WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR AN ACCIDENT OR INJURY?
Q: What must I prove in order to recover damages from someone who has injured me?
A: Generally speaking, in order to recover damages from the person who has cause your injury, you must prove that the other person injured you by their negligent, reckless (grossly negligent), or intentional act or omission.
Q: What is negligence?
A: Texas law defines negligence as failure to use the degree of care that a person of ordinary prudence would use under the same or similar circumstances. Negligence may consist of doing something that a person of ordinary prudence would not have done or in failing to do something that a person of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar circumstances. (PJC 2.1). In order to successful bring a claim for damages caused by negligence, an injured person must typically show: (1) that the person causing the injury had a duty to the injured person or to the general public, (2) the actions of the person who caused the injury were not what a reasonably prudent person would have done, and (3) that damages were proximately caused by those actions.
Q: What is reckless or grossly negligent conduct?
A: Reckless conduct is conduct that constitutes a blatant departure from what a reasonable person would do under the same or similar circumstances and typically involves a substantial, unjustifiable risk of harm to others with a conscious or deliberate indifference to that risk. Under Texas law, gross negligence "means more than momentary thoughtlessness, inadvertence, or error of judgment. It means such an entire want of care as to establish that the act or omission in question was the result of actual conscious indifference to the rights, welfare, or safety of the persons affected by it." (PJC 4.2A).
Q: What is intentional conduct?
A: Simply stated, intentional conduct is an act preformed with a conscious purpose or intent.
Q: What is proximate cause?
A:Simply stated, in a negligence action, proximate cause is the action or failure to act that produces the injury or damages, and with which the injury or damages would not have occurred. In order to be the legal proximate cause, the act or failure to act must be such that a person using ordinary care would have foreseen that the injury or damages, or a similar injury or damages, might reasonable result from the act or failure to act. There may be more than one proximate cause for an injury. (PJC 2.4).
Q: What if I am partially at fault for the accident?
A: Under Texas law, even if you might be partly at fault for an accident yourself, you can still receive compensation from anyone else who was careless and partly caused the accident. Texas is a comparative negligence State. This means that you can sue any responsible party even if you are partially at fault in the accident. However, your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of your own negligence. For example, if you were 25% at fault and the other person was 75% at fault, the other person must pay you 75% of the fair compensation for your injuries.
Q: Are children responsible for accidents that they cause?
A:The same basis of establishing negligence based on reasonableness and carefulness is used to determine if a child is responsible for an accident, but because children do not have the same understanding of carefulness as do adults, a different degree of care is used to in examining the actions of children. The law thus applies different standards of care to different age groups. Under Texas law, a child who is younger than five is presumed to be too young to understand that they have been negligent, and thus as they cannot be held negligent under the law. However, parents may be held liable for a child's conduct is they acted unreasonably in failing to control their child. For children who are at least five years of age, but younger than fourteen years of age, their degree of care is measured based on what another child of similar age and experience would consider to be reasonably careful. Children over the age of fourteen are typically held to the same degree of care as are adults. Regardless of the age of the child, if the child intentionally causes damages or injury, the child may be held liable for the damages. The negligent actions of minor children will often be covered by insurance, such as automobile insurance or homeowner's or renter's insurance.
Q:When can a cause of action for wrongful death be made?
A: If the wrongful acts, neglect, carelessness, or unskillfulness that person or entity, or its employee(s), caused a person death, that person's parents, children, and spouse may bring a cause of action against the person or entity that caused the death under the Texas Wrongful Death Statute.
Q: What is an "Act of God"?
A: Under Texas law, the legal phrase "Act of God" refers to an occurrence caused directly and exclusively by the violence of nature, without human intervention or cause, and which could not be prevented by reasonable foresight or care. (PJC 3.5). If an event is an Act of God, then, by definition, it was not caused by anyone's negligence and thus no one may be held negligent for that event.
Q: What is negligent entrustment?
A: Generally, negligent entrustment occurs where a person or entity entrusts a vehicle to a reckless, incompetent, or unlicensed driver, if the person or entity entrusting the vehicle should have known that the driver was reckless, incompetent, or unlicensed. If such a driver causes a collision, then the person or entity who negligently entrusted the vehicle may also be responsible for the damages caused by the collision. (PJC 7.12).
Q: Is a business responsible for the negligent actions of its employee(s)?
A: A business will generally be held responsible for the wrongful acts of its employee(s) if those acts were committed within the scope of the employee's employment, that is, if the acts were committed in the furtherance of the employer's business. (PJC 7.6).
Q: If I or someone related to me was injured or killed by a drunk driver, is the bar where the drunk driver became intoxicated liable for the injuries?
A: Under the Texas Dram Shop Act, if a bar or other establishment that sells alcoholic beverages (1) serves an alcoholic beverage to a person who was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others at the time the beverage is served and (2) the intoxication of the person being served causes damages to another, the bar or other establishment may be held liable for the injuries caused by the intoxicated individual.
Q: How long do I have to file a case (i.e., what are statutes of limitations)?
A: Statues of limitations are laws that set the maximum amount of time during which a case may be filed. Statutes of limitations vary by state. If a case is not filed by the expiration of the statute of limitations period, then courts will typically dismiss the case if an attempt is made to file after the statute of limitations. In Texas, a personal injury action must be filed within two years of the date of the injury, a products liability action liability action must be filed within two years of the time the injury is suffered, and a medical malpractice action must be filed within two years of the act giving rise to the injury. For minor children, the statute of limitations will typically not begin to run until the minor's eighteenth birth day.
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