Vehicle ownership does not affect your legal rights in Texas. Injured passengers have the same rights as injured drivers. However, Non-owner and passenger injury claims often involve unique issues. If you were injured driving someone else’s car, you still have legal rights. More on these issues are below.
These legal rights usually include the right to fair compensation for personal injuries and property losses. Victims need this compensation to pay car repair bills, medical bills, and other accident-related expenses.
A Houston personal injury attorney can usually work out a deferred payment arrangement. But these bills must be paid eventually. Accident victims deserve this compensation because it’s a form of justice.
The lawsuit process is pretty much the same as well. After collecting evidence and applying the appropriate legal theories, a Houston personal injury attorney determines a claim’s settlement value.
Like a new vehicle’s sticker price, a lawsuit’s settlement value is the starting figure for settlement negotiations. Almost all civil claims settle out of court. Generally, injury cases settle during mediation, a court-supervised negotiable session.
Negligence in Car Accident Claims
If Janice knocks over her neighbor’s mailbox, she must pay to replace it. That’s the same principle for a personal injury claim in Harris County.
Evidence usually isn’t essential in knocked-over mailbox claims. The Janice of the world often readily admit that they damaged a mailbox. But car crash claims are different. A lot more money is at stake.
So, insurance company lawyers often try to reduce or deny compensation to car crashes and other personal injuries victims.
Like witness statements and the police accident report, some evidence is available at the scene. This evidence alone might be enough to obtain maximum compensation in a negligence claim in a few cases. The burden of proof in a negligence claim is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Other proof isn’t available until later. This proof often includes electronic evidence, like a car’s black box data recorder and video footage from nearby surveillance cameras. This proof strengthens the case and thus raises the settlement value.
Motorists have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid collisions with mailboxes. They must avoid collisions with other people or vehicles.
Compensation in a negligence claim includes more than economic losses, such as replacing destroyed property. No one is emotionally attached to a mailbox. But personal injuries are different. These victims deserve compensation for the inability to push a child on a swing on a sunny day.
Special Emotional Issues
These issues often apply to passenger injury claims. For example, if Janice hit a tree at full speed instead of a mailbox while backing out of the driveway, she would probably sustain serious injuries.
Likewise, if Miguel had been in the car with her, he might have been seriously injured. As outlined above, Miguel has the legal right to obtain compensation in court. But he might understandably hesitate to sue his friend Janice for damages.
As a preliminary note, Miguel only sues Janice in the name. In most cases, she is not financially responsible for anything in the case. If Janice is sued, her insurance company must defend her and pay the costs of any legal action.
It must also pay any damages awarded in the case. Most likely, the insurance company will raise Janice’s rates. But that probably would have happened even if Miguel took no action.
Additionally, injury claims don’t “blame” anyone for an injury. Blame is a criminal law concept. In civil court, the only issue is compensation for damages.
Put another way, civil claims force people to take responsibility for their mistakes. Texas would be a better place to live if we all owned up to our mistakes.
Your Claim for Damages
We briefly mentioned the lawsuit process above. Now, let’s go into more detail. When people know what to expect in their injury claims, they usually make better decisions.
The evidence collection process usually includes obtaining witness statements, the police accident report, and medical bills. Then, a Houston personal injury attorney plugs this evidence into the appropriate legal theory, like putting the right charger into the right smartphone.
Once this initial process is complete and medical treatment is at least substantially complete, the settlement negotiation process usually begins in earnest. However, if a case settles too early, the settlement amount might not account for all probable future medical expenses. If that happens, the victim could be financially responsible for these charges in the future.
If all issues in the case are crystal clear, the insurance company has a legal duty to settle the claim in a few weeks. But there are almost always at least a few questions in a few areas. Therefore, most attorneys file legal paperwork to pressure the insurance company into settling.
After the judge rules on any procedural motions, the critical discovery process usually begins. Once both sides place all their cards on the table, settlement negotiations typically heat up in terms of their claims and defenses. Plaintiffs and defendants know precisely where they stand.
Harris County jurors refer claims to mediation. The supervision element of mediation involves the duty to negotiate in good faith. Neither side may go through the motions. To forge an agreement, both sides must be willing to make compromises.
If you’re injured while driving someone else’s car, you can still file a lawsuit. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Houston, contact Williams Hart & Boundas Boundas LLP. However, you have a limited amount of time to act.