Texas Seat Belt & Booster Seat Laws in 2022

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Obeying Texas’ seat belt and booster seat laws is more than just a legal matter. It can mean life or death if you get into an accident. Children are especially vulnerable to serious personal injuries in auto accidents, making it important to always follow the state’s car seat and booster seat laws. Get the details on the state’s most recent laws to keep yourself and others safe while traveling through Texas.

Seat Belt Facts

Lack of seat belt wearing is a major issue in the U.S. Out of all children ages 12 years old and younger who died in car accidents in 2017, 35% were not using safety restraint devices. In 2017, about 675 children died and 116,000 suffered serious injuries in motor vehicle accidents. The Texas Department of Transportation finds that seat belts can improve the odds of survival in a car accident by 50% for front-seat passengers. Combined with airbags, wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to reduce serious injuries and fatalities in car accidents.
Car accidents are one of the top leading causes of death for those under 54 in the U.S. In 2017, 23,714 vehicle occupants lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. If everyone in these accidents had been wearing seat belts, thousands likely would have survived. Seat belts prevented an estimated 15,000 deaths in 2016. Although airbags are also important for preventing injuries, they are not substitutes for seat belts.

Seat Belt and Booster Seat Laws

It is against the law in Texas to operate or ride in a motor vehicle without using a safety belt. All drivers and their passengers, of all ages, must wear seat belts. A safety belt violation could cost the driver $25 to $250 in fines, on top of additional court costs. An adult driver will be vicariously responsible for any minors not wearing seat belts or using car seats in the vehicle.

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Section 545-412 of the Texas Transportation Code makes it an offense to operate a motor vehicle while transporting a child under eight years old unless that child is in a passenger safety seat system or the child is taller than 4’9.” The fines for breaking Texas’ child seat law is $25 to $250, plus a misdemeanor charge. The rule does not apply to vehicles for hire, such as taxis, as well as if the driver was operating the vehicle in an emergency.

Which Child Safety Seat Should You Use?

Auto manufacturers design seat belts for adult passengers, not for children. The lap and shoulder belts of a safety harness will not fit correctly over a small child. Instead, you must use an appropriate child restraint system to properly protect your child from injuries until he or she is old enough to use a seat belt.

  • Rear-facing car seat. Infants up to age two should sit in rear-facing car seats for optimal safety. Newborns should stay in rear-facing seats until they meet the height and/or weight requirements to transition to the next seat.
  • Forward-facing car seat. Children ages two to four (or until they reach the maximum height and weight requirements) should sit in forward-facing car seats. All car seats should go in the rear seat of the vehicle.
  • Booster seat. Children ages four to eight belong in booster seats, which will lift them to the correct height to properly wear an adult seat belt until they reach 4’9.” The belts should rest on the chest and hips or upper thighs, not the neck or waist.

Children over 8 years old should always wear seat belts and should remain in the back seat until at least age 13. Sitting in the front seat could put a young child at risk of serious injuries from the force of airbag deployment in an accident. Failing to properly secure a child in the appropriate safety seat could lead to a fine in Texas. It could also contribute to serious, life-threatening injuries for the unsecured child in an accident. The best way to keep yourself and your passengers safe is to buckle up.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 2:19 pm

What Happens When a Car Accident Case Goes to Trial

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The vast majority of all car accident cases in Texas settle, meaning the injured victim reaches a settlement agreement with the at-fault party’s insurance provider. If your case does not settle, however, your lawsuit may go to trial in Dallas County. Although a car accident trial can seem daunting, with an experienced car accident attorney by your side, you can go through each phase of a court case with greater peace of mind. Find out what happens when a car accident case goes to trial in Texas to know what to expect.

When Will a Case Go to Trial?

There are two main ways to resolve a car accident liability dispute: an insurance settlement and a personal injury lawsuit. A settlement refers to out-of-court negotiations between the insurance company and an injured party (or that party’s attorney). If a case cannot settle, it may go to trial. A personal injury trial allows both sides of a legal dispute to state their cases before a judge and jury. It is then up to the jury to decide whether the plaintiff or injured party met his or her burden of proof against the defendant.
A car accident case may have to go to trial in Texas if it involves complicated factors that cannot be worked out during settlement negotiations. Common examples are catastrophic injuries, high-value claims, liability disputes, the comparative negligence defense and insurance bad faith. If the insurance company refuses to offer a settlement that is fair and reasonable based on the victim’s losses, a victim may have no choice but to go to trial in pursuit of a just outcome.

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Steps of a Car Accident Trial

If your car accident lawyer recommends going to trial to obtain the financial compensation that you deserve, he or she will explain what to expect from each phase of the court process. Your lawyer will represent you and can attend every hearing or pretrial meeting on your behalf. In general, a car accident trial will involve the following steps:

  1. Discovery phase. This is a pretrial phase where both parties have the chance to learn what the other knows. Discovery involves an exchange of information, typically through depositions or requests for evidence. It allows both parties to prepare for the trial.
  2. Jury selection. Once the discovery phase has ended, the attorneys representing both sides of the case will ask a panel of potential jurors a series of questions to find 12 suitable jury members.
  3. Opening statements. On the date of the car accident trial, the trial will begin with opening statements from both parties. The opening statement is a summary of what the attorney plans on proving throughout the trial.
  4. Presentation of evidence. Next is the presentation of evidence, where both the plaintiff and the defendant will have the opportunity to present records, documents, eyewitnesses, expert testimony and other forms of evidence to prove their cases.
  5. Closing arguments. After all the evidence has been presented, both sides will give their closing arguments. They will discuss the evidence that was actually presented and try to persuade the jury to come to a certain conclusion.
  6. Jury deliberation and verdict. The final stage is the jury receiving its instructions and deliberating on whether or not the plaintiff met his or her burden of proof. If so, the plaintiff will be awarded financial compensation. If not, the defendant will be found not liable.

Keep in mind that your car accident case can achieve a settlement at any time before the court date. Throughout the pretrial process, your lawyer can continue to try to reach a settlement through negotiations with the insurance provider. If your case does end up in court, your attorney will use a tailored legal strategy to optimize your odds of success. For more information about a car accident trial in Texas, contact a trial attorney at The Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert, P.C. for a free consultation.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 11:07 am

Texas Car Insurance Laws

Friday, August 5, 2022

Automobile insurance is required in all 50 states. Car insurance is proof that a driver is financially capable of paying for a crash victim’s medical bills and property repairs. Making minimum amounts of car insurance mandatory for all drivers is a way to protect citizens from having to pay out of pocket for damage that they didn’t cause. Learn Texas’s car insurance laws to make sure you have enough coverage.

Minimum Required Amounts of Insurance in Texas

If you register a vehicle in Texas that you plan on driving, you legally must purchase at least the minimum required amounts of insurance under state law. The required types and amounts of insurance vary from state to state. If you have moved to Texas from a different state, you must update your address and coverage to match the required amounts. As of 2021, Texas’s minimum liability coverage is 30/60/25, meaning the following amounts of insurance are required:

  • Bodily injury liability per person: $30,000
  • Bodily injury liability per accident: $60,000
  • Property damage liability per accident: $25,000

You may also opt to pay for greater coverage limits, as well as optional types of coverage. The minimum amounts of insurance in Texas only pay for the other driver’s losses, not yours. For first-party coverage, you could purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist, medical payment, rental car reimbursement, and/or personal injury protection insurance.

How Does Liability Insurance Work?

Texas is a fault state, not a no-fault state. It requires all drivers to have liability insurance to pay for other drivers’ bills and losses. After a car accident in Texas, an injured victim will file a claim with the insurance provider of the at-fault driver. As long as the driver has the required amount of insurance, his or her insurer will pay for the victim’s losses, up to the policy’s maximum. No-fault states, on the other hand, require personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to pay for a policyholder’s own medical bills, regardless of fault for the crash.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance/Proof of Insurance

If you break the law by driving without the required amounts of insurance in Texas, you could face multiple penalties. These penalties can be severe, depending on the circumstances. The State of Texas takes car insurance requirements seriously, as insurance can decide whether or not a crash victim will recover compensation for his or her losses. The penalties for driving without insurance may include:

  • A fine of $175 to $350 for a first offense, or up to $1,000 for a second or subsequent offense
  • Mandatory SR-22 certificate (higher-cost car insurance).
  • Suspension of your vehicle’s registration.
  • Impoundment of your vehicle.

It is also a requirement to carry proof of insurance. This can take the form of an insurance card in your vehicle or wallet, or a digital version on your smartphone. If you are unable to show proof of insurance during a traffic stop, you will receive a ticket and have to pay a fine. Recently, Texas ended its Driver Responsibility Program, which imposed an additional $250 fine per year for three years after being caught driving without insurance. Even after the end of this program, however, the potential penalties are significant.

What Happens if You Get Into an Accident With an Uninsured Driver?

Unfortunately, many drivers in Texas are guilty of driving without the required amounts of car insurance. If you get into a crash with one of these drivers, contact an attorney right away. It can be more difficult to obtain the financial compensation that you deserve in this scenario. You may be able to file a claim with your own insurance provider if you have more than the minimum required amounts of car insurance in Texas. Another option could be a personal injury lawsuit against the driver or another party, depending on the circumstances. An attorney can review your case and list your legal options.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 1:38 pm

The Importance of Police Reports After a Car Accident

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Getting a police report is one of the most important steps you must take after getting into a car accident in Texas. A police accident report can serve as a key piece of evidence during the financial recovery process. For example, a car insurance company will examine a police report to help establish the other driver is at fault for your accident, as well as to prove your losses. There are many reasons why you should always call the police after an automobile accident in Dallas.

When Does the Law Require You to Report a Car Accident to the Police in Texas?

In some cases, state law will require you to involve the police after a car crash. Failing to call the police in these scenarios could qualify as a hit-and-run, resulting in penalties such as fines and even jail time. As a general rule, you should always report a car accident to the police in Texas if you see:

  • Confirmed or apparent injuries
  • Deaths or unconsciousness
  • Damage to the property of any one person in excess of $1,000

Even if your car crash qualifies as minor, calling 911 from the scene of your accident is an important step. Texas Transportation Code Section 550.062 requires law enforcement officers to report any accidents that result in injuries, deaths or expensive property damage to submit a written report to the Texas Department of Transportation within 10 days of responding to the scene. This report will create a piece of evidence that can be used during your case.

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What Information Will You Find on the Police Report?

When the police arrive at the scene of your car accident, be sure to give them your version of events to be put in writing. Explain details such as where you were headed, how fast you were going and what you believe happened. Do not admit any fault or guilt for the accident, even if you believe you contributed to the crash. Instead, wait for an official investigation to determine fault. The police officer will create an official accident report that documents key information about the collision, including:

  • The exact time, date and location of the crash
  • The names of the drivers involved
  • Descriptions of all vehicles
  • Whether the other driver violated a traffic law
  • Insurance information
  • The directions that both vehicles were traveling
  • Statements from eyewitnesses
  • Official photographs and bodycam footage
  • The officer’s opinion of what caused the accident
  • Driver drug or alcohol test results

It is important to give the responding police officer accurate information while he or she is creating your crash report. If a police officer includes erroneous information in the report, it can make the recovery process more difficult. Before the officer leaves the scene, write down your police report number. You will need to give this number to your car insurance company so that it can access a copy of the accident report.

Why Do Insurance Companies Need Police Reports?

When you contact a car insurance company to report a car accident, it will ask for a police report. It needs the police report to gather key information about the crash and to aid in its investigation of fault. Texas is a fault-based state, meaning that the driver who caused the car accident will have to pay for related bills through his or her insurance company. An insurance company will ask to see evidence that its policyholder is at fault, in most cases, before it will accept a claim and offer benefits. This evidence can include a police report.
In many cases, a car insurance company will make it difficult for an injured victim to recover financial compensation by refuting fault. In this scenario, you could potentially use a copy of your police report to establish the facts of the crash. You or your car accident lawyer can use the report and other evidence to reconstruct the accident, prove the other driver is at fault, search for other defendants and demonstrate your losses. This is why it is important to obtain a police report immediately after a car crash in Texas.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 3:38 pm

What Is the Average Settlement of a Truck Accident Case?

Monday, August 1, 2022

There is no “average” settlement for a truck accident case in Texas. The settlements won for these collisions vary considerably, making any type of average or median number a poor indication of what your specific claim could be worth. Rather than looking at average settlement awards given to truck accident victims, gain an idea of what your particular case might be worth by analyzing the damages you and your family suffered.

Average Settlement of a Truck Accident Case

Common Damages in a Truck Accident Case

“Damages” has two meanings in personal injury law. It refers to the losses you suffered in the accident as well as the financial compensation that may be available to you. In your initial settlement demand letter to an insurance company, you must list all of the damages you suffered in connection to the crash, with corresponding sums you are demanding as compensation for these losses. A truck accident lawyer in Dallas can help you create a full list of your economic and noneconomic damages.

  • Long-term medical expenses. The severe nature of most truck accidents means weeks or months of necessary medical care. In the most severe cases, a victim may need lifelong treatments, such as rehabilitation and physical therapy.
  • Lost wages. A truck accident can take a victim out of work temporarily while he or she is in the hospital or permanently if the accident causes disability. Compensation for lost past wages as well as lost future capacity to earn may be available.
  • Damaged or totaled vehicle. Most collisions between 18-wheelers and passenger cars result in the latter being totaled. The immense property damage caused by a truck accident may take thousands of dollars to repair.
  • Pain and suffering. An injured accident victim has the right to request compensation for intangible losses related to the collision, such as emotional distress, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress disorder, fear, anxiety and lost quality of life.
  • Wrongful death. If someone dies in a truck accident in Dallas, his or her surviving family members can seek financial compensation. A settlement for wrongful death could include funeral and burial costs, medical bills, and lost income.

Your family can recover past and future losses related to a commercial truck accident in Texas. The types and extent of your damages are what will determine how much your truck accident case is worth.

Although many different factors can affect the value of your injury settlement, the most common factors used in calculations by insurance companies are injury severity, the cost of medical care, the length of recovery and how much the accident has impacted your life.

Who Is Liable?

Once you have created a comprehensive list of your losses, your truck accident lawyer can determine the liable party. This is the person or entity legally responsible for your accident, injuries and losses. Under Texas’s tort-based insurance law, the driver or party at fault for causing the crash is financially responsible for medical bills and property damage.

In a standard auto accident, this party is most likely the other driver. The rules are different, however, in truck accident cases. If the driver who caused your accident was employed by a truck company at the time of the crash, you can hold the company vicariously liable instead of the driver’s personal auto insurance policy. This can result in a greater insurance settlement, as a trucking company will have more insurance available.

How to Ensure a Fair Outcome for Your Truck Accident Case

Although a truck accident can cause devastating losses, insurance companies often use tactics to devalue claims and reduce payouts. Do not assume the first settlement offered is a fair amount for what may be lifelong damages. Bring any settlement offer given to you by an insurance company to an attorney for a review you can trust.

A truck accident lawyer can carefully evaluate your case to give you an accurate settlement estimate. Then, your lawyer can help you demand maximum financial compensation from the correct party using proven legal strategies.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 2:58 pm