estimated 3,600 people tragically lose their lives in car and truck wrecks each year, one every two hours. A fellow Texan is injured in a vehicle ever two minutes. I've lived here most of my life since I found out about the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin and transferred from a small liberal arts college in the East back in 1974. I wasn't born here but I got here as fast as I could.
Fort Worth car collisions have surged due to overly tired driversWe all know that we have too many collisions in Fort Worth. While everyone will agree that intoxicated drivers must be stopped, not many people understand that tired drivers are just as dangerous. Driving while exhausted (DWE) is far more common than driving while intoxicated (DWI), but you rarely hear about it. We need to publicize this forgotten cause of crashes so they can be stopped. Just two days ago in Fort Worth, an overly tired driver caused a horrible wreck here two days ago. A man fell asleep at 3:00 p.m. while he was driving on Interstate 35 in far north Fort Worth. This caused him to crash his vehicle into the guard rail and tragically take the life of his passenger, 25-year-old Sarah Million. You might wonder how someone can fall asleep in the middle of the day and still be driving a car or truck, right? But a whopping 32% of people have admitted that they had driven at least one time in the last month when they could barely keep their eyes open. 62% of drivers admit to regularly driving when they are too tired to do so safely. Many people are chronically sleep-deprived. Some thrive on how far they can push themselves and how long they can stay up. Over 100,000 car collisions are caused by overly tired drivers each year in our country. They took the lives of over 5,000 people -- and this is just in reported cases where the police can determine the cause of death, which is obviously impossible a one car crash. And that doesn't begin to account for the hundreds of thousands of injuries, not to mention near-misses. If the Fort Worth driver was that tired, he should have pulled over, bought a Coke or cup of coffee, let the passenger drive, or better yet, stayed home and taken a nap. Driving is not an automatic right that a person can exercise if he or she is too tired or impaired. DWE isn't illegal but it has the same effect as DWI. A crash is a crash.
School started today and the streets of Dallas-Fort Worth have suddenly changed. Roads that were not busy in the morning and afternoon are now crowded school zones. Buses are back on the roads carrying one million of our precious students between their homes and schools in Texas. Unfortunately there were 671 accidents in school zones throughout Texas during the 2015-2016 school year. UPDATE 8/22/18: The Star Telegram reports that a car crashed into a school bus in north Fort Worth this morning causing one child to be rushed to the emergency room and injuring nine other children. It's only the third day of the new school year. One collision or injury is too many. We adults have to use extreme caution to make sure no more children are injured this year.