The Ins-and-Outs of Texas Accident Laws
Car accidents always happen when you least expect it. It’s usually another normal day as you head to the grocery store or off to the office, when out of nowhere you hear a screech of tires quickly followed by the jarring moment of impact. Even if you haven’t suffered serious injury, you’re likely to be left in a daze, wondering how it all happened so fast and what to do next. Should you call your insurance company or call the police? Who is going to pay for these damages? Do you have the right to sue the other driver?
What to Do Following an Accident
First, be sure to check on anyone involved in the accident, including any passengers and the driver, in order to ensure there are no serious or life-threatening injuries. You should call the police to report the accident, as they can respond to the scene and file a neutral, third party report about what happened. This may prove useful in terms of trying to receive compensation.
Be sure to trade contact and insurance information with the other driver and reach out to any potential witnesses, whether pedestrians or fellow drivers, who may be able to provide testimony about what happened.
Take note of any weather or road conditions and what happened as you remember it. Be sure to take ample photographs with your cellphone of the damage to the vehicles and the surrounding scene, which may provide clues as to how the accident unfolded. Don’t forget to take pictures of things like tire skid marks, broken glass, or so forth. It’s important to remember to never assume fault or responsibility for the accident at this point, even a simple “I’m sorry” can later be twisted as an admission of guilt and provide grounds for denying your claim. Oftentimes, this reaction or response is only natural, despite the fact that evidence may show that you were not actually at fault.
You should be sure to file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible following an accident. While the specific deadline can be found in your policy, it is important not to delay these filings. You should also not delay seeing a doctor, even if you think your injuries are insignificant or just normal aches and pains following a car wreck, they could be symptomatic of a more serious underlying injury or something that poses further complications.
On the other hand, if you can wait, you might want to hold off on any auto repairs when possible, because the insurance company may want to inspect the damage or may require you to have the work done at an approved auto repair shop.
The insurance company has 15 days after receiving your claim to either accept or reject it. If the claim is rejected, they must explain why, and if it is accepted, they must pay within five business days.
If your accident was not investigated by a police officer, Texas law also requires drivers to file a Crash Report (Form CR-2) within 10 days of the accident if it resulted in injury, death, or damage greater than $1,000.
Texas Car Insurance
In order to recover compensation for your damages, which includes things like vehicle repairs, medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and so forth, then you will have to prove that the other driver was at-fault.
Texas is an at-fault state, which means that you file an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. This differs from other states that are no-fault, meaning that you file a claim through your own insurance regardless of who was at-fault. The minimum limits for liability coverage in the state of Texas are $30,000 for each injured person, $60,000 total for injuries per incident, and $25,000 for property damage.
If you are unable to come to agreement with the insurance company about the claim, then you may need to file a lawsuit in order to receive compensation for damages. The time limit (also known as the statute of limitations) for filing a personal injury or property damage claim in the state of Texas is two years from the date of the car accident.
Texas is what is called a modified comparative negligence state, which means that even if you were partially at fault for the accident, then you may still be able to recover damages. So long as you were determined by a judge or jury to be less than 50 percent at fault, then you are eligible to recover damages, albeit at a proportionately reduced rate. For instance, let’s say you were determined to be 25 percent at fault for an accident because you were speeding; this means that an award of $40,000 for damages would be reduced by 25 percent for a total of $30,000. The “modified” comparative fault in Texas means that the cut off is at 50 percent, whereas a pure comparative fault state would allow claims to receive compensation at any percentage of fault below 100 percent.
The state of Texas has a complicated method for limiting the damages in a case, even in instances which may warrant punitive damages for particularly egregious offenses. The maximum amount recoverable in damages is the greater of three different sums: $200,000, two times the amount of economic damages plus $750,000, or two times the amount of economic damages plus the amount of non-economic damages (pain and suffering, disability, loss of companionship) you were awarded.
There is no formula for arriving at a settlement amount since every case is different, but there are a number of considerations which are made, including the severity of your injuries (a minor concussion would receive less than a permanent spinal injury), the costs of necessary medical expenses, loss of past and future wages, how much you were at-fault, the amount of evidence and documentation to support your claim, and ultimately your lawyer’s ability to argue your case.
The fact is that car accident settlements in Texas can vary widely and most greatly depend on your ability to argue your case against an insurance company’s lawyers. Remember, the objective of many insurance companies is to reduce the amount they must pay, and they have a team of highly trained and dedicated staff and attorneys who are trying to protect the bottom line. It’s for this reason that you should also seek the advice and counsel of an experienced auto accident attorney who will fight for you and have your best interests in mind as you take on a large corporation.
An experienced auto accident attorney like those at Fears Nachawati will be able to guide you through the process, do the heavy lifting, and ensure that the law works for you rather than against you. Our team has handled thousands of car wreck cases across the great state of Texas and has a reputation for taking on and winning difficult cases. To learn more about your legal options and the strength of your case, don’t hesitate to schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation with our attorneys by calling us at (866) 705-7584, or by visiting the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.