Bringing a car accident claim in Texas does not guarantee your financial recovery. You will first need to prove the defendant’s liability before you can recover compensation. In turn, the defendant will have the opportunity to refute your claim and prove him or herself not responsible for your collision. Learning the most common defenses used in car accident cases can help you prepare your rebuttal.
A defendant may try to counteract a claim based on statutory rules or filing mistakes, such as an expired statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a deadline to file a civil claim. In Texas, the statute of limitations on most car accident cases is two years from the date of the accident or injury discovery. If you filed your claim after this deadline, the defendant will most likely use this as a defense to liability. The courts in Texas generally will not agree to hear a claim filed after the statute of limitations has passed.
Texas is a modified comparative negligence state. Called proportionate responsibility in Texas, comparative negligence refers to the accident victim’s portion of responsibility for the wreck. In Texas, you cannot recover financial compensation for a car accident that you were more than 50% responsible for causing. If an investigation confirms your majority share of fault for causing the crash, the defendant will not owe you any compensation.
A defendant may use the proportionate responsibility defense to bar you from recovery or reduce his or her liability for your losses. Even with less than 50% of fault, this defense could reduce your financial recovery by an amount equivalent to your percentage of responsibility. If you were 20% responsible for the car accident, for example, the courts will deduct 20% from your recovery award.
The defendant’s insurance company may try to avoid a payout by refuting fault for your accident altogether. It may do this by naming a third party that is to blame for your losses instead. For example, the other driver’s car insurance company may deny liability if an investigation finds that a defective vehicle part caused your crash, not its client, and that you should therefore bring your claim against the manufacturing company. In this scenario, you and your car accident attorney can bring an injury claim against the third party for compensation instead.
If you are filing a claim for injury-related damages, such as medical bills, you may encounter the pre-existing condition defense. An insurance company may use this defense if it finds a pre-existing injury or condition in your medical records that is relevant to the current injury claim. This is why it is important to submit only the relevant medical records to the insurance company rather than signing a blanket authorization form. Even if you have a pre-existing condition that impacts your claim, the insurance company cannot deny benefits for accident-related injuries or the exacerbation of your existing condition. You may need to prove, however, that your injuries are from the car accident and are not pre-existing.
Another common defense used in car accident cases is the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate his or her losses. As a plaintiff in a car accident claim, it is your responsibility to take certain steps to mitigate your losses or prevent them from worsening. If you have an injury from the crash, for instance, you will need to go to the hospital immediately and follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Failing to mitigate your losses could be a valid reason for an insurance company to deny your claim or reduce the benefits awarded. If you most likely could have reduced your losses but failed to do so, the insurance company most likely will not be responsible for their full value.
You may encounter one or more defenses during your Texas car accident case. Hire a lawyer to represent you for the best odds of a successful claim even with these common defenses.