Information You Should Ask Witnesses
Vehicles on the road are always subject to unforeseen conditions, such as accidents with other drivers. The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimates that the average driver will be involved in two or three such collisions in their lifetime of driving. Some incidents will amount to very little, perhaps just a scare or a minor fender-bender, but others can put one’s life in disarray immediately.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident in or around Houston, Texas, contact me at The Fostel Law Firm immediately. I will listen to the details, analyze the options going forward, and then help you file an insurance claim or file a personal injury lawsuit. I have been serving clients across West Texas for more than 15 years, and I stand ready to help you recover compensation for your injuries and property damage. I also serve clients in Southeast New Mexico and throughout Texas.
Car Accident Claims in Texas
Texas, as do all states, requires operators of motor vehicles to be licensed, observe the rules of the road, and be financially liable, the latter of which generally means obtaining auto insurance. Texas is also an at-fault state, meaning that someone is usually totally at fault for an accident or at least more so than the other driver, and is thus fully or partially responsible for any injuries or damages their driving inflicts.
Residing in an at-fault state, you have options for pursuing a claim following a car accident. You can make a claim under your own insurance, and they will then seek a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver’s policy. Or you can make a claim directly with the other driver’s insurance, or you can take it another step and file a personal injury lawsuit.
Time is of the essence in making an insurance claim, however. Auto policies invariably have prompt reporting clauses, which means you should make your claim in a matter of days or perhaps a couple of weeks to avoid the company claiming it’s too late to investigate—“the case has gone cold,” so to speak. For a lawsuit, Texas imposes a two-year statute of limitations dating from the time of your injuries.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Though that seems straightforward, making an insurance claim is not usually a slam dunk, even if you feel the other driver caused it all. This is due to Texas’s rule known as modified comparative negligence to deal with.
This rule assigns a percentage of fault to each driver, ranging from zero to 100 percent. This gives the at-fault driver’s insurer a means to lower or deny your claim by showing how much you were at fault in the accident. If your portion rises above 50 percent, you cannot collect. Otherwise, your percentage is deducted from the final settlement.
This can lead to a back-and-forth between the claimant and the other party. How to move the odds in your favor to get around this motor vehicle version of “he said/she said” involves obtaining testimony from witnesses as to what happened.
The Importance of Gathering Evidence at the Scene
The Texas Transportation Code sets guidelines on what to do at the scene of an accident. If the accident results in injury, death, or property damage of more than $1,000, then it must be reported immediately to authorities for them to investigate. Not doing so can result in a fine of up to $5,000 and even imprisonment. So, to be safe, you should always call 911.
Law enforcement should arrive and complete an investigation, but while waiting for them, you need to remain at the scene. The Code requires that you do so and that you pull your vehicle over to the side of the road, if possible. While waiting, you can do your own investigation.
Of course, you need to get contact and insurance information from the other driver, the one whom you believe caused it all. Use your smartphone and take images or videos of what happened—vehicular damage, visible injuries, roadway conditions, and any traffic signs that may have been violated.
If there are any bystanders or drivers in other vehicles who pull over to help, it’s crucial that you question them to get their version of the event (their testimony) along with their contact information, so you can use their statement to further your case, whether in an insurance claim or courtroom battle.
Questions to Ask of Witnesses
Few of us are likely trained sleuths. No doubt, we have little or no experience in conducting interviews regarding roadway accidents. Nonetheless, if you have been in a car accident, you need to try for the sake of prevailing in your claim or lawsuit. Here are some “starter” questions for you, which as you go along, you can expand upon to probe for further details:
“What time did you arrive at the accident scene?”
“Where were you coming from and where were you heading when the accident happened?”
“From your perspective, what were the weather and road conditions like?”
“In your own words, can you describe in detail what you saw?”
“Did you have a clear view of the accident? How far away were you?”
“Do you know of any other witnesses who may have more information?”
You also need to enquire about the person’s reason for being there. For instance, if a driver pulls over to help but is a friend of the at-fault driver, their testimony is probably going to be slanted and of not much use to you. Likewise, if you had a friend following you who pulls over, or a passenger in your own vehicle, their testimony could be suspect as well.
You also should probe to see if the witness or witnesses have any particular expertise or knowledge about traffic situations. You should also arrange with them for some sort of testimony you can present, whether written, recorded and verified, or done by phone or in person. This might be challenging, so be as accommodating as possible.
Let Me Guide You Through the Claims Process
An accident that results in injury and property damage can be challenging. The liable party’s insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to question you, and in so doing will try to pin the fault, partially or fully, on you, in order to low-ball or deny any settlement. If nothing else, they may try to stretch out the investigation until you give up. Don’t let them.
I am experienced in dealing with claims adjusters and can answer their questions and negotiate a just settlement for you. I also will know when it’s time for a personal injury or other lawsuit. Bring the details of your accident to me, and let’s discuss everything. I will then fight for the best possible result for you.
Reach out to me immediately wherever you are in Texas or Southeast New Mexico at The Fostel Law Firm. I’ll fight for your rights.