People don’t usually get into their cars expecting to be involved in an accident. But statistics show that car accidents happen quite often and can result in serious injuries. Texas law says a person injured in a car accident can seek compensation from the motorist who caused it. Most drivers must purchase insurance to cover the risk of liability for accidents they may cause.
Dealing with an insurance company is often the starting place when making a car accident injury claim. Insurance companies tend to look out for themselves, so claimants need to know their rights and the applicable laws in order to negotiate an injury claim successfully. The following discussion is an overview of the process for making a car accident injury claim in Texas.
Information to Obtain at the Accident Scene
At a very minimum, Texas law requires drivers involved in accidents to provide contact and insurance information to other drivers at the accident scene. When there are injuries, a driver must not leave the crash site without providing aid to any injured person requiring or requesting it.
It can also help an injury claim for those involved to gather the following items before leaving the crash site:
- Pictures and / or videos of the crash site, damage to the vehicles, and anything in the environment that might have contributed to the accident
- Witness names and contact information
- Name of the responding officer and the department where you can get a copy of the police report
Sources of Compensation for Car Accident Injuries
Insurance payments are the source of compensation for most car accident injuries. An injured person’s own insurance company may provide some benefits, but the insurance companies representing the other liable parties will be the primary sources of compensation.
Texas drivers are required to carry these minimum limits of liability insurance:
- $30,000 per person for bodily injury
- $60,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $25,000 per accident for property damage
Drivers have the option to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) to cover medical expenses and lost wages, no matter who is at fault. First-party benefits can often be available to a driver more quickly than coverage and payment from another driver’s liability carrier. PIP is offered to all drivers but is not required coverage.
If the damages exceed the available amount of insurance, an injury lawsuit can be filed against the liable parties but they may not have enough insurance to pay all of the damages. An injured person who purchased uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage can make a claim with their own carrier to cover the difference and to ensure they receive complete compensation.
How to Make a Car Accident Injury Claim When the At-Fault Driver is Uninsured
According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, about 20% of licensed drivers in Texas are driving without liability insurance. With nearly 24 million licensed drivers in the state, responsible Texans are sharing the roads with close to 5 million uninsured drivers. It is probably safe to assume that a driver who does not have liability insurance does not have assets worth pursuing in a personal injury lawsuit either.
To protect against the risk of damage caused by an uninsured motorist, auto insurance companies are required to offer uninsured motorist coverage as optional coverage when liability insurance is purchased. Drivers who purchase the coverage and are injured by uninsured motorists can make a claim with their own insurance company. Motorists who choose not to purchase the coverage have fewer options for recovering compensation.
Why You Want to be Prepared When You Talk with an Insurance Company
When it comes to talking to an insurance company representative about a claim, what you say and even how you say it can make a big difference. The unfortunate reality is that even though you may have a legitimate claim, you will have to work to get an insurance company to pay it.
Whether you are dealing with the insurer of another motorist or your own carrier, it pays to keep in mind that anything you say can and will, if at all possible, be used against you. Before discussing the details of the car accident or your injuries with an insurance adjuster, you want to be clear about the information you provide. The following tips can help claimants improve their confidence and credibility when speaking with insurance companies:
- Have all relevant documents handy, including the police report, medical records, vehicle information, and more
- Don’t guess or speculate in answer to a question if you do not know for sure, just say you are unsure
- Don’t agree to let the insurance company record your conversation unless you have been counseled by an attorney
- Don’t admit any fault for the car accident; if fault is an issue, it is best to discuss the situation with an experienced trial attorney before talking with an insurance company
- Make sure your answers are consistent no matter how many different ways you are asked the same basic question
How Liability for a Crash Affects an Injury Claim in Texas
Texas is an ‘at-fault’ state. That means when a car accident occurs, a determination of fault will be made. A percentage of fault is assigned to each party who has some responsibility for causing the auto accident.
Being partially at fault for a car accident doesn’t prevent an injured person from recovering compensation in Texas so long as their percentage of fault is not greater than 50%. Any percentage of fault attributed to the party seeking compensation will proportionately reduce the amount that can be recovered.
Assessing the Damages Caused by an Injury
Injured persons can typically recover two types of damages – economic and non-economic. Economic damages are financial losses or expenses incurred because of the accident, such as medical expenses, lost earnings, and other out-of-pocket costs.
Non-economic damages are harder to place a value on because they are based on a person’s experience with the injury. Non-economic damages can be awarded for pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and inconvenience.
In rare instances, the behavior of an at-fault driver may have been more than just carelessness. A driver who intended to cause harm or knew their actions could cause harm and didn’t care may have to pay an extra penalty amount known as exemplary or punitive damages. Exemplary damages are awarded to discourage bad behavior, not as compensation for injuries.
When to Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer
For people who don’t feel comfortable negotiating with an insurance company or who anticipate a negative experience based on past dealings, it might be beneficial to consult a Dallas car accident attorney to get a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare.
If negotiations with an insurance company are going nowhere or the insurance company is not playing fair, a little persuasion from a car accident lawyer might be necessary to resolve an injury claim to your satisfaction. Contact us today to see how we can help with your case.