Were You in an Auto Accident in the Houston Area?
It’s a hard truth: If you drive a car on Houston’s streets and highways, sooner or later the chances are good that you are going to get into an accident. As a Houston car accident lawyer with over 20 years experience, we’ve seen it all. If you’ve driven on the streets of Houston, you know it too: Houston’s roads are the nation’s most dangerous and deadly.
If you or a loved one were in a car wreck, you may be injured, you may have questions about what to do next, and you may not even know where to start. Please know that we offer a FREE consultation, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so don’t wait to know your rights—call us right now at 800-898-4877, or CLICK HERE to contact us and get more information. There is NO cost to get a free consultation right now. If you decide to hire us, you pay us nothing up front, and you will pay absolutely nothing at all unless and until we’ve won your case.
A car accident is a complex situation, and NONE of the insurance companies are on your side—not the other driver’s and not even your own. You have many legal rights that no one will inform you about, unless you have an experienced dedicated legal team on your side. This is where the attorneys and legal professionals our law firm can make a BIG difference in your case, and in your recovery.
Why Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Many people think that lawyers are expensive and that they are better off just handling their car accident claim on their own. What they don’t realize is that car accident claims can be surprisingly complicated, and that many injured victims end up with much less than they deserved because of improperly handled claims. This is especially true in cases that involve serious injuries or questions about liability.
While you always have the right to handle your own claim, you likely don’t want the stress of the insurance process while you are recovering from your injuries. In addition, if you don’t have much (or any) experience with this type of insurance claim, you won’t know when the company is trying to advantage of you or if it is being honest in its settlement offer. Unfortunately, you can usually bet that offers from insurance companies will be much less than you need to cover your losses. The good news is that the right attorney can work to get the offer you truly deserve.
Our car accident lawyers help with every aspect of your claim, including:
- Determining the parties who might be liable for your injuries
- Calculating the value of your claim
- Preparing and filing your claim
- Presenting all necessary supporting evidence
- Proving your damages
- Communicating and negotiating with adjusters
- Fighting for the settlement offer you deserve
- Filing a legal claim against an unreasonable insurer
Once you hire our law firm, your attorney will take it from there, and you can focus on what’s most important, which is your medical treatment and physical recovery. We’ve seen many people accept settlement offers that are too low simply because they don’t have the time, energy, or resources to fight for more. We have the time, energy, and resources needed to stand up for accident victims, so please contact our office to learn more about how our car accident lawyers can help in your specific case!
All of our consultations are completely free, so you have absolutely nothing to lose by discussing your options with a member of our team today.
Discuss Your Accident with a Houston Car Accident Attorney TODAY
Traffic accidents can present complex problems, especially when multiple vehicles are involved. These upsetting, complicated, stressful, and expensive situations require a compassionate, honest, and experienced legal team with real strength of character and decades of experience. Our team will make this entire process as pain-free as possible and ensure you get the best result for you and your loved ones.
Stewart J. Guss and his team believe in respect, integrity, and family values. We are a “client first” law firm with decades of experience, and we will work tirelessly to recover as much as possible on your claim. And you don’t pay us anything unless and until we win your case!
THEY WILL TRY TO DENY YOUR CLAIM! Dealing with car insurance companies can cause nightmares. Remember that the insurance company’s goal is to DENY a car accident claim, NOT TO PAY IT! If they can’t avoid paying it, believe me, they will do EVERYTHING they can to pay as LITTLE as possible—that is how they make their profit. Do not sign anything until you speak with one of our team members, because you risk losing some or all of the compensation that is due to you.
Even if you THINK you’re ready to settle—call us first! Remember, we will evaluate your case for FREE! Please submit your claim for our FREE evaluation by contacting us HERE!
Or, if you want to talk to one of our team members RIGHT NOW, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, pick up the phone right now and call 800-898-4877. Remember, your consultation is FREE, and you pay NOTHING unless we win your case!
Why Take Chances? Let Us Help You!
Steps to Take After a Houston Auto Collision
There is no doubt that even a minor accident can shake you up. The aftermath of a crash may involve several damaged vehicles and multiple people with injuries, including yourself. Before the authorities arrive, everyone involved may wonder what to do. While you don’t need any additional stress in this situation, there are certain things you can do to help any future claims.
In some situations, serious injuries may prevent you from taking any action after an accident. You should always put your physical health first, as you don’t want to make any injuries worse than they already are. However, if at all possible, remember to protect your rights and your health by taking the following steps.
- Safety: If the collision was relatively minor and the cars are moveable, consider driving your vehicle over to a safe location on the side of the road to get it out of the path of traffic. If you or anyone at the scene was injured, or if it is dangerous to move your car, exit the vehicle as carefully and quickly as possible and move to a safe distance away from the road and accident scene.
- Call 911: Even after minor traffic incidents, the police can help to redirect traffic, if necessary, and prepare accident reports. You always want the officer to write down your side of the story so it goes in the report. However, make sure you don’t apologize or make offhand comments (such as “I only looked down for a moment”), since this may lead the insurance company to challenge liability for the crash. In addition, those involved in the crash may need immediate medical attention—no matter how you feel, get checked out just in case, because symptoms of some injuries, like concussions and whiplash, may take time to emerge. If the first responders tell you that you need an ambulance transport, don’t fight them.
- Exchange information: Exchange your name and insurance information with any other drivers in the collision. You will also want the license plate numbers of any other vehicles. It is not necessary for you to provide any further personal information, such as your home address or your injuries.
- Take photos: If you are safely able to do so, use your phone to try to take pictures of the individual cars as well as one of the entire scene. Photographs of the damage caused to your vehicle as well as any road debris may help prove your claims for damage. Also, take photos of the stretch of road, weather conditions, tire marks, and any other conditions that may be remotely relevant to a crash investigation.
- Go to the ER: Even if the emergency medical personnel on the scene don’t think you need transportation in an ambulance, it’s still always a wise idea to head straight to the emergency room or your doctor’s office as soon as possible. A medical professional can diagnose any injuries and make a record that the crash caused those injuries. In addition, diagnostic tests can identify injuries that you didn’t even know you had. Many accident victims write off stiffness, soreness, or pain as “normal” after a crash when, in reality, they have soft tissue injuries, a concussion, or other conditions that require treatment. Having a proper and timely diagnosis of all injuries is not only necessary for receiving the right treatment, but it is also critical for any future car accident claims.
- Call us: After you have received any needed medical treatment, contact the legal team at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, for help with making a claim, whether with the insurance company of the other driver(s), or with your own insurance company, or both. Our legal team will help you provide any insurance companies the necessary details regarding the collision.
Investigating and Gathering Evidence of Car Accident Liability
Sometimes, a fairly obvious cause of a crash will present itself, such as when a driver updates social media right before hitting your car or if a driver stumbles out of a car, clearly intoxicated. However, identifying the cause can often present many difficulties. This is why we have investigators and experts who work with our lawyers to help determine who was to blame and why the crash took place. Then we can gather evidence of liability for the crash and begin working to obtain the compensation you deserve for your losses. The sooner we get started, the quicker we can begin protecting your rights and recovering all of the compensation to which you are entitled.
Car accident investigations can include many steps, such as:
- Examining the scene – We have investigators who work with our law firm who can visit the scene of the crash and examine any photos you or anyone else took of the crash scene. Often, there are many tell-tale signs of liability that a lesser-skilled investigator may not even notice! The damage to the cars, the angle of the collision, the tire tracks, and the road conditions can all help decipher what caused the crash to happen.
- Video surveillance – In this day and age, there are cameras everywhere. They are in parking lots, outside stores and businesses, on apartments complexes, and even on some stop lights or street lights. People can also capture video evidence on their smartphones if they suspect something bad is about to happen. Our team will thoroughly investigate whether your accident was caught on video, and we will review the video carefully to gather any evidence of liability.
- Digital evidence – Other digital evidence can be useful in proving negligence, especially distracted or drunk driving. If a person sent a text message or posted on a social media account just before they crashed into you, this can be highly persuasive evidence that they were looking at their phones instead of the road! Additionally, credit card statements can show that someone was at a bar or restaurant having too many drinks shortly before getting behind the wheel.
- Witness interviews – If someone witnessed your crash occur, our attorneys and investigators may want to interview them. Witnesses can see accidents happen from another perspective, which can give additional insight into what caused the collision. For example, you may have been driving along when you suddenly felt the crash happen without any prior warning or explanation. A driver in the next lane, however, may have seen the other driver texting or making mistakes that led to the crash. Witnesses can also support your side of the story.
- Citations or convictions – When police respond to the scene of an accident, they should try to determine whether a driver broke the law and caused the crash. This can include drunk driving, speeding, tailgating, running red lights, aggressive driving, distracted driving, and other violations of traffic laws. Police may issue a citation or arrest the driver at the scene. The driver may then be convicted of the violation, which we can use as important evidence of negligence in your car accident case.
- Other expert analysis – When we suspect that a defective auto part or road hazard caused a crash, we may employ experts to evaluate the situation. We can get auto experts to determine whether a manufacturer sold a defective vehicle that led to your crash. We can hire road design and maintenance experts to testify whether the road was unreasonably dangerous for drivers. All of these experts can help prove your claim of liability.
Not only does a car accident investigation help us prove WHAT caused your accident, but it tells us with whom we should file an insurance claim. Sometimes, parties can include individual drivers, corporations, government entities, or more than one party.
One important factor we need to determine is whether a negligent driver was working for a company at the time they caused the crash. If they were within the scope of their job duties while they drove, their employer may also be held liable for the negligence of the employee under a legal concept called “respondeat superior.” In these situations, employers are strictly liable even if the company did not engage in any negligent behavior itself.
Identifying when a company may be liable can be very helpful to a car accident claim. This is because companies should have much larger insurance policies than individual drivers might have. If your injuries are particularly serious and you incurred substantial losses, the company’s policy has a much better chance of covering those losses than an individual consumer auto policy.
Once we identify the liable parties and collect necessary evidence, our lawyers then know how to skillfully present the evidence to prove your claim. We will also gather evidence of your damages, which can include:
- Medical bills for past treatment
- Testimony of medical professionals regarding future treatment you will need
- Paystubs or time sheets showing missed work and lost income
- Testimony of occupational experts regarding your inability to work for a period of time (or ever again)
- Testimony of medical experts regarding the pain, suffering, and effects of your injuries and any permanent impairments, disfigurements, or disabilities
- Testimony of mental health experts regarding any mental trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) you experienced
We gather full evidence of your damages to ensure you receive FULL compensation.
Key Questions After a Houston Car Accident
Even if you take all of the right steps after your crash, you will want or need to answer many questions. You will seek out some of these answers right away, while other questions may arise in the days and weeks after the accident. If you’re wondering whether to call a Houston car accident law firm, think about the following:
Are there injuries or fatalities?
If you or someone close to you suffered injuries in a crash, the first order of business is to get the medical help you or your loved one needs. If you required medical care or if a loved one didn’t survive, always speak with our law firm as soon as possible to determine the full cost of those injuries.
Are vehicles damaged?
Car crashes can cause serious damage to your car, and accidents can often completely total a car. You rely on your vehicle to get you around to work, school, or your family obligations. You should not pay for the costs of repairs or replacing your car if someone else caused your crash. You also don’t want to go weeks or months without a vehicle. You deserve full compensation for the damage from the responsible party’s insurance company, and our law firm can help.
Are the police involved?
Houston law enforcement officers regularly arrive at the scene of crashes. An officer should always try to identify if one or more drivers violated the law, such as intoxication. The police should arrest and charge a drunk driver for DWI. Officers can also issue citations for speeding, running red lights, and other traffic violations. If this happens, it can help you prove who was at fault in your future insurance claim.
Are there medical and insurance costs to pay?
If you don’t have any financial losses, you can’t collect compensation from the insurance company. However, even if you have relatively minor medical bills or only paid a little out of pocket, you have the right to recover payment for those costs. Your health insurance company might not cover injuries if they happened in a car crash, as it expects the other driver’s insurance to cover them. Medical bills from car accidents can range from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars and, in either case, you should call our law firm right away.
What are the legal rights and responsibilities of the drivers?
If any property damage or injuries occurred in a crash, Texas law requires all drivers involved to stop and remain at the scene until they have rendered necessary aid and exchanged information. In the time following a crash, each driver’s rights and responsibilities will depend on whom caused the crash. Any drivers or motorists who didn’t act negligently have the right to file insurance claims against the negligent driver. Drivers who cause a crash will need to contact their own insurance companies, which have the responsibility of reimbursing victims for their losses. In many cases, more than one person may bear some fault. Have our law firm determine liability in your situation.
What kind of settlement should you expect?
If another driver was negligent and you file an insurance claim, the amount of your settlement payment will depend on many factors. These include:
- The severity of your injuries
- The total cost of your medical bills
- Whether you need ongoing medical care in the future
- How much work you missed and income you lost
- Whether you’re able to go back to work in the future
- Whether you have lasting impairments, disfigurement, or disabilities
- The pain and suffering you experienced
Calculating the total amount of your losses can prove challenging, as many people don’t know their full rights when it comes to compensation. You need the help of a skilled car accident law firm to ensure you request and receive the full amount you need to cover your past and future losses.
You will likely have many other questions as you begin medical treatments and start wondering about your legal options. The law office of Stewart J. Guss offers COMPLETELY FREE consultations at ANY time. Feel free to call our team at 800-898-4877 any time, day or night, and we will be happy to discuss your claim with no obligation. If you would prefer, you are also welcome to CLICK HERE and submit your claim online.
We are here day and night to take your call and start giving you some of the answers you’re looking for. Don’t wait any longer to call and learn about your rights!
Compensation for Your Car Accident Claim
What is the average settlement for a car accident?
Many people contact our law firm with the same question: How much will I receive for my car accident settlement? There is never a single (or simple) answer to this question, as the answer depends directly on your individual circumstances. Many people have no idea what their claim is worth until they have an experienced attorney fully evaluate their situation.
What we DO know is that medical care in the U.S. is expensive! This is true no matter how serious your injuries may be. The following are some average costs of medical treatment you may need for your car accident injuries:
- An ambulance ride can be around $1,000
- A visit to the emergency room regularly costs $1,000 to $20,000, depending on the services
- Hospitals stays in Texas can be around $2,750 per night or more
- Surgeries can cost tens of thousands of dollars
- Physical therapy can cost as much as $350 per session
Some people suffer injuries that require additional care, including time in the intensive care unit (ICU), home health care, assisted living, medical equipment, and more.
Every client we help will have different costs and losses. Whether your losses are $1,000 or $1 million, you still deserve to receive compensation from the liable party. If someone else caused your crash, you should never have to cover your own costs. Call us today to get a personalized evaluation for free.
How much do you get for pain and suffering in a car accident?
When it comes to calculating your car accident damages, we can review your medical bills, pay statements, and other documents showing expenses. However, the law in Texas also allows many car accident victims to recover for pain and suffering they experienced as a result of their injuries. So, how do you put a number on your intangible pain and suffering?
Pain and suffering can involve the physical pain you feel, as well as the mental trauma resulting from the accident or your injuries. Dealing with serious injuries is hard work, and you deserve to recover for the experience of it all. Many people don’t know where to begin when considering pain and suffering, and that’s where our attorneys come in.
First, you may want to consider how many days you dealt with our injury. For example, if your injury took 60 days to heal and you think your pain and suffering was worth a certain amount per day, you could ask for compensation based on that total. You can also take the amount of your overall economic damages and compare it to your request for pain and suffering. For instance, if your economic damages are $200,000 you could make an argument based on the amount of those damages.
The appropriate calculation will depend on the details of your case, and there is great variation based on a number of important factors. For example, because of the “jury pool” the average verdicts for similar incidents may vary from county to county. This means that the settlement value of a car accident in one county may be worth a different amount than the exact same accident just one county away! There is no way for us to know how much you deserve for pain and suffering until we learn about your car accident and injuries from you! Call today to learn about what you deserve as a car accident victim.
It won’t take much time after a car accident for the negligent driver’s insurance company to reach out to you. Its goal is to get you talking, hoping that you will unintentionally make comments it can use to limit your compensation. For example, saying something as simple as, “I feel fine,” can hurt your claim. While you were just trying to be polite, the adjuster may interpret the statement as, “You don’t have any pain and your injuries aren’t that serious.” In reality, people say they are doing “fine” when they are struggling on a regular basis.
To best protect your rights from insurance companies and their questionable tactics, always seek help from our Houston law office. We can help with every stage of your case, from filing an insurance claim to the final resolution, including the following.
The Insurance Process
As mentioned, insurance adjusters are looking for ways to limit payments to accident victims. Some insurance companies even give adjusters incentives and benefits if they successfully avoid certain payouts. The adjuster may claim they’re on your side—but TRUST US, they are NOT.
Adjusters know that most victims don’t understand the insurance process, and they take advantage of victims by making insultingly low settlement offers. Too many people unknowingly accept these offers and can’t ever recover more in the future. You ALWAYS want an aggressive car accident law firm handling your insurance claim. This includes dealing with adjusters, reviewing offers, and negotiating higher offers whenever possible.
Filing the Claim
The insurance process begins when you make a claim that seeks payment for your losses. Before you file a claim, you want to understand the full extent of your losses, including past and future medical bills, past and future lost income, pain and suffering, and more. Many people grossly underestimate their damages and receive much less than they deserve as a result. Our law firm works to make sure you claim accounts for EVERY DOLLAR of your losses, so you request the full amount you need and deserve. We also know how to provide persuasive evidence to support your claim.
Dealing With Adjusters
After you file a claim—or sometimes, even before—you can be sure the claims adjuster will be calling. The adjuster will act sympathetic and tell you they are there to help you. ALWAYS remember that the adjuster is helping the insurance company and NOT you! The adjuster will probably ask you to give a recorded statement, and they may even tell you that a recorded statement is necessary to get a settlement. This is also NOT true. Insurance companies in a third party claim don’t have the right to a recorded statement by you unless litigation is in process.
Giving the other side’s insurance adjuster a recorded statement can be a major mistake. As mentioned, it is all too easy to make an offhand comment that you believe is harmless but that the adjuster uses to hurt your case. Trust us—they are listening for ANYTHING to use against you to either challenge liability or question the extent of your injuries or losses. While you can give the adjuster basic information such as your name and contact information, you should politely decline to give a recorded statement and let our team handle ALL communications with the insurance company for here on!
Reviewing Settlement Offers
Finally, the insurance adjuster tells you what you’ve been waiting to hear—the company is making a settlement offer. You’ve likely been stressed over medical bills piling up and unpaid bills due to missing work, so you are anxious to receive your insurance check. However, immediately accepting the first settlement offer just to get paid is often a HUGE mistake.
Insurers want to lower payouts to increase their own bottom lines. For this reason, they usually try to get claimants to accept a lowball offer right out of the gate. Once someone accepts an offer, they generally waive the right to seek additional compensation, no matter how insultingly low the settlement was! You ALWAYS should have an experienced car accident lawyer review ANY offers from the insurance company before you accept anything.
Our attorneys will review an offer and inform you whether it is fair or not (it usually isn’t). We can then negotiate with the insurance company and work to convince them to make a higher offer that will cover your losses. Insurance companies know that our law firm means business and that we will NOT back down. This often gives us the upper hand in negotiations and we are able to resolve many cases during the insurance process.
While you may think the insurance process should be simple and that you don’t need a lawyer, remember that these companies try to take advantage of unrepresented claimants. Once they know you have an attorney handling your claim, their tune often changes quickly! We will work for you during every step of your claim, and we will never collect any payment unless we get compensation for you!
Personal Injury Lawsuits
While many car accident claims settle during the insurance process, some insurance companies simply refuse to make the right offer. This is especially true in cases involving particularly catastrophic injuries and long-term disabilities. We will never push you to accept an offer that won’t cover all of your losses. Instead, we will play hardball with the insurance company by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Most people have never filed a lawsuit or had involvement with the civil court system before. Because of this, it’s understandable to be intimidated or nervous about filing a lawsuit. Going to court can seem daunting, and many people fear they will have to take the witness stand and testify in open court and in front of the person who hurt them.
With the right legal representation, a lawsuit is nothing to fear. Our lawyers will explain each and every aspect of the legal process to you, and will handle all steps of the personal injury litigation.
Starting the Lawsuit
First, the injured person who files the lawsuit is called the “plaintiff,” and the party you file a lawsuit against is known as the “defendant.” The plaintiff’s lawyer will prepare a petition using all of the facts of the accident, as well as the law that applies to the situation at hand. There are specific requirements for the petition, so it is important to have an experienced litigator initiating your case for you.
Once you file a petition, the petition and a summons will need to be properly served on the defendant in line with the rules of civil procedure. Once the defendant has been served with the lawsuit, they will generally have about three weeks to file an answer to your petition. Almost always, the lawyer for the insurance company of the defendant will file an answer of “general denial.” This is just a standard legal answer and doesn’t mean that the defendant and the insurance company claims that your allegations are false. It does mean the defendant requires proof of your claims of liability and/or of the damages you seek. The defendant may also file motions with the court, such as a motion to dismiss the case, and your attorney will need to properly respond to those motions to request a denial by the court.
The Discovery Phase
After attorneys for both sides file all necessary and appropriate answers and motions, and if the court refuses to dismiss the case, the litigation will proceed to the “discovery” phase. This is an often lengthy phase of the case during which both sides must adhere to strict procedural rules.
During discovery, each attorney will try to learn as much as possible about the other side’s claims and the evidence and information they have to support their claims. Such evidence can include physical evidence, witness interviews and testimony, digital evidence, expert analysis and testimony, and more. There are different methods of seeking such evidence and information, including:
- Interrogatories = These are written questions requesting answers about your claims, defenses, and the names of your witnesses.
- Requests for production = These are written requests seeking copies of pertinent documents and other items of physical evidence.
- Requests for admissions = These are written requests asking a party to admit or deny certain propositions or statements.
All of the above can be highly useful to your case. However, the other side will certainly issue the same requests of you. If you or your lawyer fails to respond to requests in time, there can be serious consequences for your case. For example, if no one responds to requests for admissions by the stated deadline, the court will assume that side admits the truth of the statements, which can mean you admit away your claim or defense. You want to ensure you have a lawyer who will always meet deadlines and properly respond to any questions regarding complex matters, such as your medical history, medical diagnosis and treatment, account of the accident, and more.
During the discovery period, both sides will also likely take depositions. A deposition involves a lawyer questioning a party or witness while they are under oath while a court reporter is present and records the testimony. While these interviews happen out of court (usually at law offices), parties can use the testimony at trial and it has the same effect as if the person being deposed testified live in front of the judge or jury. Deposition questions can be about a broad range of subjects relevant to the lawsuit, including a person’s background, education, work history, medical history, family history, and much more. Lawyers may ask you about all of the facts you remember leading up the injury. It is important to have your attorney present at all depositions so they can protect your rights and provide advice.
Motions for Summary Judgment
After both parties complete most or all of their discovery, including written requests and depositions, one or both sides may file motions for summary judgment. This is a request that the court decides in their favor as a matter of law based on either claims or defenses. Summary judgment means there are no facts in dispute for a jury to decide, so the court can rule on the matter without proceeding any further in the case.
For example, if the driver who hit you received a conviction for drunk driving or violating another safety law stemming from your accident, that can be proof the driver was “negligent per se” and you should not need to provide any additional evidence of negligence. In this case, the judge can grant your motion of summary judgment since there is no further question of liability. Often, a judge will grant summary judgment regarding liability, but then still leave open the issue of damages for the jury to decide. Our attorneys know how to file persuasive motions for summary judgment to resolve cases as early in the process as possible whenever we can.
Mediation and Settlement Negotiations
At some point during litigation but before trial, the parties may participate in an alternative dispute resolution method called mediation. Mediation is a settlement conference overseen by an experienced third-party mediator. Mediators are attorneys, often former judges, that have special training in facilitating cooperation and negotiation between the parties.
The mediation process usually starts with both sides and their lawyers together in the room with the mediator. Each side makes an opening statement and gives an overview of their claims or defenses. The mediator then goes back and forth between the parties trying to help them reach an agreement regarding how to resolve the case. If the case settles, the lawsuit is over. If the parties cannot reach a settlement, the parties cannot use anything said during the mediation proceedings against the other party, and any information from the unsuccessful mediation session remains confidential.
Even if mediation sessions are unsuccessful, your attorney can still continue to engage in settlement negotiations with the other party up until the end of a trial. Discovery can provide plenty of information that helps our legal team present a highly persuasive case in our clients’ favor. We are skilled negotiators who will continually fight for a settlement agreement that covers your losses. The large majority of personal injury lawsuits end with settlement agreements, though you want to ensure your settlement is a fair one, because you cannot go back and ask for more compensation once you agree to an amount.
The Trial Process
While most car accident cases never make it into the courtroom, our attorneys always prepare as if we are going to trial. This is because if the insurance company won’t make a fair offer, we won’t hesitate to protect your rights in front of the jury!
The first part of a car accident jury trial is jury selection, which is also known in the legal world as voir dire. During this phase of the trial, both lawyers and the judge may ask questions of potential jurors in the courtroom, called the “jury pool.” Selecting the right jury is essential to any personal injury lawsuit, though the jury selection process can be complex—even for attorneys! Our lawyers know how to use necessary strikes (which can be peremptory strikes or strikes for cause) to make sure you have a strong jury that is most likely to be sympathetic to your injuries and rule in your favor.
Once the lawyers and judge agree on a selected jury, each side gives an opening statement. Opening statements are an opportunity for each attorney to inform the jury what they can expect the evidence will show and prove during the trial. Lawyers are technically not supposed to make arguments or discuss specific evidence or law at this stage of the trial, but these statements are more like an introduction to the case.
After opening statements, each side will get to present its evidence to the jury, as well as challenge the evidence of the other side. The plaintiff’s attorney will go first and call the witnesses who will testify to prove their case. The lawyer asks questions of the witness during a “direct examination.” The lawyer for the insurance company then gets to question the witness in cross-examination. After the plaintiff’s attorney is done presenting testimony and evidence, they will “rest” their case and the defendant’s attorney will present their evidence in the same manner.
During both direct and cross-examination, the lawyers may introduce exhibits of physical evidence and ask the witness questions about evidence. Both sides must present all testimony and evidence in accordance with the Rules of Evidence, and each lawyer should quickly object to any evidence or testimony that violates these rules. Thinking quickly during trial is ESSENTIAL to keep out any harmful evidence.
After the jury hears all the evidence, the judge will read the jury instructions, which informs the jury of the law relating to the case. This includes the burden of proof of the plaintiff, which is proving liability and damages by a preponderance of the evidence. This means the jury must think it is more likely than not that the plaintiff’s claims are true. Each lawyer can then make a closing argument to the jury before the jury retires to the jury room to begin their deliberations. When the jury reaches a verdict, they will read the decision in court. This decision is out of your hands, so you need to make sure you have the RIGHT representation during your trial!
While the litigation process can include many other motions and hearings, the above is a basic overview of some of the procedures that occur in most personal injury cases. As you can see, there are many complicated rules for a personal injury lawsuit. But with our team on your side, you won’t have to worry about them. Let US do all the work for YOU!
All litigation is complex, and car accident cases are no exception. While the large majority of car accident lawsuits will not ever make it to trial, you need a skilled litigator to handle discovery and settlement negotiations. With the right law firm in your corner, the insurance company will often agree to a fair settlement to avoid the need for further litigation.
The best way to learn about the many ways our law firm can help is to call and discuss your individual circumstances with a member of our team.
Causes and Types of Car Collisions
Every car crash is different and involves different types of collisions and different drivers and victims. Often, the type of crash that occurred can help authorities and our investigators decipher what happened leading up to the accident. It can take skilled professionals to examine the scene of a crash, witness information, the damage to vehicles, and other factors to determine what—and who—was responsible.
While car crashes can happen for many different reasons, the following are some of the most common culprits of accidents and injuries in the greater Houston area:
While authorities try to spread awareness and enforce drunk driving laws in Houston, the number of impaired driving accident keeps going up—with more than 3,400 in one recent year. It seems like people care less and less about whom they hurt, and more about saving money or time by trying to drive home. The number of drunk driving injuries and deaths increased, too, showing that drunk drivers keep affecting more and more people around Houston.
Close to 20,000 distracted drivers caused accidents in Houston in a single year! It seems like drivers simply don’t want to put down their cell phones, no matter what the cost. Even the texting and driving ban in Texas cannot keep people from using their phones and engaging in other distracting activities.
Many drivers may think that exceeding the speed limit to get where they’re going faster is not a big deal. After all, speed limits can seem unnecessarily low when you’re in a hurry. However, the safety report shows that speeding causes more than 51,000 accidents each year in the Houston area! This should make you think twice before you decide to speed, but you can’t ever control whether other drivers speed or not.
People living and working in Houston know that some sections of roadway are more dangerous than others. Maybe you get to a certain intersection and use greater caution because you always witness people failing to yield or running red lights. Maybe you avoid certain roads altogether whenever possible.
Stewart J. Guss has partnered with KPRC news in Houston to provide a Houston Accident Hotspot Map in order to help make our city a safer place to drive. Here is Stewart being interviewed by KPRC about his map:
The following are some of Houston’s most dangerous intersections based on accident frequency:
- Sam Houston Parkway at Westheimer Road
- Main Street at South Loop
- Beechnut Street at Sam Houston Parkway
- Bissonnet Street at West Sam Houston Parkway
- Hardy Road at Sam Houston Parkway
- Westpark Tollway at Sam Houston Parkway
- Bammel Road at Sam Houston Parkway
- I-45 at Sam Houston Parkway
- Greens Road at I-45
- NASA Parkway and I-45
- Beltway 8 at I-45 North
- 610 East at I-10
These are only the most dangerous intersections for motorists. Others are even more treacherous when it comes to cars hitting pedestrians. People can make many errors at intersections, and if you’re in any of the above locations, the chances of a crash increase.
Every crash is different and the type of collision that occurred can be a good starting point for identifying liability. Our experienced car accident lawyers regularly investigate all types of crashes, including:
When the front of one vehicle crashes into the back of another vehicle, it is known as a “rear-end crash.” In some situations, these accidents may be relatively minor, as the vehicles may have been traveling at slow rates of speed. Many people call these crashes “fender-benders,” as relatively minor property damage and injuries result. However, do NOT be mistaken—not every rear-end collision affects only the fender! Some can be VERY serious, and victims can sustain many traumatic injuries.
When a rear-end accident happens, it is often the fault of the rear driver. For example, Texas has a law that requires drivers to follow at “an assured clear distance between the two vehicles so that, considering the speed of the vehicles, traffic, and the conditions of the highway, the operator can safely stop without colliding with the preceding vehicle or veering into another vehicle, object, or person on or near the highway.” If the rear driver couldn’t prevent the crash, the law presumes they were following too closely. This does NOT mean that the rear driver can’t challenge liability in a crash, however, so you should NEVER assume you are automatically at fault if you were the rear driver.
Common causes of rear-end accidents include distracted driving, failed brakes, drunk driving, aggressive driving and tailgating, cutting off other drivers, dangerous lane changes, failure to yield, and much more.
A head-on collision happens when the front of one vehicle crashes directly into the front of another vehicle. As you can imagine, the impact of two moving cars suddenly colliding head-on regularly causes life-threatening injuries and fatalities, even with all the safety features of modern vehicles. People in both vehicles often require emergency medical treatment and may suffer permanent disabilities and injuries. Head-on collisions are particularly deadly if one or more motorists are not wearing a seat belt.
These accidents commonly occur when a driver crosses over a double yellow line into oncoming traffic or drives the wrong way on a one-way street or highway. Often, a driver will head the wrong way or will swerve into oncoming lanes because they are intoxicated or distracted.
Surprisingly, many head-on crashes happen on rural roads, such as the back roads of Texas. These two-lane highways are often narrow and curvy with poor visibility. Since there are fewer police cars patrolling these roads, drivers often speed, which can cause them to depart their lanes on turns. Additionally, many drivers take a risk and engage in dangerous passing on these roads when there is a double yellow line. This is in violation of Texas law, which states a driver may “not drive on the left side of the roadway in a no-passing zone or on the left side of any pavement striping designed to mark a no-passing zone.” Unfortunately, violations of this law lead to many severe head-on collisions.
Rollover crashes can be some of the most frightening experiences motorists can have. The crash doesn’t happen in a single instant but instead, continues for several seconds and a person’s life often flashes before their eyes as the car rolls over once or several times. While certain vehicles, such as Jeeps and SUVs with a high center of gravity, have a higher chance of rolling over, ANY type of car can roll over in certain situations.
Rollovers can happen due to different circumstances that lead a driver to lose control of a car. These can include:
- Another driver runs you off the road
- Hitting a curb, pothole, or something else that “triggers” a tire to pop off the ground
- Driving too fast on curves or turns
- Another vehicle crashes into a tire or the side of your car
These are only some reasons why a vehicle may roll over. Some rollovers involve multiple vehicles, while others only involve one car. Don’t assume you’re to blame if only your vehicle crashed, however, as another party still may be liable for road hazards or dangerous driving.
While modern cars should have proper roll bars and reinforcements to prevent the vehicle’s roof from collapsing, rollovers can still cause serious physical injuries, as well as extensive property damage and mental trauma.
As just mentioned, single-vehicle crashes don’t necessarily mean the driver who crashed was to blame. In many cases, only one car will crash but other parties will contribute to or cause the accident. The following are some scenarios that may lead to a single-car crash that was beyond your control:
- Another car suddenly comes into your lane, causing you to swerve and run off the road, hitting a guardrail or rolling over.
- You are driving at highway speeds when you suddenly hit a large crack in the pavement, which causes you to lose control and depart from the road.
- While your car is in motion, part of the vehicle suddenly malfunctions and causes you to lose control, such as a brake failure, tire blowout, steering system failure, ignition switch failure, or even airbag deployment.
Of course, there are many other causes of single-vehicle accidents where it may be possible that another party is responsible. If another driver ran you off the road, all too often, that driver may keep going, unaware they even caused a crash. If there was any contact between the vehicles, this can result in a complex uninsured motorist insurance claim with your own policy, and you should have a skilled car insurance claim attorney’s help as soon as possible.
Also, of course, passengers in a single vehicle crash may have a claim against the driver of the vehicle. Even if the driver is a spouse or family member, injured passengers are generally able to make a liability claim against the family’s automobile insurance policy. (This is actually quite a common occurrence.)
Accidents Involving Bicyclists, Motorcyclists, or Pedestrians
Not all traffic accidents involve two passenger cars. The law expects drivers to “share the road” with others who have the right to travel on certain streets or highways, which include bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. All of these people have much less protection than motorists—and sometimes, NO protection at all! When a negligent driver hits a bicyclist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian, the accident victims often sustain catastrophic injuries.
Many drivers hit these people because they are simply not paying enough attention. While people on smaller vehicles or on foot are more difficult to see, this does NOT give drivers an excuse to be distracted. Every driver should be FULLY aware of their surroundings, which includes motorcyclists on the highway, bicyclists in bike lanes, pedestrians in crosswalks, and more.
Rear-end crashes can be particularly dangerous when one party is riding a bicycle or motorcycle. This type of crash can cause a bicyclist or motorcyclist to go flying forward, often crashing directly into the ground, into another vehicle, or into an object. Because bikes and motorcycles have no metal frames, airbags, or seat belts to protect a rider, their bodies are almost completely vulnerable to a traumatic impact, and they often suffer multiple injuries. Even helmets cannot totally prevent head and brain injuries, so these crashes can be particularly severe. Pedestrians also (usually) wear no helmets at all, so they are COMPLETELY at risk of injuries to every part of the body in a crash.
Accidents Involving Commercial Tractor Trailer Trucks
Texas has some of the most commercial truck registrations of any state in the U.S. Drivers in smaller passenger vehicles must share the highways with these over-sized and heavy semi-trucks every day. While commercial drivers must have special training and special licenses to operate big rigs and other commercial vehicles, they can make mistakes and poor judgment decisions like anyone else. Unfortunately, when a commercial truck crashes, it can cause particularly devastating damage and injuries to others.
When an 80,000-pound truck collides with a 5,000-pound car, it’s not hard to believe that the aftermath can be overwhelming. Motorists can sustain catastrophic injuries and regularly need transportation in an ambulance or even a medevac helicopter. To make matters worse, large trucks can often hit many vehicles at once or experience cargo spills, which can then cause a chain reaction crash. The scene of a crash often takes a long time to clean up and may shut down roads for hours while emergency crews help victims and clear the highway.
There are many potential causes of commercial truck accidents, including:
- Truck driver error
- Violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) or Texas commercial vehicle laws
- Negligent hiring or negligent retention of dangerous or unqualified drivers by the trucking company
- Improper cargo loading or securement
- Inadequate truck maintenance or inspection
- Defective truck parts
Car accidents involving big rig trucks can be highly complex, as many parties may be liable for the losses of victims. You need a lawyer who knows how to identify which insurance claims need to be filed, such as with the trucking company’s policy or other parties.
Crashes Caused by Dangerous Road Hazards
Sometimes, a crash is not the fault of any drivers at all. A driver can crash because of circumstances completely beyond their control, such as a dangerous road hazard or condition. When you drive on public roads, you should be able to trust that the roads are in safe condition for traffic use, though this is not always the case. Many conditions can exist that can cause drivers to crash, such as:
- Large cracks in the pavement
- Eroding pavement or shoulders
- Faded lane markers
- Traffic signals that are poorly timed or not working
- Traffic warning signs that fell down and were never replaced
- Construction crews who do not adequately repair a road, who don’t provide proper traffic direction or warnings, or who leave items in the road
- Weak or broken guardrails
- Speed limits that are too high for road conditions
When a road hazard causes a crash, the party responsible may be a municipality, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), a private construction company, or other third parties. While there are usually serious challenges bringing such a claim against a governmental agency, there are sometimes third parties or other Defendants which may share the blame. The procedures and rules for bringing a claim will vary depending on the responsible party, so it’s VITAL that you have the right law firm handling your case.
Crashes Caused by Defective Vehicles
Another third party that may cause a serious car accident is a vehicle manufacturer. These manufacturers produce large numbers of cars and auto parts each day, and the companies have the legal duty to ensure that all products are safe for consumer use. However, the sheer number of vehicle recalls that happen on a regular basis is enough to demonstrate that cars aren’t always safe!
Many cars make it onto the roads with defective parts that can malfunction and cause serious crashes. In addition, some safety features may not adequately protect motorists in the event of a crash and may even cause unnecessary injuries! One example of this is the Takata airbag debacle in recent years, during which metal shards shooting from deployed airbags caused hundreds of injuries and numerous deaths.
When your car malfunctions and causes you to lose control, the manufacturer that produced the vehicle or the defective part may be responsible. Taking on large auto corporations is no simple task, however. You need an aggressive car accident lawyer with the resources and experience to protect your rights against negligent corporations.
We Handle ALL Types of Car Accident Cases!
Stewart Guss and his team of attorneys have seen it all when it comes to car accidents! We know there are many different types of collisions, causes of crashes, liable parties, injuries and losses, and other factors. Sometimes, our clients are drivers hit by other cars. Some clients are passengers who were in the car with a dangerous driver. We also represent pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and anyone else who gets hurt because someone else was careless. If you’re injured, don’t wait ANY longer to call us right now at at 800-898-4877, or CLICK HERE to contact us and get more information.
Common Houston Auto Collision Injuries
Depending on the type of crash and the severity of the impact, auto collisions can cause injuries to almost every part of the body. When your car is stopped and another car hits you, the impact will cause your body to move within the vehicle. This movement can cause traumatic injuries despite safety protections like seat belts and airbags. In fact, the sudden jerk against a seat belt or the deployment of an airbag may actually cause certain injuries while preventing others.
If a vehicle is in motion when it collides with something, the impact will suddenly stop the motion of the car while your body keeps moving. This can cause you to hit multiple parts of your body on the inside of your vehicle. If someone is not wearing a seat belt, they can even go forward through the windshield. Head-on collisions when two cars are in motion repeatedly cause severe injuries and are some of the most deadly accidents on our roadways.
Whenever part of your body hits an object or force jerks your body in unusual ways, you can suffer traumatic injuries. Almost any part of the body can sustain damage in a crash, and many injuries require immediate medical attention. Some car accident injuries may heal with treatment in a matter of weeks or months, while others can be life-changing. Catastrophic injuries are those that affect your cognitive or physical abilities or that leave victims with permanent effects of the injury.
While the list of possible car accident-related injuries could go on and on, the following are some descriptions of the injuries our attorneys have seen arising from our clients’ car accidents.
The head has many parts that can sustain injuries due to sudden trauma. Hitting your head can cause a skull fracture, which can result in a brain injury and even permanent disfigurement. Car accident victims can also suffer fractures to different parts of the face, including the nose, cheekbones, or jaw. Some fractures may require corrective surgery and can change a person’s appearance. Jaw fractures may require a victim to have their jaw wired shut for weeks or months, limiting their ability to eat or speak as usual. Head trauma can cause eye injuries and partial vision loss, leading to lifelong disabilities. Car accident victims can also suffer dental damage, and may require multiple surgeries and costly tooth implants to repair the damage.
Damage to the brain tissue can occur from direct trauma to the head or even from a sharp jolt of the head that causes the brain to rattle around inside the skull. When brain tissue sustains damage, it can affect all of the functions of that part of the brain, leaving victims with lasting cognitive, behavioral, or physical impairments. Some brain injuries can even change a victim’s entire personality and demeanor.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can range from mild (including concussions) to severe. Severe brain injuries can render a victim unconscious for a long period of time, leaving them in a coma in the intensive care unit (ICU). TBIs can also cause dangerous swelling of the brain, which can increase intracranial pressure to a life-threatening level and may require the surgical removal of part of the skull. Many TBI victims require a lengthy course of treatment and rehabilitative therapy. For many brain injury victims, life will NEVER be the same again.
Neck and Back Injuries
Your neck and back are essential for everyday movements and support of the head and upper body. When any part of the neck or back sustains injuries, it can be excruciatingly painful and can severely limit your ability to move around. Injuries to the soft tissue of the neck are often categorized as “whiplash” injuries. Though whiplash historically was a notoriously exaggerated injury in car accident cases, our attorneys know that whiplash and its effects are VERY REAL. There are also many parts of your back that you can injure in a crash, including strained muscles, dislocations, fractures, and disk injuries. Back injuries can keep you from working, from lifting your children or objects, or even from walking. You may need to take time away from your favorite activities, such as exercising, playing sports, playing with your kids, or even helping around the house. Neck and back injuries can require physical therapy, medication, or even surgery.
Many of your most vital organs are in your chest, protected by your rib cage. However, many car accident victims suffer trauma to the chest area, which can fracture multiple ribs and result in serious damage to their organs. Victims can suffer punctured lungs, damage to the heart, and even lead to a heart attack. Internal injuries can lead to hemorrhaging and a buildup of blood inside the chest cavity. Many chest injuries are life-threatening and require emergency medical transportation and trauma care.
Your abdomen is a major part of your body that also houses numerous important organs. You can suffer a rupture or other damage to the spleen, liver, kidneys, or gastrointestinal organs. An accident can also cause fractures to the pelvis, hips, or lower spine. All of these fractures can be painful and take time to heal. These injuries can be particularly serious for older adults, who may require a hip replacement or other surgical procedures, as well as time in an assisted living facility.
Leg and Knee Injuries
While the legs and knees are essential for moving around, there are many parts that can sustain injuries that prevent you from walking as normal. An accident can cause the legs to stretch in unnatural ways, which can cause soft tissue damage. You may suffer strains, sprains, or tears to your ligaments, tendons, or muscles. Additionally, it is quite common to have an accident victim’s knees strike the dashboard with incredible force, even when secured by a seat belt. Many injuries to the knees, including the meniscus or ACL, require surgery and months of recovery time. Often, a leg or knee injury can limit your physical activity for the rest of your life in order to prevent subsequent injuries.
Hand and Foot Injuries
Your extremities are also critical parts of your body for walking, completing everyday tasks, and much more. A car accident can cause fractures, sprains, or strains to your wrists, hands, fingers, toes, feet, and ankles. Such injuries require medical attention and will likely prevent you from working for some time while the injuries heal. Not being able to use a hand or foot can also leave you extremely frustrating!
Spinal Cord Injuries
Car accidents are a leading cause of trauma to the spinal cord, which connects the brain’s signals to the various parts of your body through the nervous system. When a spinal injury disrupts those signals, you can lose sensation and movement abilities in the parts of your body below the injury. Lower spinal injuries can cause temporary or permanent paralysis in the legs, bladder, bowels, and reproductive system, while an upper spinal cord injury can cause paralysis in the arms, torso, and legs, as well as organs such as the lungs. Spinal injuries are catastrophic medical conditions that can permanently disable victims, often preventing them from walking, working, or ever returning to life as they once knew it.
Because you can suffer so many different types of injuries as a result of a Houston automobile collision, have a medical professional examine you as soon as possible and diagnose the type and extent of any injuries or confirm that no injuries occurred. Even if you do not believe that you were injured, visit a doctor or other qualified medical professional. If you do not have health insurance, or cannot otherwise afford medical treatment, we may be able to help. Car accident victims regularly undergo extensive medical treatments, including:
- Emergency transportation in an ambulance or helicopter
- Emergency room visits for diagnostic testing and stabilization
- Doctor’s visits for follow-up treatment
- Hospitalization for injuries that require monitoring or surgery
- Time in the ICU for patients who are unconscious following a crash
- Surgeries to repair strains, sprains, organ damage, fractures, and more
- Rehabilitative therapy to strengthen injured body parts and relearn how to perform everyday tasks
- Medications and medical equipment for pain management, infection prevention, and mobility assistance
- Home healthcare if a patient needs help caring for themselves
- Time in assisted-living facilities for rehabilitation and full-time care while a patient recovers
While medical care is costly, many injuries can worsen if they go untreated. In such cases, insurance companies may try to deny payment if you didn’t seek a timely diagnosis and follow treatment recommendations. Always focus on your physical health, and leave the rest to us!
At the law office of Stewart Guss, we help clients who sustained a wide range of injuries, from contusions to life-altering spinal cord injuries and paralysis. Whether you need one trip to the emergency room or years of ongoing medical treatment, you deserve to recover for the costs of your medical care if someone else caused your accident. We want to ensure that medical professionals properly diagnose and treat your injuries so you don’t suffer unnecessary complications. We fight for full financial recovery for every client, so you don’t have to choose between paying medical bills and taking care of your health!
Learn All the Ways Our Houston Car Accident Lawyers Can Help!
Our legal team can evaluate your rights, and we will always be honest with you regarding how much compensation you deserve.
The legal professionals of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law KNOW the tricks insurance companies use to take advantage of car accident victims who are unfamiliar with the law. We will FIGHT for your rights, so call today to discuss what caused your accident.
Frequently Asked Questions
Unless you have legal training or experience with past car accident claims, the process of seeking compensation can be a complete mystery. No one wants to willingly hand over money, so insurance companies and adverse parties do not make it easy to recover financially. For this reason, many car accident victims have MANY questions, which is completely understandable. The following are some brief answers to only some of the questions you may have following a crash. To discuss your specific situation, contact our office directly.
Should I get a lawyer for a car accident?
As discussed above, the law does not require you to ever hire a car accident attorney. However, there are many, many benefits to doing so. A lawyer can handle your entire insurance claim or lawsuit while allowing you to focus on healing. The last thing you need after a car accident is more stress, so let us relieve the stress of the legal process!
Another harsh reality is that unrepresented parties regularly receive much less than accident victims with skilled attorneys on their side. This is because our legal team knows when and how to fight for more compensation when needed. It may seem easy to simply accept what’s offered until you later realize it was much too little. When you have our lawyers handling your claim, you can trust we won’t ever push you to accept less than you deserve.
How much does a car accident lawyer cost?
One of the main reasons that car accident victims decide not to call an attorney is concern about the cost. However, our attorneys don’t charge exorbitant hourly fees like you might see on TV shows or movies. We know that as a car accident victim, you deserve to RECEIVE money, not PAY money. For this reason, we handle car accident cases on a contingency fee basis.
A contingent fee means the following:
- You pay NOTHING for a consultation
- If you hire us, we will cover all costs up front
- We charge no fees unless win successfully get compensation for you
- Our payment comes from your settlement, NOT your pocket
You never have to have extra money on hand to hire our car accident attorneys. This means that ANYONE can afford to hire the right lawyer for your car accident claim.
What if I made the mistake on the road?
Too often, drivers know they made a mistake before a crash, so they assume they have no right to compensation and fail to even begin to pursue a claim. This is a HUGE mistake. Car accident laws in Texas are not so simple, and our attorneys know that drivers can make mistakes and STILL obtain at least partial recovery.
“Comparative fault” is a legal concept common in personal injury cases. This concept applies to situations in which injured victims may also have some degree of fault in the accident. Most states—including Texas—apply a “modified comparative fault” standard to such cases. This standard allows certain car accident victims to recover some compensation even though they also made a mistake. This rule recognizes that when someone is MORE at fault than you, they should still be held partially liable for your losses. Note that each state has its own laws regarding comparative fault and contributory negligence, and an experienced lawyer can advise you of your rights depending on where your accident happened.
Modified comparative fault follows the 51 percent bar rule. This rule states that a person does not have the right to seek compensation for their accident-related losses if they were at least 51 percent responsible for causing the accident. On the other hand, if you were 49 percent or less at fault, you DO have the right to recover some compensation for your losses.
How much can you recover under modified comparative fault? Well, this will depend on the degree of fault you contributed to the crash. This percentage can be determined by an insurance company (and negotiated by your attorney) or by a jury at trial. If you are LESS at fault than the other party, you can seek recovery for your losses minus your percentage of fault. If this seems confusing, it’s because IT IS for most people. This is a complicated legal issue and you need a highly skilled attorney representing your rights if you also contributed to the crash.
Always remember that what the insurance adjuster tells you about this is NOT automatically true. Instead, discuss your accident with a car crash attorney you can trust and who can evaluate your TRUE rights to compensation. If you deserve a payout, we can provide evidence to the insurance company to prove that the policyholder was more at fault and to advocate for the full amount you deserve.
Should I accept a settlement offer?
When there are bills piling up, your main concern is likely getting them paid as soon as possible. Financial stress is common in the aftermath of a car accident and, unfortunately, this leads to many people accepting a settlement offer from an insurance company as soon as they can. Trust us – the insurance company KNOWS the stress you feel and takes advantage of it.
Insurance companies are businesses that want to maximize profits, which means paying out as little as possible to people like you. They will start very low when it comes to settlement offers, hoping you will simply accept it. Many people accept initial offers because they want a check as soon as possible or because the adjuster falsely earned their trust. This can result in ongoing financial concerns and costs for months or years to come.
When you accept a settlement offer, you don’t just accept a check. You also waive your rights to seek more compensation down the road. This means that if you accept an amount that doesn’t cover your expenses, you will be responsible for paying the rest out of pocket. We don’t want this to happen to you, so you should always contact our office before you accept any offer from the insurance company. We’ll advise of how much you can fight for, and we will fight for that amount on your behalf.
Should I see a doctor even if I feel okay?
Car accidents are always jarring experiences. The impact of a collision will jolt your body in unnatural ways and can be mentally traumatizing. Often, accident victims expect to be out of sorts for a while after a crash, which can cause them to discount serious injuries.
After an accident, you may justify going home instead of to the emergency room or urgent care. You may think you are disoriented from the experience (when you actually have a concussion), or that you are just stiff or sore (when you really have a soft tissue injury or fracture). When injuries go untreated, complications can arise and the injuries can take much longer to heal in the long run.
Going to get checked out after a crash will ensure that you receive the treatment you need for unnoticed injuries. In addition, the doctor will record your diagnoses, which can be used to prove the full range of injuries that resulted from your crash. Seeking medical care can help you physically AND legally after a car accident.
What happens in a personal injury lawsuit?
After a car accident, most people will file an insurance claim with the insurer of the negligent party. However, it is not always possible to sufficiently resolve every case through the insurance process. Texas law gives you the right to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against a party that negligently caused your car accident injuries.
The lawsuit process is not a simple one. There are many procedural rules and substantive laws involved in every case. There are different steps to each personal injury case, including the following:
- Preparing and filing the petition
- Filing necessary motions
- The discovery process, which involves obtaining evidence and information from the other party
- Settlement negotiations
While the majority of personal injury cases settle out of court, you always want an attorney who knows how to aggressively advocate for you at trial. From the start, you won’t know if a personal injury lawsuit is necessary, but you can make sure you have a skilled litigator handling your case.
How long do I have to file a lawsuit for injuries or property damage?
After a car accident, it is normal to take time to tend to your physical health and limitations. You might think that starting a legal case is only going to add stress, however, you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to take action.
Every state has its own laws regarding statutes of limitations in car accident cases. A statute of limitations is the time limit you have to file a valid lawsuit. For personal injury and property damage claims arising from car accidents in Texas, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a petition (with limited exceptions). Two years may seem like a long time, but you would be surprised at how many people let the statute of limitations expire on their car accident cases because they delayed taking action.
Always remember that by calling an attorney, you are NOT adding stress. Instead, our goal is to relieve the stress of your legal claim from you and handle every aspect of your case ourselves. The sooner you call after your crash, the better.
Should I hire a lawyer for a minor car accident?
Some car accidents are “fender-benders” and are inconvenient, but not life-changing. However, even a minor crash can result in surprising losses. When someone else crashes into your car, you could incur bills for property damage and a doctor’s appointment, as well as lose income from missing work for a couple hours. This can all add up quickly!
The law gives you the right to recover from at-fault parties whether your losses are $1,000 or $500,0000. Insurance exists for a reason, and you shouldn’t ever hesitate to collect compensation for minor losses. The problem is that insurance companies don’t take these claims seriously. They think they can offer you a small amount and get rid of the claim, leaving you with expenses you shouldn’t have to cover. Remember that hiring a lawyer costs you NOTHING up front, and can help ensure you receive the full amount you need, even for minor claims. If our legal team thinks you don’t need a lawyer, we will be completely honest about it. Call today, even after a minor accident.
Should I get a lawyer for a car accident that wasn’t my fault?
You can be the safest driver, comply with all traffic laws, and still get into a car accident and suffer injuries. You can’t control the actions of others and the truth is, people make errors in judgment all the time. When another party violates safety standards and is negligent, you should not have to pay for their mistakes.
Generally speaking, another party is not going to simply admit they were to blame for a crash. In most cases, you need evidence to support your claim that someone else was negligent. Proving liability for a car accident can be surprisingly complicated, and can require many resources you simply don’t have. Without the proper proof, you may receive much less compensation than you deserve or even no compensation at all. You should always seek help from a legal professional who has experience proving fault in car crash cases.
When you think someone else was responsible for your accident, call our office and we will review the details of what happened. We can determine your rights and tell you your legal options for receiving compensation. Many people don’t know where to begin after a crash, as the legal system can be confusing. We can navigate these waters for you, so please call us today!
Get Answers to Your Questions From an Experienced Houston Car Accident Lawyer
It is only natural to have many questions after a car accident. After all, our legal system doesn’t make it easy for victims to know their rights. There are many laws involved in car crash claims, and your best legal options will depend on your specific situation. Allow our legal professionals to evaluate your situation and advise you of the best way to proceed.
At the law firm of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, we pride ourselves on being honest and straightforward with every potential client. Our goal is to protect your rights, and you can count on us to never back down when it comes to our clients’ best interests. Don’t wait to call us to begin learning about your right and options today!
Auto Collision Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calculates that 2.3 million persons were injured nationwide in automobile accidents in one year. The Texas Department of Transportation provides the following information based on reportable Texas crashes in a single year:
- There were 13,675 serious injury crashes in Texas in one recent year, with 17,152 people sustaining a serious injury.
- The death toll of 3,534 from auto collisions was an increase of 3.70 percent from the 3,408 deaths recorded in the prior year.
- The fatality rate on Texas roadways was 1.42 deaths per hundred million vehicle miles traveled.
- 1 person was killed every 2 hours 29 minutes
- 1 person was injured every 2 minutes 13 seconds
- 1 reportable crash occurred every 66 seconds
Everyone who drives in the Houston area knows they may deal with traffic and unsafe drivers. However, a recent Houston State of Safety Report shows the risks of a car crash may be FAR greater than you might ever imagine. In fact, the number of crashes reported in the Houston-Galveston area has steadily increased every year for the past five years. This means that each year you continue driving in the area, your risks of accidents and injuries increase. In recent years, the number of crashes was exceeded 131,000, causing more than 3,000 serious injuries and 715 deaths.
Wrongful Death Claims
In tragic cases, car accident victims do not survive their injuries, which means they cannot pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit. This does NOT mean that the negligent party shouldn’t be held liable for this devastating loss, however! Texas law allows grieving family members to file a wrongful death claim to recover financially for their losses. While no sum of money will ever replace a loved one, payment can help a family move forward in a better position and with a sense of justice. Stewart J. Guss and his team of attorneys handle wrongful death claims stemming from car accidents.
The first requirement for a wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim—that someone else was negligent and responsible for causing the car accident and the death. Next, qualifying people can file a wrongful death claim, including:
- The surviving spouse
- Surviving children, including adopted and adult children
- Surviving parents, including adoptive parents
Any of these people may file the claim on their own or a group of them may choose to file the claim together. If none of the above qualifying family members file a wrongful death claim within three months of the date of death, the personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate may file the claim instead, unless a surviving family member specifically requests that they not file the claim.
If a driver faces criminal charges for causing the death, this case will not result in damages for the family members. Instead, the family members must proactively file a wrongful death claim in civil court, which is a completely separate case. While a criminal conviction may impose prison time and fines on the responsible driver, a successful wrongful death claim will result in monetary payment to the family members. Both cases may happen simultaneously or one after the other, and family members may prevail in a wrongful death case even if there was no criminal conviction.
Wrongful death damages are intended to compensate the surviving family members and the estate for their financial and emotional losses stemming from the untimely death. Damages in a Texas wrongful death case may be for the following:
- Lost earnings and financial contributions of the deceased person
- Lost care, maintenance, services, support, advice, and counsel the deceased would have provided to the surviving family members
- Lost love, companionship, comfort, and society
- The surviving family’s mental and emotional anguish, pain, and suffering
- Lost inheritance, including what the deceased would likely have saved and left to surviving family members if they lived a normal expected lifetime
In some Texas wrongful death claims, family members may also seek exemplary damages, which are also called punitive damages in many jurisdictions. Plaintiffs may recover exemplary damages when a wrongful death occurs due to a willful act or omission of the defendant or because of gross negligence. Exemplary damages don’t exist to compensate the family but instead, to punish the wrongdoer and send a message that the law will not tolerate willful or grossly negligent behavior.
Family members will split damages from a successful wrongful death claim in proportion to the injury they suffered due to the untimely death, as the court determines. While a wrongful death claim can help a family move on from a terrible tragedy, it’s important to know you don’t have an unlimited amount of time to file a claim. Texas has a specific statute of limitations requiring that you file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the death, with limited exceptions. Though you may be focused on your grief in the months following a fatal car accident, you shouldn’t wait to contact a compassionate attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you through every step of the legal process.
Contact Our Experienced Houston Auto Crash Attorneys Right Away!
If you were in a car collision or lost a loved one, speak to the skilled Houston auto accident legal team at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, to discuss your case, determine if anyone is liable for your damages, and fight for maximum compensation on your behalf. The auto collision team at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, understands how to investigate your case, work with the insurance company to get all of the compensation you deserve—and when the insurance company refuses to reach a settlement, file a lawsuit on your behalf. Texas auto accident laws can prove complicated and difficult to navigate. You want the team of auto collision attorneys and legal professionals at Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, to protect your rights as well as the rights of your loved ones.
The legal team of Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, is nationally recognized for protecting the rights of car accident victims for more than 20 years. If you were injured in an automobile accident in Houston, call our office right now to schedule a free consultation! Because we take all of our personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis, you will not owe us a DIME unless we win your case. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so call us today at 800-898-4877 or send us a confidential email now by CLICKING HERE.
Texas Auto Collision Laws
Only a Houston auto accident attorney can apply the appropriate Texas laws and regulations to your case. It is still important, however, for all Texas drivers know the laws that apply to most auto accidents, including:
Sec. 550.021. ACCIDENT INVOLVING PERSONAL INJURY OR DEATH.
(a) The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident that results or is reasonably likely to result in injury to or death of a person shall:
(1) immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible;
(2) immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident;
(3) immediately determine whether a person is involved in the accident, and if a person is involved in the accident, whether that person requires aid; and
(4) remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of Section 550.023.
(b) An operator of a vehicle required to stop the vehicle by Subsection (a) shall do so without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
(c) A person commits an offense if the person does not stop or does not comply with the requirements of this section…
Sec. 550.022. ACCIDENT INVOLVING DAMAGE TO VEHICLE.
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), the operator of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended by a person shall:
(1) immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close as possible to the scene of the accident without obstructing traffic more than is necessary;
(2) immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident; and
(3) remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of Section 550.023
Sec. 550.026. IMMEDIATE REPORT OF ACCIDENT.
(a) The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of a person or damage to a vehicle to the extent that it cannot be normally and safely driven shall immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice of the accident to the:
(1) local police department if the accident occurred in a municipality;
(2) local police department or the sheriff’s office if the accident occurred not more than 100 feet outside the limits of a municipality; or (3) sheriff’s office or the nearest office of the department if the accident is not required to be reported under Subdivision (1) or (2)…
Sec. 16.003. TWO-YEAR LIMITATIONS PERIOD.
(a) Except as provided by Sections 16.010, 16.0031, and 16.0045, a person must bring suit for trespass for injury to the estate or to the property of another, conversion of personal property, taking or detaining the personal property of another, personal injury, forcible entry and detainer, and forcible detainer not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.
(b) A person must bring suit not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues in an action for injury resulting in death. The cause of action accrues on the death of the injured person.
Learn How Our Houston Car Accident Attorneys Will Stand up for Your Rights!
At the law firm of Stewart J. Guss, we know that car accidents don’t take a day off. That is why there is someone ready to answer your call at any time, any day of the week. If you’re wondering whether to call, remember you have nothing to lose by scheduling your FREE and confidential consultation.
Our team is proud to provide zealous and personalized representation to each and every client. We want the best for you and will fight for the best possible results. Car accidents can disrupt your life, but we can make the aftermath as easy as possible for you. Call us right now at 800-898-4877, or CLICK HERE to contact us and discuss how to move forward today.
See what past clients have to say:
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“Mr. Guss was wonderful. He fought hard against the insurance company to get us what we deserved. I went from owing almost $5000 in medical bills to actually getting money in my pocket. Absolutely Amazing!!!!! A big thank you from me and my family!!!”
Stewart J. Guss, Attorney At Law
12777 Jones Rd
Houston, TX 77070