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Fatal Car Accident Investigation Procedure in Texas

Deadly auto accidents happen every day in Texas. In fact, the latest statistics show there were zero deathless days on Texas roads in 2022 — and that anywhere from a few to dozens of folks were killed in these fatal crashes day after day.

Whenever a fatal car accident happens in Texas, an investigation will typically follow. Here’s why, who heads up these investigations, how long they take, and what usually occurs after.

Why Investigate Deadly Car Crashes?

Fatal Car Accidents - Car Accident Lawyer in Texas - Amaro Law FIrmMost fatal wrecks are caused by human error, according to data from federal authorities, and:

  • Every 13 minutes, someone dies in a fatal auto accident in the U.S.
  • Every day, about 115 people in the U.S. are killed in deadly motor vehicle accidents.
  • Fatal traffic collisions are the number one cause of death among folks 35 and under.

Whether deadly car accidents happen in or outside of Texas, investigating them is crucial to:

  • Determining the chain of events that led up to a collision
  • Finding out what types of errors were involved in causing a crash
  • Pinpointing the forms of negligence that contributed to an accident
  • Identifying the parties who are at fault and, therefore, liable for the wreck

With that information, those who have lost loved ones in deadly wrecks can start getting answers about their legal options for seeking justice and what to do next to:

  1. Build a case.
  2. Seek accountability for the harm and irreplaceable losses they’ve suffered.
  3.  Protect their rights during and after the investigation into the deadly wreck.

Who Investigates Deadly Car Crashes?

Police Investigations for Fatal Car Accidents - Fatal Car Accident Attorney TexasSeveral parties may investigate a fatal motor vehicle accident, including (but not limited to):  

  1. Police: Law enforcement investigations can start right after a wreck if someone calls 911 for help. With police investigations into fatal traffic collisions, the officers who respond to the scene will gather information, potential evidence, and witness statements. They will, then, write up their findings in an official police report, which typically will be available within a week or two after the crash (in person or online). If any party violated traffic or other laws in the course of the accident, those parties may face citations or even criminal charges and cases. That could happen if, for instance, a driver is suspected of drunk driving.
  2. Insurance companies: When insurers are aware that a deadly wreck has happened, they will typically initiate their own investigations, collecting evidence, interviewing the involved parties, and taking other steps. Unlike police investigations, insurance investigations into deadly wrecks are usually focused on finding evidence to insulate the insurer’s position and limit any possible payouts to injured parties.
  3. Other companies: Motor carriers, equipment manufacturers, and/or other companies may investigate fatal auto accidents too, particularly when there may be questions or allegations that their staff or products were somehow responsible for a collision. For instance, trucking companies investigate 18-wheeler wrecks to firm up potential defense cases, especially when the motor carrier may be accused of hiring unsafe drivers or putting dangerous trucks on the roads. Similarly, auto parts makers may investigate crashes when faulty equipment, like defective brakes or poor-quality tires, may be a potential factor.
  4. Industry regulators or safety authorities: State and/or federal authorities may investigate deadly motor vehicle accidents after hazardous spills, road collapses, pile-up wrecks, and other mass casualty events. These investigations can include police and other parties, and they may take weeks or longer to wrap up. Once done, regulatory investigations may culminate with detailed reports, citations to parties that have violated certain regulations, and maybe even other penalties, like fines or “out-of-service” orders for commercial drivers.
  5. Attorneys: Wrongful death lawyers representing victims’ families may conduct their own investigations, visit the crash scene, talk to witnesses, and do a whole lot more to build a case and help the surviving loved ones seek justice. Those aren’t the only lawyers who may investigate these wrecks, however. Attorneys for at-fault parties may also be involved, running their own investigations to gather evidence for a defense case.

These may not be the only parties investigating a fatal wreck — and you shouldn’t assume that any investigation that’s occurring is neutral or geared toward justice for the victims.

Also, keep in mind that all of these parties do not necessarily investigate every deadly wreck that happens; in some cases, fewer or more investigations may occur, depending on the circumstances.

What Happens in a Fatal Car Accident Investigation?

Evidence for Fatal Car Accident Claim - Fatal Car Accident Lawyer TexasWhen police, attorneys, or others investigate deadly auto crashes, their precise course of action can vary from one situation to another. Still, here’s what generally occurs first and right after victims have received the help they need:

  • The facts are documented: This is the who, what, where, and when of the accident. Beyond those details, facts can include weather and road conditions, as well as the condition(s) of the involved motorist(s).
  • Evidence is gathered from the scene: This could involve taking pictures, recording video, picking up debris from the crash site, and getting statements from those who survived or saw the wreck.
  • Follow-up and deeper digging can happen: Crash survivors and witnesses may be asked to answer some more questions as other evidence becomes available. Similarly, lawyers may look into motor carriers’ records, or insurance companies may dig into victims’ work or medical histories. The circumstances of a deadly auto accident can inform these next steps, uncovering more about liability, the damages, and what’s next in the process.

It’s worth pointing out that different parties’ investigations into fatal auto accidents can all have distinct — and maybe even competing — goals. Specifically, when it comes to the objectives of these investigations:

  • Police are typically looking to identify criminal actions and penalize the wrongdoers.
  • Insurers and other companies are usually focused on moving the bullseye of liability off of their back and doing whatever it takes to limit any payouts. In some cases, this could even mean trying to blame deceased victims.
  • Regulators are generally intent on determining whether any federal, state, or safety regulation has been violated and, if so, penalizing the violator(s).
  • Wrongful death lawyers can be focused on representing deceased victims and their families. In fact, these attorneys can be the only ones standing in victims’ corners, fighting to help them recover while every other party looks out for their own interests and bottom line.

How Long Do Deadly Car Accident Investigations Take?

How to Take Truck Accident Photos to Use as Evidence in Your ClaimEvery fatal auto accident is unique, and so is the investigation that follows. That means there’s no set time frame or period for running these investigations — and that:

  • More clear-cut cases may be associated with shorter investigations.
  • More complex wrecks, like those with multiple liable parties, can have longer, more involved investigations.
  • No matter how long an investigation takes, it’s generally prudent to get the help of a professional.

Here are a few reasons why an attorney can help with an investigation into a deadly wreck:

  • Evidence can disappear before you even know it exists if you don’t take prompt action to preserve it.
  • Other parties may get a head start on investigating fatal crashes. If they do and they’re potentially liable, they may be working to put you at a disadvantage. Some may go so far as to muddy up or get rid of evidence.

A wrongful death attorney can step in ASAP to kick off, manage, and wrap up thorough investigations, putting a case in a stronger position moving forward.

What Evidence Can Fatal Car Accident Investigations Uncover?

Several items and pieces of potential evidence may come to light during these investigations, including (but not limited to):

  • Accident scene photos
  • Crash videos or surveillance footage
  • Medical tests, records, and bills
  • Data from a truck’s electronic onboard recorder (or “black box”) if an 18-wheeler was involved
  • Various records, like documentation regarding commercial drivers, motor carriers, commercial vehicles, roadway maintenance, and more

What Happens After Fatal Car Accident Investigations?

Discovery, settlement negotiations, or even trial preparation could follow investigations into deadly wrecks. You can be better prepared for whatever’s next when you work with an experienced wrongful death attorney.

Find out more about a potential case and how a wrongful death lawyer may be able to help you in a free, confidential consultation.