Serious Wreck Raises Liability Questions
Recently, two people were hospitalized in a near-fatal rear-end collision on Highway 281. Although these matters may seem like open-and-shut cases, there are several defenses that insurance companies can use to either reduce the amount of damages that victims can receive, or perhaps even deny them compensation altogether.
Police state that the crash occurred near Redland Road, not far from Hollywood Park. According to witnesses, one driver was weaving in and out of traffic. After the crash, both people were transported to area hospitals with serious injuries.
One motorist was charged with driving while intoxicated and reckless driving.
Although liability is fairly certain in this collision, other such instances are not nearly as clear cut.
Texas courts recognize the last clear chance doctrine, meaning that, in some cases, responsibility for a rear-end crash can be flipped. If Driver A hits Driver B from behind, Driver A is not legally responsible, if:
- Both Cars Were in Dangerous Circumstances: As a rule of thumb, any vehicle on any public street is in a “dangerous” situation, at least to some extent.
- Driver B was Oblivious to the Danger: In other words, Driver B did not see the other vehicle approaching from behind or could not have done anything to get out of the way in time.
- Driver A Could Have Avoided the Wreck: If Driver B had stopped short or was driving slowly, could Driver A have slammed on the brakes or steered around the hazard?
Driver A must have the last “clear” chance to avoid the collision, as opposed to the last “possible” chance.
Last clear chance’s cousin, the sudden emergency rule, normally does not apply in rear-end collisions. Under this doctrine, drivers who are faced with an unexpected situation, like a tire blowing out or a hood flying up, are not legally responsible for the accidents they cause. In most cases, a car stopped in the roadway, or even one moving slowly, is not a “sudden emergency.”
Texas is a modified comparative fault state: the plaintiff’s damages are reduced proportionally, in accordance with the plaintiff’s fault. In the previous example, assume that Driver B pulled out in front of Driver A. If the jury decided that B’s damages were $100,000 and B was 40 percent at fault, B would receive $60,000.
Alternatively, if B was 60 percent at fault, B would receive nothing. Under Texas law, the defendant must be at least 51 percent at fault for the plaintiff to recover.
An aggressive attorney can anticipate the other side’s defenses and be ready to respond to them. For a free consultation with an experienced New Braunfels car accident attorney, contact our office. An attorney can arrange for you to see a doctor, even if you have no money and no insurance.