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Dallas car accident lawyerCar accidents can easily exacerbate an existing injury. Those who are already recovering from an acute injury or managing a chronic injury may be particularly vulnerable during a motor vehicle crash. If a negligent driver hit you and managed to make an injury you already had worse, you may be wondering how your claim will work.

The good news is that even if you were already hurt, the at-fault driver is still responsible for the change in your condition. They cannot escape liability by arguing that you already had an injury if their actions worsened it in any way. Handling your claim may be just a little bit more complicated, as you will need to calculate the costs and expenses associated with the exacerbation. It is important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer in this case. 

What is the Eggshell Skull Rule?

In law, there is something called the Eggshell Skull rule to address exactly the type of situation where a negligent defendant has worsened the plaintiff’s existing condition or injury. Generally, the rule is that when someone carelessly injures another person, they are responsible for the entire amount of harm that they caused, even if the victim was particularly susceptible due to an existing condition. 

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Dallas car crash injury lawyerInsurance companies have one goal after a car accident: to settle your claim for the lowest dollar amount possible. They are quite skilled at this. The insurance company representative who calls you shortly after your crash may sound caring and friendly, but this does not mean that they will actually be able to help you. You are talking to a professional who is likely to be trained in high-pressure tactics designed to force you into taking an unfairly low settlement. When you have been injured and are still recovering, it may seem convenient for you to simply take a settlement offer and be done with it. However, this is rarely as good an idea as it might seem at the time. Your best bet is to work with an attorney who is prepared to advocate for you and protect your interests. 

Why You Should Have Legal Representation After a Car Crash

There are risks associated with trying to deal with insurance alone after you have been hurt in a car accident. An attorney who has more experience working out fair settlements that fully compensate accident victims can take steps to protect you.

The risks of handling a potential settlement without legal assistance include: 

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Dallas car crash injury attorneyNot all that long ago, personal injury claims were structured much differently than they are now. Nearly all states used to practice what is known as “pure contributory negligence.” The rule of pure contributory negligence states that a person who is in any way at fault for their injury cannot recover damages from the responsible party. Even if the person seeking compensation was only minorly at fault for an accident, they would be barred from being awarded damages for their injury. Most states—including Texas—have enacted some type of comparative negligence rule, allowing the claimant to recover compensation, even if they had a portion of liability.

Understanding Proportionate Responsibility

Rather than comparative negligence, the state of Texas uses the term “proportionate responsibility,” but they mean the same thing. Different states have different percentage amounts that a claimant can be liable for before they are barred from receiving compensation. In Texas, this is referred to as the “51 percent bar” because a claimant can still recover compensation from another person if they are 50 percent or less liable for the accident that caused their injuries.

Calculating Proportionate Responsibility Award Amounts

In cases that involve a claimant who is partially responsible for their accident, the jury is instructed to compare both parties’ negligence and come up with whole number percentage amounts that assign liability to each party. Consider a situation, for example, in which two people get into a car accident and the jury determines that the claimant is 20 percent liable for the accident and the other party is 80 percent liable for the accident. After all of the evidence is presented, it is determined that the claimant suffered $500,000 in losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. The amount the claimant is entitled to collect would be reduced by 20 percent, leaving the other party only responsible for paying 80 percent, or $400,000.  

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Dallas personal injury lawyerThe costs of being hit by a negligent driver can far exceed the value of your vehicle and medical bills. When you stop and think about every expense or financial loss you would not be dealing with if it were not for your car accident, it  probably adds up more than you might have initially realized. The good news is that you can recover damages for quite a few different types of losses. The car insurance company is not likely to make an offer that fully compensates you if you try to negotiate with them alone. Before you speak with an insurance company, be sure to speak with an attorney who can give you a better idea of what your claim might actually be worth. 

What Types of Damages Can I Recover After an Auto Accident?

You probably already know that you can recover the cost of your medical bills and the cost of repairing or totaling out your vehicle. You may also be able to recover: 

  • Lost wages - If you had to take time away from work, you could recover the full amount of pay you lost. This can be a big deal for those who were kept away from work for a long period of time due to a long-term injury. In Texas, this can even include any income you will lose in the future. If you suffered permanent disability or had to change your career and are now getting paid less, these amounts may be compensable - and quite significant. 
  • Pain and suffering - This includes both physical and emotional harm. The amount you could receive will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries. Future suffering can be factored in if you have a long-term painful injury. Emotional anguish can count as well. Car accidents can be frightening or even traumatic. Accident victims often struggle with concerns like anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Loss of enjoyment of life due to disability or disfigurement can be compensable as well.
  • Punitive damages - These are less common. Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault driver if he was grossly negligent - behaving with a reckless disregard for the safety of others around him. This could include extremely reckless actions like driving while very intoxicated, street racing, or traveling at a dangerously high speed. 

Always speak with an attorney before accepting a settlement. You deserve to be compensated for the full amount of losses you suffered. 

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Dallas County divorce attorneysIn rare cases—but maybe not as rare as you think—the state can be held liable for car accidents. Drivers have a duty to use appropriate care to avoid accidents. The state has a duty to make sure the roads are reasonably safe to drive on. When road conditions are dangerous in a way that the state has control over, the state could be held responsible for any injuries that occur. If you get hurt in an auto accident due to hazardous road conditions, you may want to speak to an attorney to determine whether the state may be liable. 

What Kind of Road Hazards Can Cause Crashes the State is Liable for?

The state of Texas is responsible for maintaining the roads in safe condition. When it does not, it can be held liable for the injuries it causes. The state could be liable to you if your accident was caused by hazards like:

  • Obstructed views - When you are trying to safely get through an intersection or exit a plaza, it is extremely important that you are able to see traffic coming from both directions, important signs, and anything else in your path. When bushes or trees are allowed to grow out of control, they can obstruct drivers’ view. This can lead to accidents as drivers cross paths with other vehicles they could not see. 
  • Night vision - Reflective paint should be used to mark lanes. When reflective paint has faded too much or was never used in the first place, it can become nearly impossible for drivers to see where their lane is when it is dark out. This can lead to collisions when drivers move out of their lane. 
  • Inadequate shoulders - When drivers experience a mechanical issue, a fender bender, or a situation inside the vehicle they need to address, the responsible thing to do is to pull off the road onto the shoulder. When a shoulder is present but too narrow, people who have pulled onto the shoulder may be in danger of getting hit by another vehicle. 
  • Road design - In a few cases, a road is so badly designed that accidents are nearly unavoidable. A curve that is too sharp and does not have a reduced speed limit, an intersection at the bottom of a steep hill, or dangerous lane-merging can render a road unsafe to drive on. 

If your injuries after a car accident may have been caused by the state’s negligence, an attorney may be able to help you recover damages. 

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