Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

In a simple San Antonio car accident where personal injuries are minimal, the issue often becomes proper valuation of property damages to the vehicles involved. There are two types of damages to personal property – valuation damages and repair damages. Most people assume that the value lost from a car wreck is strictly limited to the cost of repair or replacement value. In most cases, those methods are proper valuations, but there may be other ways to value personal property and make valid claims on auto accident damages.

In a personal injury car accident suit, determining market value of the damaged vehicle is the most common form of evaluating damages. If market value cannot be determined, other methods exist including replacement value, actual value, and sentimental value. Texas courts have generally ruled that actual or extrinsic value may be used only when market value or replacement value are unable to be determined.

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So what exactly is market value ? Texas cases define market value as the price the vehicle would fetch if it were offered for sale. In the event of a car accident, the market value is the difference in value of the vehicle immediately before and after the collision. In cases where the vehicle is completely destroyed, then the damages are measured as the value of the vehicle just before the accident minus the salvage value. This is why that more often than not, in the case of older vehicles, after an accident , the most you will receive from the insurance company is the salvage value of the vehicle where the repair costs far outweigh the market value.

The county where the auto accident occurred is the marker for determining market value. As such, an Austin car collision might be valuated differently than a San Antonio auto damage case. I have referred to some different ways for determining valuation damages. There are certain types of property that will be subject to this market valuation method i.e. the difference in the value of the item immediately before and after the damage.

For example, Texas courts have stated automobiles, machines and equipment, and even animals are subject to market valuation methods for loss valuation. Interestingly, an owner can recover for the death or injury of a beloved animal in a San Antonio auto collision. Although many owners who lose an animal in a car accident would vehemently argue for the sentimental value of their treasured animals, the recovery for an animal’s death is limited to the market value. Sometimes, in the cases of animals that have high monetary value for their special characteristics or usefulness, the owner can bypass market value and obtain a greater recovery. For example, seeing-eye dogs or dogs with unique breeding potential have been assessed actual values based on their monetary value. Unfortunately, owners cannot obtain a monetary recovery for the pain and suffering related to an animal’s injury or death.

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There are various types of losses a Texas personal injury attorney can recover for an injured claimant. In San Antonio wrongful death cases , for example, medical, funeral, and burial expenses can be recovered in a survival action brought by the executor of the estate. Medical and funeral expenses are also recoverable in wrongful death actions, but recovery is strictly limited to those expenses actually incurred by the beneficiaries.

In an action for wrongful death, the beneficiary can recover medical expenses provided the beneficiary had a legal obligation to pay for those expenses. In addition, an estate can recover punitive damages in a survival action, but parents cannot recover exemplary / punitive damages for a child’s death. Any expenses must also be reasonable in order to have recovery.

In a survival or wrongful death action, there is also recovery for pecuniary losses such as the value of the care, support, and services, a plaintiff would have received if the deceased individual had lived. There must be evidence the deceased family member provided such support and services. Expenses for psychological counseling also fall under the realm of pecuniary losses and may be recovered in wrongful death actions.

Since January 1, 2009, there have been several important developments affecting motor vehicle accident personal injury litigation in San Antonio and greater Texas .

Specifically, the Texas legislature updated the minimum limits for auto insurance to $25,000 for injuries per person for policies written after April 1, 2008 and $50,000 per accident if more than 1 person is injured. There is a $25,000 minimum coverage for property damage for policies written after April 1, 2008 with allowances of a $250 deductible per person injured or for property damage and $500 per accident. See Tex. Transportation Code § 601.072.

In a recent San Antonio accident San Antonio car accident involving a dump truck and eighteen-wheeler (18 wheeler), the Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict against the dump truck driver and his employee. The court ruled that had the employer followed the law and contacted the driver’s former employee, he would have discovered the driver’s multiple speeding citations and positive drug test for cocaine. Moreover, the court upheld the award of $400,000 for pain and suffering, because it appeared the driver was at least conscious while his vehicle spun out of control and was aware he would soon die.

In San Antonio and greater Texas, there have been several key personal injury cases in the area of premises liability in 2009.

In one case, a guest at a condominium severed his finger while sitting in a pool-side chair. The court held there was no evidence that the condo association had actual or constructive knowledge of the broken weld in the chair. A San Antonio personal injury attorney can aggressively pursue evidence of constructive or actual knowledge in premises liability cases.

In a case against the City of San Antonio alleging benzene exposure from a nearby closed municipal landfill, the Texas Supreme Court found there was no expert evidence as to the level of benzene in the plaintiff’s daughter. There were also questions concerning the association between the mother’s exposure to benzene and the daughter’s leukemia in utero. Oftentimes, benzene lawsuits in Texas hinge on the quality and strength of expert opinions on causation.

In our last blog entry on Texas police chase personal injury accidents , we focused on some of the factors that would point to a finding of negligence on the part of police officers who did not abandon the chase of a suspect in consideration of public safety.

There have been several cases throughout the country that have given some clues as to how the courts interpret police behavior, especially when it is the suspect and not the police themselves who directly causes a collision. In a case in Sacramento CA, the court found that there was some evidence to suggest that the officers had created a dangerous situation in their pursuit of the suspect. For example, the police failed to turn their red lights on and the injured plaintiff indicated that he never heard any police sirens despite the fact that he had his windows rolled down and the radio was off.

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In an action against the city of Pasadena CA, the court ruled that under the circumstances, there was enough evidence to bring a cause of action for wrongful death against the city. In that case, the officers pursued a suspect solely for a traffic infraction on city streets in excess of 100 miles per hour.

Imagine you are driving on a nice sunny day in the heart of Texas, and your vehicle is suddenly impacted from the side by another vehicle moving at an extremely high rate of speed. After the initial shock wears off and you initially deal with the inevitable injuries of such a terrible accident, you come to find out that the police were chasing the person who collided with your vehicle.

The ultimate question in such a situation is as follows: Is the police officer or the Texas county municipality responsible for his conduct liable for a Texas wrongful death or personal injury caused by a vehicle being pursued by the police ?

The answer is … it depends. For example, in Draper vs. Los Angeles, the court ruled that while the police pursuit may have contributed to the reckless driving of a fleeing individual, the officers did not have a duty to allow him to escape. In addition, the court ruled that there was no requirement on the part of officers to warn other drivers to keep out of the way, and there was no evidence that the police were trying to force the fleeing individual to the curb.

In the last ten years, SUV rollovers have become a major problem in San Antonio and greater Texas. There are several factors that contribute to this tragic phenomenon in the states. For example, many manufacturers produce SUVs with an excessively high center of gravity. Sometimes, SUVs possess weak suspension systems or shock absorbers that are not located far enough outboard. The bottom line is that it is absolutely unacceptable when an SUV or any type of vehicle for that matter can roll over on a flat surface – manufacturing defects are absolutely present.

Imagine you or a loved one is properly seat belted and your vehicle rolls over. Now you are facing complete disability as a quadriplegic. A Texas personal injury serving Texas and San Antonio is needed to effectively prosecute these types of manufacturing defects.

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One of the most glaring defects is a defectively designed roof. A roof is considered excessively crushed when the crush measures more than 4 inches. The most amazing thing is that these roofs actually meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which represent the baseline. However, the fact that these roofs meet the federal standards does not pre-empt a suit for personal injury damages.

As a follow up to our last entry on defective vehicle door latches in which persons are ejected through the door, San Antonio and Texas are seeing a rash of auto accidents in which occupants are being ejected through the vehicle window. The problem is especially acute in rollovers and other car crashes.

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Why does this happen? First, the side roll down windows are made of glass that will disintegrate into thousands of small pieces facilitating ejection. Yet the fact of the matter is that the glass should possess an interlayer of plastic to guard against ejection i.e. a form of laminated glass. When auto makers do not employ this laminated glass, they place occupants at great risk of ejection – all in the name of saving less than $20. It is a design defect for which they should be held accountable.

In the last 30 years, auto makers have done crash tests on vehicle with unseatbelted dummies. When laminated side glass windows are used, the dummies are not ejected. Laminated glass side windows are just as safe as the older, more dangerous design.

Why do we hear about passenger and drivers being ejected out of a vehicle during an accident? What happened – how are they ejected through the car doors?

The answer is simple : the door latches unlatch due to particular inertia forces caused by the accident or a compression of the rod in the door latch as a result of the twisting of the vehicle. Yet a San Antonio and greater Texas personal injury attorney will tell you that door latches are simply not supposed to come unlatched during a car crash. If the door came open when a vehicle went through a rollover or an accident in general, then there is most certainly a design defect in the latch.

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Can you believe that the auto industry has known for decades about a solution to keep door latches from unlatching ? The solution is called a Bowden cable – it costs less than $10 and is a suitable substitute for the customary rod in the door latch setup. Manufacturers have also developed door latches that will not be affected by inertia forces.

Throughout San Antonio and greater Texas, stories abound of deadly vehicle fires, that burn, maim, and ultimately kill drivers and passengers. There are many potential explanations behind vehicle fires. Some of the most common defects include electrical problems, leakage of gasoline from the fuel lines, and the ignition of transmission fluid. A strong Texas auto accident personal injury attorney will be able to pinpoint automotive defects including defective electrical devices, transmissions, and/or ignition switches.

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It is a well known fact that the automotive manufacturers do not adequately protect the gas tank, which can inevitably cause the gas tank to be punctured and lead to fuel ignition. An automobile must be designed with effective inertia shutoff devices which stop the flow of fuel druing a crash. Ultimately, vehicle fires are a preventable occurrence if the car is adequately designed.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured by a vehicle fire, consult a Texas personal injury attorney to guide you through the process of preserving evidence and retaining the right experts to defend your claims.

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