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Category Archive: Law Blog

Category Archive: Law Blog

  1. What Is Unjust Enrichment?

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    Most people picture negligence claims when they think of personal injury lawsuits. The most common situation that gives rise to a personal injury claim in Texas is one person’s negligence causing another person’s injury or harm. Unjust enrichment, however, is a different type of civil suit. It claims that one party (the defendant) benefitted or profited at the other party’s (the plaintiff’s) expense. An unjust enrichment claim is a combination of contract and tort law.

    The Definition of Unjust Enrichment

    Unjust enrichment occurs when someone benefits at the expense of another person. It is an issue that commonly arises in breach of contract lawsuits. If two parties enter into a contract to manufacture 500 items, for example, but the manufacturer can only complete 250 of them, the recipient would be unjustly enriched if he or she did not pay the manufacturer to keep the completed items. The law in this case would entitle the manufacturer to payment from the customer for the 250 items produced.

    Unjust enrichment could cause personal injuries if a defendant breaches a contract or violates the law in a way that endangers the health or safety of the plaintiff. If a manufacturing facility secretly uses lower-quality parts to make a higher profit on producing a bicycle, for example, it could be liable for consumer injuries that arise from bicycle part malfunctions based on the legal doctrine of unjust enrichment.

    Unjust enrichment can refer to many different scenarios in which one party benefits while the other party suffers a financial loss or personal injury. This includes a party receiving property in a way that is unfair, someone being guilty of criminal violations and one party withholding payment for services rendered by another party. If you believe you are the victim of unjust enrichment in Texas, speak to a Houston personal injury attorney for advice about how to bring a claim.

    Elements of an Unjust Enrichment Claim

    As is the case with all civil lawsuits, the burden of proof in an unjust enrichment claim rests with the plaintiff. Rather than the defendant having to prove him or herself innocent, it will be the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove the defendant guilty. During a civil claim, the standard is to show clear and convincing evidence that the defendant more likely than not caused the damages in question. This is a preponderance of the evidence, meaning the odds of the claim being true are more than 50%. It will be up to you – or your attorney – to prove the three elements of an unjust enrichment claim as more likely to be true than not true.

    1. The defendant received a benefit. The defendant enjoyed some type of benefit from the unjust enrichment, such as receiving goods or services.
    2. The defendant’s benefit came at the plaintiff’s expense. The plaintiff suffered a loss because of how the defendant benefitted. Common losses are money, materials, supplies and time.
    3. It would not be fair for the defendant to keep the benefit. The courts must agree that it would be inherently unjust or unfair for the defendant to retain the benefit without righting the plaintiff’s wrong, such as by paying the plaintiff.

    It is important to hire an attorney for an unjust enrichment claim. It can be difficult to prove your case and win compensation from a defendant on your own, without legal representation. A lawyer will understand how these cases work and what types of evidence you will need to prove your claim in Texas. Evidence could include a copy of your original contract with the defendant, expert testimony, and proof of your injuries or losses. A personal injury or breach of contract attorney can help you secure compensation for unjust enrichment in Texas.

  2. What You Need to Know About Spoliation of Evidence in Texas

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    In Texas, winning a personal injury claim takes using clear and convincing evidence to prove that the defendant more likely than not caused the accident and injuries in question. Evidence is a critical part of an injury lawsuit or insurance claim in Texas. The spoliation of evidence – the loss or destruction of evidence – has to do with the evidentiary standards of an injury claim. It does not describe a separate civil tort. It is important to understand how the courts deal with the spoliation of evidence in case a defendant is guilty of this tort during your injury claim.

    What Is Spoliation of Evidence?

    Spoliation of evidence describes spoiling, ruining, destroying or eliminating key evidence that could have been useful for someone else during a civil or criminal case. The spoliation of evidence can be negligent or intentional. Either way, the defendant may have to answer for the preventable loss or destruction of material evidence. Material evidence can refer to many different sources of proof of a defendant’s negligence or fault for an accident.

    • Video surveillance footage
    • Photographs
    • Accident reports
    • Cellphone records
    • Employee or store records
    • Eyewitness statements
    • Maintenance logs
    • A truck’s black box
    • Medical records

    Material evidence is the main source of evidence used to prove or disprove a fact during a case. The different types of material evidence are real, demonstrative, documentary and testimonial. The destruction of any type of evidence could lead to a spoliation of evidence charge. If another person in the same position reasonably would have been able to save or preserve the evidence in question, the defendant may be guilty of this tort.

    How Will Spoliation of Evidence Affect Your Injury Claim?

    Spoilage of evidence is not grounds for an independent tort claim, according to Texas law. This means you cannot bring a separate civil claim against a defendant for destroying evidence – even if the defendant was negligent or intentional in allowing the destruction of evidence. Instead, Texas law treats the spoliation of evidence as an evidentiary issue during a personal injury claim. The courts will handle this issue with a remedy that is appropriate for the circumstances of the case. In past cases in Texas involving the spoliation of evidence, the courts set a precedent of analyzing the situation based on three elements.

    1. The party had a legal or ethical duty to preserve the evidence. State law holds that the duty to preserve evidence arises whenever a party knows or reasonably should know, based on the circumstances, that a claim will arise and that the evidence would be material for such a claim.
    2. The party negligently or intentionally failed to preserve the evidence. The second element is determining whether spoliation occurred. It will be the other party’s responsibility to prove to a judge or jury that the first party did something (or failed to do something) that a reasonable and prudent party would not have and that this is what caused spoliation of evidence.
    3. The spoliation of evidence significantly impacted the victim’s ability to bring a personal injury claim. The third element is an adverse effect on the claim. Destroyed evidence of a defendant’s fault, for example, could protect him or her from liability for an accident. It may be impossible for an injured accident victim to obtain financial compensation without the evidence that was spoiled.

    If one party succeeds in proving the spoliation of evidence, the Texas courts have the discretion to determine an appropriate remedy. The courts will give the jury a spoliation of evidence instruction prior to deliberations. This instruction confirms that one party destroyed or failed to produce material evidence, and states that the jury should presume the evidence was unfavorable to that party. It will then be up to the jury to decide on liability while keeping the spoliation of evidence in mind.

  3. Is Texas a No-Fault State?

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    Every state has unique insurance requirements for its motor vehicle drivers. Before you can lawfully operate a vehicle in the State of Texas, you must purchase adequate auto insurance. If two drivers get into a car accident in Texas, the injured party will seek benefits from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This is a fault-based insurance system. This arrangement means that Texas is not a no-fault state.

    What Is a No-Fault State?

    A no-fault state is one in which a driver involved in a car accident does not have to determine or prove fault to receive insurance benefits. Instead of filing an insurance claim against the at-fault party, injured drivers in a no-fault state will seek benefits from their own insurance providers, regardless of fault. A no-fault state uses first-party insurance claims to reimburse victims for their medical bills and vehicle repairs without requiring proof of fault. In a no-fault state, only the most serious injuries will give a victim the right to hold a negligent or reckless driver responsible. In Texas, however, this is not the case.

    What Is Texas’s Fault Law?

    Texas is a fault-based insurance state – also called a tort insurance state. A tort is a wrongful act or breach of someone’s rights. Texas’s insurance law means that after an accident, the at-fault driver will be financially responsible for damages. Texas’s fault law says that if one driver is guilty of a tort that caused the car accident, such as drowsy or distracted driving, that driver will have to pay for an injured victim’s related losses. An at-fault driver will pay for these damages using his or her auto insurance coverage.

    In Texas, it is a legal requirement for a driver to show proof that he or she can pay for car accidents. Proof of financial responsibility comes in the form of mandatory auto insurance. The minimum requirements for car insurance in Texas are $30,000 in injury coverage per person, $60,000 per accident and $25,000 in property damage liability. Several other optional types of insurance coverage are also available, including collision and comprehensive coverage.

    How to Settle a Car Accident Claim in Texas

    After a car accident in Texas, remain calm and call 911 to report the accident. It is mandatory to report accidents immediately to the police in Texas if they cause personal injuries, fatal injuries or more than $1,000 in property damages. Request a crash report from the police officer. This can provide evidence for the insurance process. Write down the at-fault driver’s full name and contact information, as well as the name of his or her insurance company. Receive immediate medical care for your injuries. Then, call the at-fault driver’s insurance company to report the wreck.

    File a claim to damages with the at-fault driver’s car insurance provider. Submit a comprehensive list of all expenses related to the collision, including emergency medical care, hospital stays, treatments, vehicle repairs, a rental car, travel expenses, lost wages, legal fees and out-of-pocket costs. Your lawyer may also recommend seeking damages for pain and suffering during the insurance process. Submit your claim and wait to hear back from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In some cases, your own car insurance provider may cover your damages upfront and then request reimbursement from the other party on your behalf.

    What If the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Refutes Liability?

    Living in a fault-based insurance state like Texas allows you to seek full compensation for your damages by holding the at-fault driver liable. A fault claim generally results in greater financial compensation than a no-fault claim. The downside of living in a fault state, however, is that you will have to prove the other driver’s liability before you receive compensation. This can be difficult if the other driver is refuting fault or the insurance company is refusing to cover your damages. If you encounter these challenges, contact a Houston car accident attorney for assistance. An attorney can help you navigate Texas’s fault-based insurance system.

  4. Who Pays for a Rental Car After an Accident in Texas?

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    You have to deal with many challenges as the victim of a car accident in Texas. One is getting around without your car. Life will carry on while your vehicle is out of commission. You need another way to travel while your vehicle is in the shop or you wait for an insurance check to pay for a new car. Figuring out whose responsibility it is to pay for a rental car after an accident may take assistance from a Houston personal injury attorney.

    Your Insurance Provider

    First, find out if you have rental car coverage on your auto insurance policy. Benefits from your own provider can be the fastest and easiest way to cover the costs of a rental vehicle after an accident. In Texas, rental vehicle insurance is optional. The only mandatory types of insurance are property damage and bodily injury liability coverage. Rental car, medical pay, collision, comprehensive and uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance are all optional types of coverage.

    If you caused the car accident, your insurance company may cover the costs of a rental car if you purchased this type of insurance. Your insurance premium may increase due to your negligence or fault. If you were at fault and you do not have rental car coverage, you may have to pay out of pocket for your rental after a crash instead. If you did not cause the accident, the other driver’s insurance carrier may be responsible for the costs of your rental vehicle.

    The Other Driver’s Insurance Provider

    You could receive a rental car expense-free from the other driver’s insurance carrier in one of two ways. The first is to seek coverage through your own insurance company first, then allow your carrier to seek a refund from the other driver’s insurer. This is a process called subrogation. Insurance subrogation means to front the costs for a policyholder during the insurance process, then pursue reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurer. Subrogation saves your insurance company from having to pay for damages that were not your fault.

    A first-party claim can be the path of least resistance for reimbursement for a rental car after a car accident in Texas. You may have another option, however – seeking insurance coverage directly from the company of the at-fault party. With this option, you may have to pay out of pocket for a rental car at first, then seek reimbursement from the other driver’s insurance provider later. Note, however, that the other driver’s insurance company could take its time processing your claim, leaving you without compensation for your rental car and other damages for a longer amount of time.

    If you have to pay out of pocket for your rental car, ask your insurance provider which company to use. Some insurers have contracts with specific rental agencies. Going to the right one could make the claims process easier. Choose a car that is comparable to the one you crashed to ensure insurance coverage. An insurance company will not cover the costs of a sports car, for example, if you crashed an economy vehicle. Keep your receipts and the rental car agreement as evidence of your losses for an insurance claim later.

    When to Hire a Car Accident Attorney

    It can be difficult to know who is responsible for paying for a rental car after an accident. In Texas, the fault-based insurance system means the party that caused your collision will be liable for your damages – including the costs of a car rental. You may have to seek initial coverage from your own insurance provider first, however, or temporarily pay out of pocket. A car accident lawyer can help you handle a claim involving a damaged or totaled motor vehicle. Your lawyer can arrange a rental car for you and seek reimbursement or coverage from one or more insurance companies on your behalf.

  5. How the Sudden Emergency Defense Works in Texas Law

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    After an accident in Texas, the injured party and the at-fault party may end up in a civil liability dispute. A civil lawsuit seeks to reimburse an injured or wronged party for his or her damages by holding the negligent party accountable. The purpose of a tort claim is to extract financial compensation from someone who behaved negligently. The negligent party may avoid or reduce his or her liability, however, by using the sudden emergency defense.

    What Is the Sudden Emergency Doctrine in Texas?

    The sudden emergency doctrine is a defense an attorney may use to combat allegations of his or her client’s negligence. The lawyer of the defendant, or at-fault party, could seek to reduce his or her client’s liability by arguing the existence of a sudden emergency in relation to the defendant’s actions. If, for example, a driver abruptly cut across three lanes of traffic and caused an accident, his or her attorney could argue that the move was necessary because his or her tire blew out, creating a sudden emergency.

    Lawyers use the sudden emergency defense most often in car accident lawsuits in Texas. Sudden emergencies while operating a motor vehicle could lead to split-second driver decisions that ultimately cause or contribute to car accidents. Whether the defendant will be liable for the collision depends on the reasonableness of his or her response to an actual or perceived emergency. Common emergencies on the road include a child choking, a tire blowout, a vehicle malfunction, a truck losing its load, something obstructing the driver’s view or a child suddenly darting out into the road.

    What Elements of Proof Are Necessary?

    The sudden emergency defense could protect a defendant from liability for an auto accident or another type of accident in Texas if a jury concludes that another reasonable person would have acted the same way when faced with the same emergency. In this case, the defendant may not be legally responsible for resultant damages. Although the sudden emergency defense is not very common, it could work if the defendant’s attorney can show evidence of four main elements.

    1. An unexpected emergency arose in the defendant’s life at the time of the accident.
    2. The emergency or situation was not the fault of the defendant.
    3. The emergency was such that any reasonable person would have responded immediately, without taking time for deliberation.
    4. The defendant acted in a way that any prudent person would have in the same situation.

    It will be up to the defense attorney to protect the defendant from liability using the sudden emergency defense. This tactic, however, relies on the facts of the case for proof. Evidence that may support a sudden emergency defense includes a police report’s description of the accident, eyewitness accounts, the driver’s cellphone records, accident reconstruction and testimony from crash experts.

    When to Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Texas

    The point of the sudden emergency defense in Texas is to encourage, and not punish, people who take immediate action to respond to emergencies. Texas lawmakers want citizens to feel free to do what is necessary to save lives or get to safety without fear of liability for an accident. If you were responding to an unexpected emergency when you caused or contributed to a car accident in Texas, hire an attorney to help you present evidence supporting the sudden emergency defense.

    It can also be important to hire an attorney if the at-fault party in your case is trying to use the sudden emergency doctrine to avoid paying for your damages. Your personal injury lawyer may be able to combat this defense by proving the defendant’s negligence in contributing to the emergency, or by showing that another person would have responded to the emergency differently. A personal injury lawyer in Texas can help you obtain fair compensation for your injuries and losses.