Driving is dangerous enough without people driving recklessly. Unfortunately, many people disregard the safety of others for their own thrills. Street racing is just one prevalent example.
If you or a loved one was injured because of someone’s poor decision to street race in Texas, you deserve to recover compensation for your injuries.
Read on to understand some of the laws around street racing in Texas and how to recover if you have been injured.
Texas Street Racing Laws
Street racing feels like something you only see in the movies, but it happens more often than you would expect. On average, nine out of every 100,000 drivers have received a citation for street racing.
It can be difficult to track the true scope of street racing because it is an underreported crime, and it’s common for street racing accidents to be attributed to another cause.
While specific numbers of street racing accidents in Texas are difficult to track, there is no shortage of news articles reporting the tragic results of these accidents. Texas law makes it clear that street racing on public highways is illegal.
Specifically, it is illegal for any individual to participate in:
- A race
- A vehicle speed competition or contest
- A drag race or acceleration contest
- A test of physical endurance of the operator of a vehicle
- In connection with a drag race, an exhibition of vehicle speed or acceleration or to make a vehicle speed record
A violation of the street racing law is a crime. Violators can be found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor and face penalties including a fine of up to $2,000 and/or 180 days in jail as well as suspension of their driver’s license for up to one year. If the driver was intoxicated or found with an open container of alcohol, they can also be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000 in addition to a driver’s license suspension. As you can imagine, these penalties only continue to increase if the racing resulted in bodily harm or death to another person.
The state is responsible for pursuing criminal charges against street races. This will be driven by a prosecutor. A criminal case will not, however, include the cost of recovery for a victim’s damages. Injured victims must pursue their own recovery in civil court.
Recovering Damages From a Street Racer
The state and prosecutor will handle criminal action against the driver, but victims must pursue their own recovery against the driver. To recover damages, you will need to demonstrate that the defendant’s negligent or intentional actions caused your injuries.
Because the cars are likely to be traveling at extremely dangerous speeds, the odds of suffering severe injuries or death in a street racing accident are high. In 2018, speeding drivers killed almost 10,000 people. Speeding increases the odds of an accident because the driver is more likely to lose control of the vehicle. Speeding also increases the stopping distance required to avoid a hazard, and it reduces the effectiveness of occupant protection equipment.
Common injuries after a speed racing car accident include:
- Head injuries: In a speeding accident, there is a high likelihood that a passenger will strike their head on a surface. Such a blow can cause fractures, lacerations, or a concussion. A head wound can leave the victim dazed for a short time or suffering long-term consequences.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Head injuries are not the only risk when a passenger suffers a blow to the head. There is also a possibility of a TBI. TBI symptoms vary widely and depend on the individual as well as the severity and location of the blow. TBIs often result in long-term disabilities and brain damage. At their most extreme, they can cause brain death.
- Spinal injuries: The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that allows the brain to communicate with the body, and any spinal cord injury has the potential to alter a victim’s normal life. The symptoms and injuries will depend on the injured area of the spinal cord, but can range from numbness and lack of body function control to muscle weakness and paralysis.
- Neck and back injuries: Spinal cord injuries are not the only injuries that can occur to the neck or back. If the victim’s body suffers a blow or jarring movement during the accident, it can result in strained muscles or a common injury like whiplash. These injuries often cause constant pain that requires lifelong physical therapy to manage.
- Internal organ damage: Injuries to the outside of the body are the most obvious after an accident, but internal organ damage is not uncommon and can be particularly deadly. If the body suffers a blow, it can damage organs including the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Symptoms of these injuries are often difficult for a victim to notice, but delays in treatment can have serious consequences.
- Facial injuries and dental injuries: Accident impact on the face can cause cracked or chipped teeth, a broken jaw, or other broken facial bones. Depending on the severity of the injury, these injuries might require reconstructive surgery.
- Broken bones: A broken bone will require a victim to adapt to life in a cast or with crutches while the break mends. If the break is serious, they might undergo surgery or rehabilitation, extending the amount of time the break disrupts the victim’s ability to return to their normal way of life.
- Cuts, bruises, scrapes, and sprains: It’s easy to dismiss these minor injuries, but beware: they can still limit a victim’s ability to perform some activities and return to their regular life after an accident. Cuts from a car accident might also leave permanent scars.
A court can find that street racing qualifies as aggressive or reckless driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as any time “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”
You will need evidence of the driver’s reckless actions to support your case. An important piece of evidence is a police report. The report will include pictures from the scene of the accident, witness testimony, and any citations issued for violations of traffic regulations. Make sure that any evidence that proves the driver was street racing is retained and documented. If the driver was found to violate the statute against street racing, they are also presumed to have acted negligently.
Assessing Your Damages
After building a negligence case against the racing driver, you must assess your damages. Then, you can hold a reckless driver responsible for your injuries. Work with your attorney to prepare a comprehensive damages demand that includes all of the ways your injuries affected your life.
This may include:
- Medical expenses: Speed racing accidents are highly likely to cause injuries. As the name “speed racing” implies, at least one vehicle is likely to be moving very fast, and speed increases the chance of injury. If you have suffered injuries, the negligent driver can be held responsible for medical costs associated with those injuries. Common medical expenses are emergency transportation, surgical procedures, doctors’ visits, and prescription medicine. You should also include an estimate of ongoing or future medical expenses like in-home care or physical therapy.
- Lost wages: Injuries often result in missed time at work or a shift in responsibilities, both of which can be accompanied by lost wages. The defendant can be held responsible for any lost wages. If you have not yet returned to work or permanently cannot return to work, your demand should include an estimate of future lost wages. If your injuries affect your ability to advance in your career, include an estimate of lost earning potential as well.
- Property damage: If your vehicle or other property—such as an electronic device—was damaged or destroyed in the accident, the defendant can be held responsible for repair or replacement.
- Emotional distress: An accident with a speeding vehicle can be a shocking and traumatic event, and it can be difficult to adjust and cope with your injuries. Many victims suffer from emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Car accident victims are especially likely to suffer from PTSD, though the effects on each individual’s life will be different. For example, some people might find they cannot ride in a motor vehicle without suffering distress, which can be extremely limiting for a return to normal life.
- Loss of enjoyment: While lost wages for missed work are important, our lives are built on more than our time at work. Each person has activities that bring enjoyment to their lives, and a victim’s ability to participate in these activities is often severely limited by their injuries. While this loss can be difficult to quantify, it is still important to seek compensation for the victim. Discuss an appropriate monetary amount with your lawyer.
- Punitive damages: Most damages are intended to compensate the defendant for the injuries they have suffered due to the plaintiff’s negligent behavior. The exception is punitive or exemplary damages. These damages are used to punish the defendant for escalated bad behavior. To recover exemplary damages in Texas, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with fraud, malice, or gross negligence. A punitive damages award in Texas cannot exceed the greater of $200,000, or twice the compensatory damages awarded, not to exceed $750,000.
Preparing a complete assessment of your damages can be time-consuming, but it’s a critical step in ensuring you secure the recovery you deserve. If your case goes to trial, this amount will be considered by the jury when awarding recovery. Many cases resolve by a settlement between the parties before a trial, and a damages assessment will also be important in that scenario.
A settlement offer presents an enticing resolution to a stressful case, but you should only accept an offer that corresponds to the strength of your case. Work with your attorney to weigh any settlement offer against your likelihood of prevailing at trial and the full extent of your damages.
While it is important to prepare a complete demand, time is also of the essence. Injury claims are subject to a time limit called the statute of limitations. In Texas, a victim must file a car accident claim against the defendant within two years of the accident. Two years can feel like a long time, but it will move quickly as you spend time managing your injuries, building your case, and preparing a damages demand. If you do not act on time, you risk losing your ability to recover compensation entirely.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today
A skilled car accident lawyer can be a key partner as you pursue recovery against the negligent, speeding driver for your injuries.
An attorney can help you manage each aspect of the case, including:
- Determining liability and compiling supporting evidence
- Preparing a case strategy
- Communicating with the defendant and their insurance provider
- Hiring experts to help prepare a damages demand
- Analyzing settlement offers
- Filing court documents
You won’t pay a dime for the services of a reputable car accident lawyer, because they work on commission—what lawyers call contingency—so you can get all the legal help you need without worrying about adding to the expenses your injuries have caused. Don’t delay; you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!