Anderson Injury Lawyers | August 28, 2022 | Car Accidents
But what happens when you cause a crash? The consequences you face will vary depending on how you caused the accident and what you did afterward.
Read on to learn some of the consequences you may face when you bear the fault for causing a car accident.
Causation and Car Accidents
Cause and fault have multiple meanings when you discuss car accidents. Both terms have legal meanings. But they also have common meanings.
This is why you need to speak carefully after a car accident. If you acknowledge that your actions “caused” the accident or say the accident was “your fault,” you might face legal consequences for those admissions.
When people talk about causes, they usually refer to a cause-in-fact. A cause-in-fact is an event in the sequence that results in an accident. Speeding or glancing at your phone could constitute a cause-in-fact of a car accident.
The word fault has similar legal import. People may say something was “my fault” or “my bad.” But they rarely mean this in a legal sense. Instead, this term usually means they feel regret or guilt for what happened.
Saying you were “at fault” for a car accident or “caused” a car accident is very different from being found by a jury or judge to have caused a car accident or bear fault for it.
Consequences for Causing a Car Accident
If a court finds that you bear liability for a car accident, you could face many consequences. But the extent of those consequences will depend on the circumstances of your accident and your actions before and after it.
The police cannot cite you simply for causing an accident. They can cite you for illegal actions that led to the accident. For example, police officers can always cite you for texting while driving in Texas, whether you cause an accident or not.
But after an accident, they have the authority to investigate the accident and determine whether you or the other driver broke any laws leading up to the accident. The investigating officers can cite you for any traffic violations they find.
If you get cited for violating traffic laws, you will probably not face jail time. You may get fined. And the Texas Department of Public Safety can suspend your driver’s license if you get at least four traffic citations in one year or at least seven traffic citations over two years.
If a court finds you liable for causing a car accident, you and your insurer will have to pay the damages associated with the accident. These damages include the economic damages associated with the accident, including:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses of anyone injured
- Lost income of anyone injured
The damages also cover non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.
If you have liability insurance, as Texas law requires, your liability insurer must pay the damages up to the policy limits.
Thus, if you have the minimum bodily injury liability policy limits of $30,000 per person or $60,000 per accident, your insurer will pay the first $30,000 in damages if one person got injured or $60,000 in damages if two or more people got injured.
You will need to pay the difference if your insurance does not cover all the damages. So if an accident victim wins a $50,000 damage award against you, the insurer will pay $30,000, and you must pay the remaining $20,000.
Texas uses a fault-based insurance system. If you bear liability for the accident, you cannot seek compensation for your injuries. Instead, you will need to pay your medical expenses out of pocket or rely on your health insurance.
Drivers rarely face criminal consequences for causing a car accident. Most traffic citations get resolved in traffic court.
But some behaviors expose you to the risk of criminal charges. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol could lead to jail time and fines if you get pulled over without causing an accident.
But you could face prison if you cause an accident while intoxicated and injure someone. And if you kill someone while driving drunk or high, you could get charged with homicide.
Another potential criminal charge could include reckless driving. If you did something that showed willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, prosecutors could charge you with reckless driving. Thus, street racing or road rage could expose you to jail time and a fine, regardless of whether you caused the accident.
What to Do After a Car Accident
After you get involved in an accident, you should avoid making any admissions of fault. This includes admitting you “caused” the accident.
Cooperate with the police officers investigating the accident and tell the truth, but let them draw their own conclusions about causation and fault. They have experience and training in accident investigations, and admitting fault will taint the accident report.
Exercise similar care in talking to insurers after the accident. Claim adjusters must investigate the accident before assessing fault. If you try to take the blame for the accident, that just gives the adjuster an excuse to end the investigation early.
You should also contact a personal injury lawyer. An injury lawyer can defend you from any unfair accusations that you caused the accident. They can also determine if the other driver bears some liability for the accident, which could reduce the damages you owe.