How is Fault Determined in a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Texas?

When two vehicles get into a collision, it’s not unusual for both drivers to claim the other was responsible for the crash.  So when a dispute arises over the cause of a car accident in Texas, who decides which driver was really at fault?  And how are those decisions made?
Our Dallas car accident lawyers discuss how liability is determined in an accident involving more than one vehicle in Texas.

What is the Minimum Auto Insurance Coverage Required in Texas?

With regard to auto insurance, there are 38 “fault” states and 12 “no-fault” states.  In no-fault states, injured drivers typically turn to their own insurers for accident compensation, no matter which driver was actually responsible for the collision.  In fault states like Texas, the driver at fault – or, to be more specific, the at-fault driver’s insurance company – is liable for compensating the injured parties.  A claim filed with one’s own insurer is called a “first-party” claim, while a claim you make with the other driver’s insurance company is called a “third-party” claim.
Texas drivers are required to carry, at a bare minimum, the following types and amounts of coverage:

  • $30,000 of coverage per injured person
  • $60,000 of coverage per accident
  • $25,000 of coverage for property damage

This type of basic, minimum coverage is sometimes referred to as “30/60/25 coverage.”  If the expenses resulting from an accident exceed the minimums listed above – which is often the case, with AAA estimating that the average cost of an injury crash was $126,000 in 2009 – the injury victim may wish to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover the difference.  If you drive frequently or simply have concerns about the minimum coverage levels, it’s a good idea to think about purchasing Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage).  UM/UIM coverage helps pay for expenses resulting from the following:

  • Underinsured motorist accidents (drivers with inadequate coverage)
  • Uninsured motorist accidents (drivers with no coverage)
  • Hit and run accidents

Determination of Fault (Liability) for a Car Accident Involving 2 or More Vehicles

Depending on the circumstances of the crash, Texas car accident injury victims may be entitled to compensation for damages including medical bills, property damage, vehicle repairs, and lost earnings.  However, in order to determine who should receive compensation from whom, fault must be determined first.
Depending on the nature and severity of the accident, several parties may become involved in the fault determination process, including:

  • Law Enforcement – Texas Transportation Code § 550.062 requires police officers to make a written accident report within 10 days of an accident if the crash caused injury, wrongful death, or property damage exceeding $1,000. While police reports are typically inadmissible in court due to being considered “hearsay” evidence, meaning evidence from a party other than an actual witness, they can still be of value to injury victims during settlement negotiations.
  • Claims Adjusters – Once an accident has been reported, the insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to investigate the crash. Investigative procedures can vary depending on the company and the severity of the accident.
  • Civil Courts – If the injury victim sues the other driver, which might occur if settlement negotiations break down, both the plaintiff and defendant will have the opportunity to present opposing arguments in court. The court will review the evidence presented by each side to make a determination about which driver was actually responsible for causing the crash.
  • As we discussed in our article about partial fault for a car accident, a crash victim can still recover compensation even if he or she was partly responsible for causing the collision, as long as he or she was less than 51% at fault. However, compensation would be reduced proportionally to the injured driver’s percentage of fault.  This is known as modified comparative fault, or modified comparative negligence.

When two or more vehicles are involved in a crash, such as a chain reaction accident or side-impact collision (“T-bone” accident), a variety of sources can provide powerful evidence about which driver was at fault.  These sources may include:

  • Physical evidence from the wrecked vehicles, such as scratches, dents, and cracks.
  • Physical evidence from the area around the wrecked vehicles, such as shards of broken glass or skid marks left by tires.
  • Interviews with eyewitnesses to the collision.
  • Photographs and/or video footage capturing the accident and/or its aftermath.
  • Medical records and DMV records.
  • Any pictures or comments you may have posted on social media after the accident.

Get the Experience of a Dallas Car Accident Lawyer at Queenan Law

If you were injured in a rear-end collision, multi-vehicle pileup, or other type of automotive accident in Texas, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, and other losses and hardships you suffered due to the crash.  To set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation with an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer, call the Queenan Law Firm, P.C. at (817) 635-3333 today.