Texas is one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians. In fact, the Governors Highway Safety Association ranks it as one of the top four states in the nation in terms of pedestrian fatalities in 2009. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 345 pedestrians were killed in our state in 2010 – that’s 11.5 percent of all pedestrian deaths in the country.
Dallas Pedestrian Accidents – particularly hit and runs – can affect a victim and his or her family in profound emotional and economic ways. You may have the option to pursue compensation in an injury claim or wrongful death action.
What happens if my loved one was struck by a hit-and-run driver?
Texas lawmakers are showing increasing concern for the staggering number of hit-and-run pedestrian injuries and deaths that occur each year in our state. Texas Senate Bill 275 went into effect on September 1, 2013, and increases the criminal and civil penalties for those who flee the scene of an auto accident. A hit and run is now on par with committing intoxication manslaughter.
Recovering compensation is particularly challenging – but not impossible – in hit-and-run cases in Dallas and throughout the state. Benefits may be available through the victim’s or a household family member’s Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM). For instance, if the victim was your child, he or she may be covered under your auto insurance policy.
Another option to explore is the Attorney General of Texas’ Crime Victims’ Compensation Act. This provides financial help to those impacted by crimes including “failure to stop and render aid” (hit-and-run accidents).
How can I hold a negligent driver liable for my loved one’s injuries?
You have more options for recovery if you – or the Dallas Police – are able to identify the driver who struck your loved one. The driver and his or her insurance company are liable for the damages if you can prove he or she was responsible for the accident. However, the minimum bodily injury liability coverage in Texas is $30,000, and your loved one’s injuries may surpass that amount exponentially. If this is the case, you may need to turn to the victim’s own UIM protection.
You also may choose to bring a negligence lawsuit against a liable driver. The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Title Section 16.003 provides two years in which to take legal action against the driver. Likewise, the code provides two years to file a wrongful death action in the event of a fatal accident. Note: The personal injury and wrongful death actions are separate.
In order to bring any type of negligence lawsuit in a Dallas Pedestrian Accident successfully, you must prove:
- the driver owed your loved one a duty (there is an implied duty between a driver and all other vehicles and pedestrians);
- the driver breached the duty by acting with negligence;
- the breach of the duty caused the accident; and
- your loved one suffered injuries.
Evidence is critical in proving negligence and liability. Examples of evidence can include:
- medical records (to prove extent of injuries);
- police reports;
- cell phone records (may be helpful in proving a driver was texting while driving);
- witness statements;
- nearby surveillance footage; and
- damaged personal items.
Attempt to secure all potential evidence as quickly as possible after a pedestrian accident. Evidence can become lost or otherwise compromised as time progresses.
What if my loved one was partially to blame for the accident?
Texas follows what is known as modified comparative negligence. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 33.001 states: “a claimant may not recover damages if his percentage of fault is greater than 50 percent.” The percentage of fault will be assigned based upon the facts of the case, including the evidence outlined above.
For instance, your loved one’s compensation may be reduced a certain percentage if the defendant can prove that your loved one violated a pedestrian law. For example, your loved one walked around downtown Dallas and failed to use a sidewalk when one was available (as pursuant to Texas Statutes Section 552.006). This makes it especially important to present a compelling body of evidence that mitigates your loved one’s liability for the accident.
I’m ready to seek justice for my family member. What is my next step?