Injured by a Drunk Driver in Texas? You Have a Right to File a Claim
When you’re on the road, you have to be prepared for anything to happen. After all, accidents happen every day. Sometimes those accidents occur because of the negligence of others.
While he faces serious criminal charges, he may also be subject to civil action due to negligence laws in Texas as well as his proportionate responsibility in the crash that took a man’s life.
In case you are injured at the hands of another, here is what you should know about negligence in Texas in relation to personal injury suits and how proportionate responsibility plays a role.
Negligence Laws in Texas
In the state of Texas and beyond, persona injury laws hinge on the concept known as negligence. This is when someone fails to meet a certain standard, or duty, in various situations.
Proving negligence can be tricky but as long as someone understands the elements of negligence and can prove each in court, chances are their lawsuit will be successful.
Five Elements of Negligence
According to the civil justice system in Texas, the plaintiff must prove the case – not the person being sued. That means that it is up to the person who was injured, or a party suing on their behalf, to prove that their version of events is true based on the evidence available.
There are five elements that must be proven in Texas personal injury cases. They are duty of care, breach of that duty, cause in fact, proximate cause, and damages. Learn more about each below.
Duty of Care
The first element that must be established is the duty of care. The defendant in a case has the duty to legally behave or not behave in a certain way toward the person who was injured.
Taking an example from the story of the drunk driver above, he had the duty to obey traffic laws and pay attention to the road while driving.
Breach of Duty of Care
The next element that must be proven is a breach of the duty that was established previously. If someone fails to exercise reasonable care, such as driving drunk, then they have breached their duty.
Cause In Fact
Next, cause in fact must be established. This means that the behaviors of the person who caused the accident or injury were the direct cause of that accident or injury.
Proximate cause is the next element. It means that a prudent or reasonable person in similar circumstances would have understood that a breach of duty would lead to injuries.
In the case of drunk driving, a reasonable person understands that drinking and driving can lead to injury and even death.
The final element that must be proven is that the actions taken by the defendant caused specific damages. In Texas, only damagers that have compensable losses can be recovered such as lost wages, pain and suffering, and hospital bills.
What About Proportionate Responsibility?
Proportionate responsibly is the term used in Texas law for the concept of modified comparative negligence. Essentially, it means that a person injured and seeking damages cannot recover damages if their responsibility for the crime is greater than 50 percent. That’s why in these cases, it must be determined how much responsibility can be assigned to each party involved.
The jury or the judge who is trying the case will determine what percentage each party is responsible for, which may even include third parties who are involved in some cases.
Once the percentage of responsibility that lies with each party is understood, then any damages recovered will be based on that percentage.
For example, if you are awarded $100,000 and it is determined that the defendant was 60 percent responsible for the accident, then you will actually be paid $60,000, or 60 percent, of the damages.
In Texas, this system is considered a good balance for all parties involved since it helps to protect the rights of those who suffer damages as the result of an accident but also works to discourage risky or frivolous lawsuits from popping up.
The thought is that someone is far less likely to go to the trouble of filing a lawsuit if they know they’re partially or more than partially responsible for the damages that resulted.
Getting injured can be difficult, but don’t let the process discourage you from seeking damages if you believe you have suffered and it’s another person’s fault. Understand the system and your rights so that you can get what you deserve.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing law in Texas in 2005. Before joining the Fulgham Hampton Law Group, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their cases. He is Lead Counsel rated, has been named one of Fort Worth’s 3 Best DUI Lawyers, and his skill has earned him recognition from Avvo, Expertise, the National Trial Lawyers, and others.