- Reporting requirements - Car accident reports must be filed when an accident results in an injury or death or when any vehicle has sustained more than $1,000 in damage. While this may sound like a high number, with today’s high-tech vehicles, this amount of damage can occur even in a fender bender.
- Time restrictions - Accident reports must be filed within 10 days of an accident occurring. Failure to file a report can result in fines and a loss of driving privileges. If a law enforcement officer took a report at the accident scene, the drivers involved need not file a report.
- Who can report - The report may be filed by the police who are called to the scene, any involved driver, their insurer, the vehicle owner, or a legal representative for the party involved in the accident.
- Information needed - To file a complete accident report, you will need to know the names and contact information for any drivers involved, as well as their dates of birth. You will also need driver’s license information for the operators and the license plate numbers of the vehicles involved. If the vehicle's owner is not driving it at the time of the accident, you will also need the name and address of the registered owners. Other requirements include the name and address of the insurance company for any needed policyholder; a write-up about the accident that includes date, time, and location; and a narrative explaining how the accident occurred. Take photographs at the scene even though the report may not require it.
Steps to Take Following Reporting an AccidentEvery car accident victim should be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible after the accident. Once you have seen a doctor, you should report the accident to your insurance company. Texas requires all motor vehicle operators to maintain a minimum amount of liability coverage. This ensures victims of an accident can recover compensation for damage to their vehicles and the cost of treatment of injuries following a roadway accident. In Texas, minimum insurance coverage is known as 30/60/25 coverage and includes:
- $30,000 for injuries per person
- $60,000 for injuries per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
Requirements for Obtaining Copies of Accident ReportsWhen you file a claim with your insurance company, whether it is for reimbursement of medical expenses or damage to your vehicle, they will require a copy of the accident report. You may request reports from the Texas Department of Transportation. Per Texas Transportation Code §550.065, the reports are available to anyone authorized by the statute to obtain a copy of the report by written request and payment of a fee. You may do this using the Texas DOT website, or by mail by filling out a request for a copy of a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report (CR-91) and sending it to the address on the form. The insurer uses the report to establish liability, validate claims, and assist in determining what events led up to the accident. These reports are maintained for a period of up to 10 years following the date of the report. Once the report has been filed, there may be a delay of up to four days before it is available in the Crash Reports Information System (CRIS) system. Once you have requested the report, it is available online for 10 days and must be downloaded before that expiration.
Liability and Mistakes on Accident ReportsWhen an accident victim files an insurance claim, they depend on the accuracy of accident reports. You’ll need to review the law enforcement report if they are called to a roadway accident scene. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, even the police! Some inaccurate items may include:
- Incorrectly spelled name of the driver
- Incorrect insurance company name or policy number
- Inaccurate driver’s license numbers
- Inaccurate color, make, or model of the vehicle(s) involved
- Incorrect contact information
- The accident diagram contains errors
Dealing With Telephone Calls From Insurance AdjustersWhile recovering from your injuries, you are liable to get multiple calls from insurance adjusters asking you questions regarding the accident, as well as information regarding your injuries. Use caution when fielding these telephone calls! Always speak with a lawyer who handles car accident cases before you discuss the particulars of an accident with an insurance adjuster. It doesn’t matter if they are from your insurance company or the person responsible for the accident’s insurance company; they may still have ulterior motives. Drivers often believe the insurer is there to protect them. After all, you pay a premium for protection. You don’t expect to have to face the financial consequences of an accident on your own. These premiums are there to protect you, right? Not really—they exist to make the insurance company money. The more money they collect from premiums and the less they pay in claims, the greater the profit! Even the most reputable insurance company adjusters are working hard to ensure the company can pay as little as possible on a claim. If you were in a multi-car crash, the number of phone calls you may receive could compound. You could deal with multiple adjusters handling medical claims and property damage claims. Each of them could work against you and you wouldn’t even know it. That is why it is always a good idea to have someone working on your side. An experienced attorney who has handled Texas roadway accidents works for you and will help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries and the damage to your vehicle.
Recovering Financially Following a Car AccidentAn injury may force you to stay out of work while you recover. The more serious the injury, the more time you are losing from work. During that time, the accident will force you to reckon with:
- Reduced income and benefits - Whether you collect sick pay, disability pay, or no pay depends largely on what benefits your company offers. If you must use vacation time while you recover, you lose those benefits when you are well enough to enjoy time off from your family.
- Reduced retirement income - Often people do not consider what happens to their retirement accounts when they lose time from work. However, if you take funds from your paycheck automatically and invest in a company-sponsored 401(k) and your company matches those funds, you could lose that additional money when you are out of work.
- Company perks losses - Some companies offer employees perks like vehicles or paid cell phone services or reduced costs for cell services. When you are out on paid medical leave, you could miss out on those perks.
- Bonuses earned and promotions - An employee who loses work while recovering from a car accident could lose the opportunity to earn bonuses or promotions. This significant loss can hurt your family for years.
Paying for a Car Accident Attorney While Not WorkingVictims of car accidents who are already facing financial challenges associated with lower wages, mounting out-of-pocket medical bills, and paying for damages to their vehicle often avoid seeking legal help because they are concerned about the additional costs. While this is understandable, it’s never a good idea to go it alone. Enjoy the expert advice of a car accident attorney every step of the way. First, an attorney will help make sure you understand what rights you have under Texas statutes. They will review your case during a free consultation and help you understand your options to get the all compensation you deserve. Once you’ve had this discussion via a free consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to think about your options. If you feel your best option is to file a lawsuit against the person or parties responsible for your injuries, the good news is you do not need to pay for these fees upfront. The better news is car accident lawyers do not expect to be paid by the hour! Finally, unless a Texas car accident lawyer succeeds in obtaining a settlement for you, they will not hold you responsible for paying legal fees! Naturally, you might wonder how this is possible. Personal injury clients agree to pay their legal fees using a contingency fee. Your car accident attorney will deduct those fees from your settlement once your case is closed. You and the attorney would agree beforehand what percentage of the settlement they will collect if they negotiate a settlement for you. This means you know the attorney is working in your best interest, because a larger settlement is also in their best interest. The only way they can get paid is to successfully settle your claim. This is a win-win for everyone involved—you have someone advocating for your best interests and protecting your legal rights. Additionally, you will not have to spend time negotiating with an insurance company that will have a lawyer on their side to reduce your settlement offer. Car accident attorneys have experience reaching settlements through negotiations or through court cases. They offer victims an opportunity to regain their financial footing following a car accident. While there is no guarantee that someone’s prior experience will translate into success in your case, you will have the peace of mind of knowing someone is fighting for you. If you are injured in a car accident, or you are a surviving relative of someone who was killed in one of the thousands of accidents that occur on Texas roadways monthly, contact an experienced car accident attorney today. Tell your story and discuss your case during a free, no obligation consultation. Your attorney can obtain a Texas accident report on your behalf and explain your options to hold the responsible parties accountable for your financial losses.
Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers 12777 Jones Rd #297 Houston, TX 77070 (281) 664-6500