Tort law is older than the automobile. Our society has long recognized that someone should have legal recourse when they are hurt by the actions of others.
Each state creates their own law for determining when a person can bring a claim for compensation following a car accident. Some states have passed no-fault laws that limit car accident claims. Is Texas one of these states?
The Houston auto accident lawyers at Haun Mena explain.
Is Texas a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?
Texas is an at-fault state for car accidents. Texas has not passed a no-fault insurance law. The party responsible for an accident is liable for economic and non-economic damages regardless of the severity of the victim’s injury.
Twelve states are no-fault. Texas is not one of them.
What Does It Mean that Texas is a Fault State for Car Accidents?
That Texas is a fault state for car accidents means that the party at fault for the accident is liable for damages in tort. There is no threshold for severity of injury before a victim may bring a claim against the party responsible for causing the accident. Not only may the victim claim directly from the responsible party, even for minor injuries, but they may include pain and suffering and other non-economic damages in their demand for compensation.
No-fault systems try and minimize the number of claims by having each party go to their own insurance for minor injuries. In a no-fault system, a victim must have serious injury to claim economic and non-economic damages from the party at fault.
How is Fault Determined in a Texas Car Accident?
Fault is determined in a Texas car accident through negligence with a comparative negligence threshold to bar compensation if a party’s percentage of responsibility is greater than 50%.
How At-Fault Differs from No-Fault
Here’s an example to illustrate how at-fault law differs from no-fault law.
Two drivers are on the roads. They come to an intersection, one traveling south and the other traveling east. For the vehicle traveling south, the light turns yellow and then red. Rather than stopping, the vehicle proceeds through the intersection. They run the red light.
The vehicle traveling east doesn’t see the vehicle traveling south. They see that they have a green light. They proceed into the intersection. The vehicle traveling south strikes them.
In both states, the vehicle traveling south – the one that ran the red light – is at fault for the accident. In Texas, they would have violated Texas law § 544.007 relating to traffic control signals.
The victim suffers cuts, bruises, and whiplash. They go to urgent care. They need a follow-up doctor visit and prescription medications. They miss three weeks of work, and it takes the victim two months in total to fully recover from their injuries. They suffer from pain, soreness, and limited mobility as they heal.
The at-fault state
In the at-fault state, the victim in the example above seeks compensation from the driver at fault and their insurance. They may seek economic damages and an additional amount for pain and suffering. They reach a settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, accounting for economic and non-economic damages.
The no-fault state
In the no-fault state, the victim doesn’t have injuries that meet the threshold to bring a third-party claim. They seek compensation through their own insurance. Typically, this insurance pays medical bills and lost wages without regard to fault. The victim does not receive pain and suffering compensation. In total, the victim receives compensation, but from their own insurance.
Texas Car Accident Fault Laws
Texas common law creates a duty of care that applies to all motorists. Drivers must exercise the ordinary care of a reasonably prudent person to avoid a foreseeable risk of harm to others. The duty applies in any situation, depending on the facts of the situation.
Negligence per se is negligence as a matter of law if the injury results from a violation of a statute. When there is a traffic law that a driver has violated, rather than having the trier of fact determine negligence, the statute is the negligence standard. Generally, when a traffic violation causes an accident, the party that violates the law is at fault, in whole or in part.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 33.001 bars recovery when a claimant is more than 50% responsible for the harm for which they seek damages.
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.001 creates standards for recovering exemplary damages.
Texas At-Fault Laws and Car Insurance Requirements
Even though Texas is a fault state, there are still car insurance requirements. Every vehicle owner must have insurance with at least minimum coverage. The Texas Transportation Code Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act § 601.072 requires each insurance policy to cover:
- $30,000 – bodily injury or death, single person
- $60,000 – bodily injury or death, single collision
- $25,000 – property damage
A deductible may apply.
In theory, when you’re hurt by another driver, they should have insurance that covers at least these damages. However, many vehicle owners choose to operate without insurance. They’re breaking the law, but it’s the accident victim who is left suffering.
Talk to a Lawyer About Texas Car Accident Fault Laws
The Haun Mena team represents car accident victims in Houston. If you have been in a car accident and you’re wondering how the laws apply to your situation, we invite you to have a free consultation. Call our office or message us now.