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Being at fault in a car accident can be stressful and have major financial and legal consequences. Here’s a comprehensive overview of what to expect if you cause a collision.

At the accident scene

If you’re involved in an accident:

  • Stop immediately and pull over. Never drive away from the scene, even if the damage seems minor.
  • Turn on your hazard lights and set up road flares or warning triangles if available.
  • Call 911 and provide details on the location, any injuries, and the type of vehicles involved.
  • Administer first aid if anyone is hurt until emergency responders arrive.
  • Cooperate fully with police but avoid discussing who was at fault or making any statements about the accident other than basic facts.

Police will investigate the accident and file an official report assigning fault based on factors like traffic laws, skid marks, location of damage, witness statements, and more.

If you receive a citation or are charged with a violation like:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Reckless driving
  • Running a red light or stop sign
  • Speeding
  • Changing lanes improperly

That indicates the officer believes you were primarily responsible for causing the collision.

Insurance claims and liability

After leaving the accident scene, you need to promptly report the incident to your insurance provider, even if you don’t believe you were at fault. Provide all relevant details about damage, injuries, police reports, etc.

Depending on your policy, the insurer will:

  • Assign a claims adjuster to investigate fault and liability
  • Handle communications and settlement negotiations with other involved parties
  • Pay covered claims against you up to policy limits

However, if your insurer determines you were primarily at fault, consequences can be severe:

Higher premiums

Premiums can rise steeply after being deemed responsible for causing an accident, costing hundreds or thousands more per year. Actual rate hikes depend on factors like:

  • Severity and type of accident
  • Insurer’s assessment of risk
  • Specific policy guidelines
  • Number of past infractions

Under standard practice or state laws, more serious accidents and multiple past violations result in steeper premium spikes.

Dropped coverage

Some insurers may opt to drop or refuse to renew policies after serious accidents where major damages were paid out, leaving you scrambling to secure expensive high-risk coverage.


In addition to premium increases, insurers can levy surcharges – lump-sum fees as high as $1,000+ for drivers with recent at-fault claims.

Out-of-pocket costs

You may owe extensive out-of-pocket costs even with coverage due to deductibles, denial of certain claims, or damages/injuries exceeding limits. These expenses can reach tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on circumstances.

Personal injury liability

If other motorists, passengers, pedestrians, or cyclists suffer harm due to the accident you caused, they have legal grounds to pursue financial compensation through a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

Common damages you may be liable to pay if sued and found legally responsible include:

Type of Compensation Details
Medical bills All urgent care, hospitalization, surgery, therapy, prescription medication, assistive devices, and other current and ongoing medical costs
Lost wages Income lost due to missing work during recovery
Loss of future earnings If injuries are permanent and impact the ability to work the same job or hours
Pain and suffering Monetary awards covering physical pain, emotional distress, reduced mobility, diminished quality of life, etc.
Wrongful death damages In fatal accidents, compensation for funeral costs, loss of companionship, and other applicable expenses

These amounts can exceed $100,000+ in serious cases involving long-term disabilities, permanent injuries, or death. Even if you carry ample liability insurance, you may be sued personally for costs beyond maximums if assets are available for collection.

Potential charges and lawsuits

Law enforcement and accident victims have broad discretion to pursue criminal charges or civil claims if deemed warranted by circumstances such as:

  • Extreme reckless driving
  • Traffic violations directly contributing to the collision
  • Operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Common criminal charges can include involuntary manslaughter, vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, or aggravated DUI. These carry heavy fines of up to $250,000+ and multi-year prison sentences in severe cases.

Even straightforward accidents typically considered civil matters can sometimes result in misdemeanor citations like reckless driving if aggravating factors were clearly present.

Record and license impacts

Any at-fault accidents end up permanently documented on your driving record and can affect your license status.

  • DUI collisions lead to automatic mandated suspensions for months or longer
  • Multiple serious accidents within a short span allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend or revoke driving privileges altogether

Getting licenses reinstated after suspensions involves paying hefty fees, showing proof of insurance, attending traffic school, and passing a driving exam.

How an attorney can help

The complex legal and financial consequences make consulting with experienced car accident lawyers critical if you were at fault. An attorney can guide you by:

  • Performing a thorough investigation and assessment of fault and liability risks
  • Negotiating with insurers to maximize available coverage
  • Developing an optimal legal strategy tailored to your specific situation
  • Asserting protections and defenses to minimize penalties
  • Handling communications and legal filings on your behalf
  • Exploring alternative dispute resolution approaches as appropriate to limit risks

Being deemed responsible for causing an accident is challenging. However, understanding the potential penalties and leveraging experienced legal help maximizes the chances of negotiating the most favorable outcome possible.

Generally, the implications of being found legally at fault for a traffic collision go far beyond the immediate crash itself. From complex insurance claims to potential civil lawsuits or criminal charges, the consequences following an accident where you bear primary responsibility can be complicated and long-lasting.

That’s why if you have been cited as the responsible party or found negligent in causing auto accident injuries, it is essential to engage an experienced Houston personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the incident.

However, not every personal injury lawyer will be perfect for your case. When looking for someone to represent you in such a case, you need to make sure that they have an extensive history of successfully representing injury victims, including drivers deemed liable following motor vehicle crashes. It is also important to ensure that you settle for a law firm that has extensive litigation expertise in areas like:

  • Motor vehicle and commercial trucking accidents
  • DUI/DWI crashes
  • Distracted driving collisions
  • Accidents caused by dangerous road conditions

Contact Us

At Husain Law + Associates — Houston Accident & Injury Lawyers, P.C., we understand the wide-ranging legal and financial implications accidents can bring, especially in cases where clients or family members are suspected to be partially or fully at fault. And so if you or a loved one are at fault in a car accident, consider reaching out to us as soon as possible. To explore your options with an initial free case review, contact our office directly at (713) 804-8149) or through our online contact page. Our team is always available to assist 24/7.

About the Author



Managing Attorney Joshua R. Leske has been practicing law for well over a decade. He draws on that experience for those seeking strategic advice, counsel, and representation if necessary. Mr. Leske has tried numerous cases to verdict and has successfully secured judgments and settlements for clients in excess of $17MM. He has a large familiarity with the legal system having been involved in extensive lawsuits, including working with the Texas Supreme Court in the Texas Department of Public Safety v. Bonilla

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