According to the most recent Texas Motor Vehicle Crash Facts (Calendar Year 2018), there were 12,161 serious injury crashes in Texas in 2018 with 14,908 people sustaining a serious injury, and based on reportable crashes, one person was injured every two minutes, seven seconds, and there was one reportable crash every fifty-eight seconds. In Corpus Christi, Texas, from 2013-2017, we had 28.4% of the state’s traffic fatalities, with an annual fatality rate of 2.5, with a total of 141 traffic fatalities, 40 of which were due to speeding. Traffic data takes a while to compile, but even with fewer cars on the road due to the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders, the rate of car accidents has not changed much and in some areas, is increasing.
Every driver is at risk of experiencing some sort of car accident, and the longer you’ve been driving, the more those odds increase. In 2019, there were 227,754,100 licensed drivers in the U.S., and the projected number for 2020 is 230,590,000. You’re probably one of them! So, what do you do if you’re involved in a car accident?
1. First things first – try and remain calm, and check for injuries
I know this will be difficult to do, but you have several steps to complete in order to effectively and safely handle the situation. Check yourself first, then check on anyone else who was a part of the accident. Assess the level of injury as best you can, and prepare yourself to call for help.
2. Call 911 if anyone suspects an injury
Do not put off calling 911 to let the dispatcher know there has been an accident. Report any injuries and fatalities. Describe your location using the nearest mile marker or landmark if there is not an address available. Make sure you tell the dispatcher if there is anything going on that would make it difficult for emergency services to reach you. This will help make sure medical and other services teams can act quickly on arrival.
Follow police instructions during the accident investigation
Police officers are typically highly skilled at investigating crash scenes. Do not leave the scene and make yourself available for any questioning. The processing of the accident is going to take a while – cars may need to be towed off, the scene needs to be secured and evidence collected, citations or arrests may occur, and reports, including verification of insurance information, will need to be filled out. The Texas Transportation Code requires any law enforcement officer investigating a vehicle crash resulting in injury, death, or $1,00 or more in property damage to submit a written crash report within ten days of the accident. You will want to have a copy of this report if you plan on making a claim with your or the other driver’s insurance company.
4. Collect your own evidence
It will be especially valuable in an insurance claim or other scenario where you are trying to prove the other driver’s responsibility for the accident (if that is the case) for you to collect evidence like photos of the accident scene, video if possible, and to write down everything you remember about the accident as soon as you have the chance. You don’t want the other driver to be able to change their story later on down the line.
5. Let your insurance provider know about the accident
Your insurance policy requires you to notify your provider when you have an accident, as soon as possible. This may seem scary because you’re afraid reporting the accident could raise your rates or cause your insurance company to drop you, but in reality it helps them better protect you in most cases, and especially if the other driver tries to file a claim against you.
6. Call an attorney!
Once you have completed the steps listed above, contact a competent traffic accident attorney. They can help you through the settlement process and, if there is not settlement and you need to proceed with litigation or, if the settlement doesn’t cover all of your injuries or damages, or worse, your insurance claim is denied, a skilled attorney will know what to do and how to advocate for you.
Some further notes about car accidents that you might find helpful are:
If there was not a police officer there to investigate the scene of a car accident resulting in injury, death, or more than $1,000 in property damage, Texas law requires the driver to file a different kind of crash report form than what law enforcement uses. That form can be found here: https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/traffic/law-enforcement/crash-records.html
Texas is an “at-fault” or “fault” auto insurance state, meaning you can file an insurance claim against the other driver if you believe they are at fault.
Hold off on car repairs if you can, if you’ve filed an insurance claim (this does not also mean to hold off on seeing a doctor). The insurance company with whom you’ve made the claim may need to do an inspection of the vehicle for damage.
You have up to two years after the date of the accident to file a lawsuit to pursue damages.
The attorneys and staff at the Hernandez and English LLP hope you stay healthy and drive safely during this nationwide crisis. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident in Austin, Texas, please feel free to contact my firm.
Alex R. Hernandez, Jr.