If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of Texas, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we'll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Texas statutes in each section.
Here are the Texas car accident and traffic laws we'll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
No pedestrian must enter any marked or unmarked crosswalk when traffic is so close that it might constitute an immediate hazard, nor must any pedestrian enter any marked or unmarked crosswalk where traffic signs forbid such entry.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words "Walk", "Don't Walk", or "Wait" or the symbols of a walking person or an upraised palm are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.
Pedestrians can cross an intersection diagonally only when it is authorized by traffic-control devices.
Pedestrians are not allowed to cross a roadway in a business district or a designated highway except in a crosswalk.
Pedestrians on Roadway
Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway, bicycle lane, or bicycle path.
Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it's shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Pedestrians' Right of Way on Sidewalks
The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver's horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or obviously confused or incapacitated person.
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any obviously confused or incapacitated pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver's horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution.
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane.
Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within two hundred (200) feet of oncoming traffic.
Drivers must not drive to the left side of a roadway if any of the following conditions are true:
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
Following Too Closely
A driver must allow enough space between their vehicle and the one ahead to be able to safely stop without colliding with the preceding vehicle or veering into another vehicle, object, or person on or near the highway.
A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers under eighteen (18) years of age must not drive while using a wireless communication device, except in case of an emergency. Drivers must not use a wireless communication device on school property or in a school crossing zone, unless the vehicle is stopped or the device is a hands-free device.
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other drivers and cyclists on the roadway to be crossed.
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as drivers for violating traffic laws.
All motorcyclists who are under twenty-one (21) years of age and have not successfully completed motorcycle training course or are not covered by a health insurance plan for injuries as a result of a motorcycle accident must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Motorcycles and Headlights
Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have no more than (2) two headlights.
A driver who drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Alcohol and Minors
A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway after drinking any amount of alcohol.
Driver's Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give the driver's name and address, the registration number of the vehicle the driver was driving, and the name of the driver's insurance information, and if requested and available, show their driver's license to any person injured or the driver or passengers of a vehicle involved in the collision.
Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 550.023.
Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property
A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car which is
driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 550.023.
Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property
A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.
Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name and address.
If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving the name and address of the driver and the owner of the vehicle that struck the unattended vehicle and a statement of the circumstances of the collision.
Driver's Duty to Notify Police Department
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or damage to a vehicle rendering it unsafe to drive must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
A police officer who investigates an accident must make a written report of the accident if the accident resulted in injury, death, or damage to property totalling one-thousand ($1,000) dollars or more. The report must be filed with the department not later than ten (10) days after the accident.
Accident Report Forms
The form of all written accident reports must be approved by the department and the Department of Public Safety. A person who is required to file a written accident report must report on the appropriate form and must disclose all information required by the form unless the information is not available.
The department must prepare and when requested supply to police departments, coroners, sheriffs, garages, and other suitable agencies or individuals the accident report forms appropriate for the persons required to make a report and appropriate for the purposes to be served by those reports.
Open Alcohol Container Law
A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on Texas roadways.
An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle, in a locked utility or glove compartment, or the area behind the rearmost upright seat.
Passengers of a hired vehicle or passengers in the living quarters of a motor home can consume and possess an opened container.
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.
In Texas, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or higher.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver's driving privileges during the pendency of the driver's probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver's body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Texas Dram Shop Law
Texas has a Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.
A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.
Under Texas law, it is illegal to serve alcohol to an intoxicated person who is clearly a danger to himself or others and the intoxication was the proximate cause of the damages suffered.
Also, an adult who is twenty-one (21) years of age or older who serves alcohol to a minor under eighteen (18) years of age is liable for damages proximately caused by the intoxicated minor if the following conditions are true:
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of Texas, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:
Texas Insurance Information
For information about insurance requirements, see the Texas Department of Insurance consumer guide.
Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
In Texas, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim's liability in causing the accident, their proportionate responsibility, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.
If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident.
If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection in a school crossing zone, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie's lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson's car crashed into Melanie's. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving in a school crossing zone.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving in a school crossing zone and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson's negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
In the event the jury had found Jackson's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Proportionate Responsibility: Section 33.001
Right of Way: Section 545.152
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 545.424
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 545.425
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 545.426
Texas's No Fault Car Insurance
In Texas, drivers must establish financial responsibility for their vehicle. This is primarily achieved through the purchase of car insurance to cover injuries and damages caused in car accidents. Penalties for violating the financial responsibility laws include fines, license suspensions, car impoundments, and prison sentences.
For information about insurance requirements, see the Texas Department of Insurance guide.
Statute of Limitations
Texas has a two (2) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within the two (2) year period following the accident.
Small Claims Courts
Victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court, known as Justice of the Peace courts in Texas.The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $10,000.
To submit a claim in small claims court, visit the Justice of the Peace courts website.
Texas Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity
In Texas, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.
If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
If Melissa, an engineer with the Dallas Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Dallas would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.
If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Dallas can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.
To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
Texas places a cap on the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees at $250,000 for each person, $500,000 for each single occurrence for bodily injury or death, and $100,000 for each single occurrence for injury to or destruction of property.
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