Earlier this week, a woman sustained catastrophic, life-threatening injuries after she was struck by a car in an early-morning Waco hit and run accident. According to preliminary news reports, the 21-year-old woman was crossing the intersection of South 12th Street and Lasalle Ave when a car ran the red light and hit her. The driver fled the scene, leaving the young woman to bleed in the middle of the street. She was transported to a local hospital and remains in the ICU, having suffered from head trauma and broken bones, among other injuries.

Hours later, police were able to identify and locate the hit and run driver. The driver, who was suspected of driving under the influence, was taken to the hospital to have her blood drawn. She was then transported to the local police precinct and charged with Intoxicated Assault and Failure to Stop and Render Aid Causing Serious Bodily Injury.

In addition to facing criminal charges, the driver may also be named as a defendant in a civil personal injury lawsuit for her role in the hit and run. The 21-year-old victim can pursue compensation for the injuries and damages she sustained in the Waco car accident.

Negligence Per Se and Personal Injury Cases in Texas

When you get hurt in an accident in Waco, you might be entitled to compensation if someone else is at least partially responsible for your injuries. Negligence is typically the grounds for personal injury cases in Texas. In order to establish negligence, accident victims must be able to prove:

  • The defendant owed them a duty of care
  • The defendant breached that duty of care in some way, and
  • They suffered injuries and harm as a result.

In other words, the plaintiff was harmed as a direct or indirect result of the defendant’s carelessness or wrongful actions.

There are times when accident victims don’t have to prove every element of negligence. Negligence can be presumed when it’s clear that a defendant broke the law. The law that’s broken must be one that’s intended to prevent the kind of harm that’s occurred. This is called the theory of negligence per se.

Let’s look back at the accident discussed above. The hit and run driver (a) ran a red light and (b) drove a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Both of these actions violate Waco and Texas law. The laws prohibiting these actions were likely enacted to prevent the kind of accident that occurred.

The injured Waco pedestrian could point to these statutory violations and assert that there’s a rebuttable presumption of negligence. Rebuttable means that the defendant would have the opportunity to challenge that assertion.

The legal theory of negligence per se can make it easier for accident victims to recover compensation after they’re injured by someone who clearly breaks a law that was intended to keep them safe.

Criminal Proceedings Might Lengthen Time It Takes to Recover Compensation

Criminal and civil proceedings are separate and distinct. The result of one doesn’t have any immediate or automatic consequences or implications for the other. A criminal defendant can be acquitted on all charges and then subsequently found liable in a related civil case, or vice versa. While criminal and civil cases might be based on the same underlying facts and evidence, they’re handled separately.

However, criminal cases are given more weight. They’re considered by the state to be more important because the defendant’s future is at stake. So, when a defendant is charged with a crime and named in a civil lawsuit, the defendant can ask to have the civil case stayed.

Staying a case means that it’s paused and put on hold temporarily. By staying a related civil case, a defendant can have the time and opportunity to focus entirely on defending themselves against criminal charges. Once the criminal case is resolved – through dropped charges, plea bargain, acquittal, or conviction – the civil case can resume.

Staying a civil action – such as a personal injury lawsuit – means that it might take longer for an accident victim – the plaintiff – to secure a deserved financial award. That can make things really difficult, especially if the victim is unable to work and earn a living. However, it’s important to understand that the right to recover compensation isn’t lost – it’s simply put on hold. And, victims can still potentially secure damages from an insurance company during this time.