Every two minutes and thirty-four seconds a person gets injured in a traffic accident in Texas. In a state that consistently ranks at the top of the list for frequency of car accidents, and in one of the busiest regions in the state, there are plenty of dangerous intersections and hazardous stretches of Houston’s freeways.
In fact, Houston’s I-45 is considered by some to be the most deadly roadway in the nation, and the Houston-stretch of this interstate is the most dangerous part of all. If you’re involved in a Houston car accident, one of the most important questions that anyone will want to know right away is who was at fault.
The answer to this question can mean the difference between recovering significant compensation after a Houston car accident or nothing, as individuals are only permitted to recover compensation for expenses and quality-of-life impacts they incurred as a result of someone else’s careless or reckless actions. To do this, a Houston car accident victim must not only answer the question about who was at fault, but prove it as well. How to determine fault will vary by the specific accident scenario.
Houston Car Accident Scenarios
How do you know who is at fault in a Houston accident? Read on to learn more about how this question is answered in some of the most common types of car accident scenarios to occur on Houston roadways.
While we may take it for granted most of the time, completing a left-turn on Houston roadways takes ability and concentration. To ease the process of making left-turns and prevent accidents, the city of Houston decided several years ago to provide an array of different colored left-turn arrows.
According to the city’s public works department, here is the meaning behind all the turn arrows:
- Solid red arrow: The driver should stop and yield the right-of-way to other lanes of travel.
- Steady yellow arrow: This signal means you’re about to get a red light. If you have not reached the intersection, slow down and stop. If you are already in an intersection, you should complete your turn.
- Flashing yellow arrow: Drivers are permitted to make the turn after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians in the crosswalk. Remember: You must yield, as you do not have the right-of-way. This means you must judge whether the gap in traffic is sufficient for you to safely complete the turn.
- Solid green arrow: You have the right-of-way and should proceed with your left turn through the intersection. However, you should make sure you keep an eye out for drivers who may fail to yield.
Who is at fault? Who is at fault in a left-turn accident depends on the kind of arrow at the time of the accident. Fault generally rests with the driver who failed to yield the right-of-way. Accidents occurring in the intersection when a left-turning driver has a solid red arrow or a flashing arrow are generally the fault of the left-turning driver. Accidents occurring when the left-turning driver had a solid yellow or green arrow are generally the fault of the on-coming driver.
T-bone accidents—also known as broadside or side-impact crashes—are crashes that often occur at an intersection, when the front of one vehicle collides into the side of another. While it may come as a surprise, almost one-quarter of all traffic accidents are broadside collisions, and one-third of all traffic accident fatalities involve T-bone crashes.
This accident is particularly dangerous for the vehicle occupants sitting on the side of the vehicle that was struck broadside, as there are no airbags, trunk space, or an engine compartment to absorb the force of the collision. This is particularly true if the accident involves a smaller car or motorcycle being T-boned by a large vehicle such as a pickup, SUV, or commercial truck.
Who is at fault? Some T-bone crashes happen in left-turn scenarios, as this is the most common accident configuration when a turning driver and a driver going straight collide. However, T-bone crashes do not always occur in the intersection and don’t always involve a driver turning left.
T-bone accidents may also occur where:
- A driver traveling straight through an intersection fails to yield the right of way and crashes into the side of a vehicle driving in the perpendicular lane. Fault in this type of accident rests with whichever driver ran the light or failed to stop at the stop sign, as they did not have the right-of-way.
- A vehicle in the travel lane they are pulling into broadsides a driver pulling out from a parking lot or private drive. This accident is usually the fault of the driver pulling out, as they are required to yield the right-of-way and only enter the travel lane when there is a sufficient gap in traffic to do so without disrupting the flow of traffic.
Blind Spot Accidents
Every vehicle has a blind spot, which is an area around the vehicle that the driver cannot see in their rear- or side-view mirrors. The blind spot for most passenger cars is along the rear sides of the vehicle. Larger vehicles have larger blind spots. Massive vehicles such as commercial trucks and buses have particularly large blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle, including a passenger-side blind spot that extends the length of the vehicle and the width of two adjacent travel lanes. A blind spot accident occurs when a driver strikes another vehicle in the blind spot, either when changing lanes or backing up.
Who is at fault? The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) calls blind spots found on tractor-trailers no zones because other drivers should avoid them. FMCSA has provided tips to “drive safely around large trucks and buses.” Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a big rig or a Prius—if a driver fails to ensure a travel lane is clear before changing lanes, or that the space behind the vehicle is clear before backing up, liability will likely rest with the driver making the maneuver, not the driver in the vehicle’s blind spot. (That said, it is generally a good idea to avoid cutting off a truck or hanging out in the no zone for longer than necessary.)
A rear-end collision is among the most common of all multi-vehicle crashes, with around 1.7 million of these accidents occurring in the United States each year. A half-a-million people are injured annually in rear-end crashes, which involve the front of one vehicle colliding with the rear of another. Often regarded as minor accidents and referred to as “whiplash crashes” or “fender benders,” these crashes cause close to 1,700 fatalities every year in the United States.
Rear-end collisions happen because of:
- Tailgating, which is the most common factor leading to this type of accident. When one vehicle follows another too closely, the driver behind eliminates the space they need to come to a sudden stop, should the car in front of them do so. Cars don’t stop the instant you apply the brakes!
- Speeding. Again, cars don’t stop the instant you put on the brakes. Instead, it takes some distance for the brakes to pull the weight of a vehicle to a stop. The weightier the vehicle, the more space is needed. The faster the vehicle is traveling, the more space is needed.
- Poor maintenance. The balder the tires, the more space needed to bring the vehicle to a halt!
- Distracted driving. Those who text and drive may travel the distance of a football field without watching the road, without both hands on the wheel, and without being focused on driving. There are three types of driver distractions: manual, visual, and cognitive. One reason texting and driving is such a concern is that it involves all three types of distractions. A football field’s length is plenty of distance on the 610 Loop for the vehicle in front of you to come to a sudden stop, without you even noticing the brake lights.
Who is at fault? Fault in a rear-end collision case is easy to decide, most of the time. The driver in the following car is usually liable for rear-ending the lead car, for any of the reasons listed above. Is the driver of the following car always responsible, though? No. If the driver of the lead car was driving in reverse (yes, it happens) when the collision occurred, or the lead driver slammed on their brakes intentionally, in an attempt to cause a collision, the lead car’s driver may be liable.
Sideswipe accidents occur when the side of one vehicle collides with the side of another. Sideswipe accidents are likely when drivers fail to check their blind spots. Beyond blind spot accidents, however, sideswipes can also occur because of distracted driving, falling asleep behind the wheel, and alcohol impairment.
Who is at fault? As with blind spot accidents, most sideswipe accidents occur due to the failure of the maneuvering driver to ensure a travel lane is clear before changing to that lane or the failure of a drunk, sleepy, or distracted driver to maintain a single lane of travel. The driver who advances their vehicle into the side of another, for whatever reason, is usually at fault.
Accidents Occurring at Intersections With Stop Signs
Like the multi-colored, pulsing, or steady left-turn arrows throughout the city, Houston’s stop signs can be a source of confusion for drivers.
The following rules apply at four-way stops in Houston:
- All vehicles must stop at the intersection.
- When you are stopped, you must yield the right-of-way to vehicles that were at the intersection before you were.
- Yield to the right. If two or more vehicles, each traveling straight toward the intersection from different directions, stop at the stop sign simultaneously, the driver to the left must yield to the driver to the right.
- Yield if you are turning. If two vehicles stop at the stop sign at the same time, and one is turning at the intersection while the other is traveling straight, the right-of-way goes to the driver traveling straight.
Who is at fault? As with other intersection accidents, the driver who fails to yield the right-of-way generally bears legal responsibility for the accident.
Injured In Houston Due to Someone Else’s Bad Driving? Contact an Experienced Houston Car Accident Lawyer.
Proving fault is the cornerstone to a successful outcome in a Houston car accident injury claim.
You must establish these elements of negligence to prove liability:
- Duty of care: A driver’s duty of care is to drive as a reasonable driver would, to avoid hurting people or destroying their cars. A driver’s duty of care is to drive their vehicle safely while following traffic laws.
Breach: A breach in the duty of care refers to the actions a driver took that violated the duty of care. Failing to yield the right-of-way, driving drunk, texting while driving, and falling asleep behind the wheel are examples of breaching the duty of care.
- Causation: The breach in the duty of care must have caused the accident and the injuries for which you are claiming compensation to cover expenses and impacts.
These elements can be tricky to establish. Houston car accident victims can do themselves a favor by hiring an experienced car accident attorney to assist. An attorney can conduct all the necessary investigations and apply the law to build your case. If a Houston car accident injured you, don’t wait—contact a car accident attorney today to explore your legal options.