When it comes to car accident insurance claims, there are two kinds of states: fault and no-fault. When it comes to car accidents, Texas is an at-fault state. This means the state follows a tort liability system to determine damages in a car accident case.
It's important to understand what you need to do to file a claim in an at-fault state like Texas and how it could impact how you pursue compensation for injuries you sustained in a car crash someone else caused.
For help determining whether you have a valid insurance claim and to get assistance recovering damages to pay for your medical bills, lost income, and other losses, you must consult an experienced personal injury attorney in your area right away.
No-Fault States vs. Fault States
In a no-fault state, injured parties simply file damage claims with their own insurance companies. Nobody needs to prove fault to receive compensation. Most no-fault states require drivers to purchase personal injury protection (or PIP) insurance. This type of insurance coverage allows a policyholder to file a claim with their own insurance company to obtain compensation after an accident. However, no-fault laws do limit your ability to bring a lawsuit against the party liable for your crash.
By contrast, at-fault states, like Texas, follow a traditional fault-based system. This means you can sue the at-fault party for almost any type of loss after a collision (injuries, emotional distress, lost wages, etc.) Tort insurance, or fault insurance, is usually cheaper than PIP insurance in no-fault states.
Drivers Who Cause Accidents
In states like Texas, drivers who cause accidents use their insurance to pay for the other injured drivers' bills after a crash. Fault is determined through the legal process that includes establishing the at-fault party owed you a duty of care and breached that duty through their negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. This breach caused your injuries, which in turn, caused you to suffer damages. The personal injury claims process is complex, which is one huge reason why you want to work with a lawyer who can offer guidance after a car accident.
Minimum Insurance Requirements in TexasIn at-fault states, drivers are expected to carry a minimum amount of insurance. This is referred to as the requisite minimum coverage amount. The amount is often broken down into:
- The coverage amount for each injured person
- The coverage amount per accident
- The coverage amount for property damage per accident
- $30,000 in bodily injury insurance (per person)
- $60,000 per accident
- $25,000 in property damage repairs
What happens if damages exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance amount?If damages exceed the coverage amount of an at-fault driver’s insurance, injured parties have the right to sue the at-fault driver to collect the difference.
What if the At-Fault Driver is Uninsured?What happens when an at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance in Texas? Luckily, if you have uninsured or underinsured motor insurance (UM/UIM insurance), an attorney can help you file a claim with your own insurance company. UM and UIM coverage are available as additional coverage options on auto insurance policies.
Types of Auto Insurance in Texas: An OverviewIt can be a little difficult to understand how different types of car insurance in Texas work. Fortunately, policyholders have some options when it comes to how much insurance coverage they want. To review, here’s a refresher on each type of auto insurance.
- Liability coverage: Accounts for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and wrongful death.
- Collision coverage: Covers damages to your vehicle; you’ll be compensated for (a) the full amount of your car, (b) the cost it would take to repair your car, or (c) the amount designated on the insurance declaration page—whichever is least.
- Comprehensive coverage: Accounts for damages to your car from incidents other than a collision (i.e. weather damage or vandalism.)
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Covers vehicle damage caused by someone who had no insurance.
Some Insurance Companies Try to Avoid Paying FairlyIt’s very common for insurance agencies to attempt to evade paying car accident survivors fairly for their experiences. Many of these companies use bad faith tactics to prevent you from receiving the compensation that you deserve. Some examples of these include:
- Denying claims without offering a reason
- Undervaluing a claim on purpose
- Failing to communicate promptly
- Taking a very long time to resolve a claim
- Failing to properly investigate a claim
Car Accidents: Proving FaultRemember how we said that you can retain an attorney to help prove fault after an accident? Here’s where that comes into play. Lawyers have extensive experience investigating cases and working to prove fault. An attorney can help you establish evidence of negligence regardless of whether you’re trying to settle with an insurance company or filing a lawsuit.
Evidence That Can Prove FaultThere’s lots of different evidence that can be used to prove fault in a case. If you were hurt in a car accident, you may prove who was responsible for your crash with evidence such as:
- Pictures and videos of the accident
- Pictures and videos of damage caused by the accident (injuries, property damage, etc.)
- Witness testimonies
- Expert opinions (i.e. auto industry experts)
- Police reports
- Cell phone records
- Crash reconstructions from specialists
What Damages Can I Recover After a Car Accident in Texas?
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a Texas car accident a negligent driver caused, you may be entitled to recover various types of damages, depending on the circumstances of the collision and the extent of the injuries and losses incurred. The following are common types of damages that may be recoverable after a car accident in Texas:
- Medical Expenses: Damages can include the cost of medical treatment related to injuries sustained in the accident. This may encompass hospital bills, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and ongoing medical care.
- Property Damage: You may be entitled to compensation for the repair or replacement of your vehicle and any other personal property damaged in the accident.
- Lost Wages: If the accident results in missed workdays or a reduced ability to earn income, you may seek compensation for lost wages and potential future earning capacity.
- Pain and Suffering: Non-economic damages, such as physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life, may be recoverable. Quantifying these damages is subjective and often involves the expertise of legal professionals.
- Mental Anguish: If the accident causes emotional distress, anxiety, or mental anguish, you may be eligible for compensation for these intangible losses.
- Disfigurement and Scarring: If the accident leads to permanent disfigurement or scarring, you may be entitled to damages to address the impact on your physical appearance and emotional well-being.
- Loss of Consortium: In cases where the accident results in the loss of companionship or consortium with a spouse, the affected individual or their family may seek damages for these losses.
- Wrongful Death Damages: If the accident results in a fatality, the surviving family members may be eligible to recover damages for funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and the emotional impact of losing a loved one.
- Punitive Damages: In certain cases where the at-fault party's conduct is deemed grossly negligent or intentional, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future.
It's important to note that Texas follows a modified comparative fault system, meaning that the amount of compensation you receive can be reduced if you are found partially at fault for the accident. Additionally, Texas has a statute of limitations, which imposes a deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit. It's advisable to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney to understand your rights and pursue the appropriate damages based on the specifics of your case.
Steps You Should Take if You Are in a Car Accident
Stay at the Accident SceneFirst and foremost, we want to mention that you should not leave the scene of a car accident. In some cases, this is considered a crime. You can only be sure it’s safe to leave after a car accident if:
- You filed an accident report with the police
- Everyone involved in the crash has received appropriate medical care
- You’ve swapped driver information with any other drivers involved in your accident
Ensure Your Own SafetyIf you feel extreme pain in your head, neck, or back, you should not move after an accident. Stay still and wait for help. If you can move following a crash, you should ensure that you get out of harm’s way. Don’t stay near traffic or your vehicle if it’s not safe to do so.
Ensure Everyone Else’s SafetyYou should give everyone else involved in the accident the same care you gave yourself. Check to make sure that anyone else in the crash is unharmed—and, if they’re hurt, move them to somewhere safe to wait for medical help.
Call 911 (or a Local Non-Emergency Number)If your crash didn’t cause any injuries and it was very minor, some areas have signs that list the local non-emergency number for non-emergency accidents. In general, though, it’s a good idea to just call 911 after a car accident. You’ll be connected with an operator who can assess your needs and send out the right parties to respond to the crash. The police may come to take a report and help clean up the scene; medical first responders are often called for crashes, too.
Take Photos and VideosDocument the scene of the car accident. Take photos and videos of injuries, property damage, and the accident scene itself after everything has calmed down. Often, there will be evidence nearby the crash site that many people don’t even notice. For example, be on the lookout for skid marks in the road or damage to nearby structures.
Swap Information With Other DriversProvided everyone is safe, it’s a very good idea to swap information with other drivers involved in the accident. This includes:
- Insurance information
- Driver’s license information
- License plate number
- Car make and model
Collect Witness InformationUnfortunately, you can’t always trust the police to collect information from witnesses after an accident. This is especially true if the injuries caused by an accident don’t seem life-threatening. However, witness testimony can still play a critical part in a case, and it’s important to have contact information for witnesses. We recommend collecting contact information from witnesses at the scene of your crash if you can. It can benefit you later.
Seek Medical AttentionIt’s very important to seek medical attention after a car accident. Depending on the accident and your injuries, you may receive medical attention at the scene, or you may even be transferred to a hospital for emergency care. Regardless of how much time you’ve spent in the hospital (or even if you haven’t been at all), it’s important to set up an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor may examine you for delayed signs of injury and they can answer your questions about the healing process. It’s also important for your doctor to be kept up-to-date on your physical health, so a visit after an accident is crucial.
Find a Reputable Car Accident LawyerWorking with an experienced car accident lawyer can benefit you tremendously. We always recommend that accident survivors at least take advantage of the free consultations most accident attorneys offer. You don’t need to pay a dime to find out more about your potential case and ask questions about your rights. There’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain! We recommend:
- Finding a lawyer with lots of experience litigating car accident cases
- Finding a lawyer who has spent time in court, just in case that’s where your case leads you
- Finding a lawyer with local experience and thorough knowledge of your state’s regulations
Contact a Lawyer Today for Help with Your Texas Car Accident Case
Because insurance companies are eager to take advantage of crash survivors who don't have legal counsel, you will have a much more difficult time obtaining fair compensation, or any compensation for that matter, if you try to handle your car accident claim on your own.
If you or a loved one have been hurt in a car accident that was not your fault, reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer for help. The Texas car accident lawyers at Stewart J. Guss Injury Lawyers have extensive experience helping clients with a wide range of car accident cases, and you can contact us today for a free consultation.