If you have never been involved in a car crash before, you might not be familiar with the insurance claim process. Can you receive compensation for the accident, and what should you do if the insurance company refuses to give you a fair payout? An experienced car accident attorney in Houston, TX can give you a comprehensive overview of the steps you need to take to maximize your settlement in an at-fault state.
No-Fault vs. At-Fault States: How Does It Work in Texas?
In the United States, some states require each driver to seek damages from his or her own insurance company after a car accident, regardless of who was responsible. Texas is an at-fault state, meaning that all of the expenses relating to a car accident are the responsibility of the driver who caused the crash.
Texas requires every driver who operates a vehicle to carry liability insurance, meaning that when an accident occurs, the at-fault driver’s policy usually issues the payout. The minimum requirements for most passenger vehicles are:
- $30,000 for personal injury per person
- $60,000 for personal injuries per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
Trucks are required to carry more insurance due to the fact that they have the potential to inflict greater damage when an accident occurs. Most commercial truck policies include liability coverage valued at $1,000,000 for personal injury.
Despite the fact that having auto insurance is legally required, there are always a number of drivers on the road who never took out a policy or who let their policy expire. In an at-fault state like Texas, those drivers are responsible for paying for any damages they cause out of pocket.
Unfortunately, collecting a payout from an uninsured or underinsured driver can be a difficult, time-consuming process. Your lawyer can advise you on the best way to recover your losses if the other driver did not have adequate insurance. In some cases, a court may require him or her to liquidate assets or tap into a savings account. In other cases, you may be able to utilize a Personal Injury Protection plan that you have.
What kinds of damages are negligent drivers responsible for in an at-fault state? The moral concept behind personal injury law is that an individual should be compensated for all the losses he or she incurred as a result of another party’s negligent actions. While the compensation is always financial, the losses themselves could include both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages have an obvious monetary value. They include medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages cannot be determined by adding up bills or calculating missed paychecks. They include pain and suffering, disfigurement, and emotional trauma.
Submitting an Insurance Claim in an At-Fault State
Reporting the accident to the police and your insurance company is the first step toward determining liability and getting the losses covered. If the accident involved death, injury, or significant property damage, contacting the authorities by the fastest means available is a legal requirement. While not legally required, it is important to reach out to your insurance company as soon as possible, too, because some policies invalidate claims for accidents that are not reported within 24 hours.
If You Are the At-Fault Party
If you were responsible for the accident, your insurance might pay for your losses as well as those sustained by the other driver. Collision coverage is the type of insurance that should provide protection against damage to your vehicle. Your medical bills would fall under medical payments coverage or personal injury protection (PIP). In Texas, insurance companies are required to provide both medical payments coverage and PIP unless the person purchasing the insurance formally opts out in writing.
If the Other Driver Was at Fault
If the other driver was at fault, you will need to present evidence that they caused the accident in order to seek damages from his or her insurance company. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence that can strengthen your negotiations with the insurance company and hold up in court according to legal standards, if necessary. Here are some types of evidence that are usually acceptable:
- Photos and videos of the two cars taken after the accident occurred
- Surveillance or amateur footage of the accident happening in real time
- Physical objects, including the damaged vehicles
- Medical bills
- Diagnostic tests and physician’s notes
- Documentation pertaining to your employment status, your compensation package, and the time you took off to recover
- Witness testimonies
If You and the Other Driver Share Responsibility
According to the concept of comparative fault in Texas, the liability for an accident is divided if there is evidence that both drivers played a role in causing it. When there is shared responsibility, each driver is liable for the percentage of the damage he or she caused. For example, if the other driver was 80% responsible for the crash, he or she would be required to cover 80% of your losses.
Sorting out the issues pertaining to liability in a comparative fault case usually involves correspondence between your lawyer, your insurance company, the other party’s lawyer, and the other party’s insurance company. In addition to gathering evidence against the other driver, your lawyer can help you counter their arguments that you were partially responsible.
If the Accident Was a Hit-and-Run
If the at-fault driver fled the scene of the accident without leaving any insurance information, there is a chance that the police may be able to track him or her down. If not, you might be able to use your medical payments coverage or your PIP. There is also a strong chance that you have uninsured/underinsured driver insurance included in your policy.
How to Maximize the Value of Your Claim
You may be surprised at the amount of compensation you are entitled to receive. Considering the medical expenses, the missed earnings, and the negative ways in which the accident impacted your life, the cost of the crash could be quite significant. Seeking full compensation can help you recover and regain a sense of control over your life. A good accident attorney will leverage his or her knowledge of personal injury law toward getting you a favorable settlement.
Identifying All Your Losses
While personal injury law recognizes broad categories of losses such as “economic damages” and “non-economic damages,” there are numerous opportunities to claim compensation within those categories. For example, under your medical expenses, you can list any transportation costs to and from the hospital. Under lost wages, you can include any bonuses or promotions you missed while you were away from work. Your lawyer will help you identify every opportunity to increase the value of your payout.
Negotiating With the Insurance Company
You are not required to accept the first settlement offer an insurance company presents you with. In fact, an insurance company’s first offer is likely not its highest or best. Your lawyer can negotiate for an increase on your behalf by referencing the evidence in your favor and emphasizing your legal right to full compensation.
Find an Accident Attorney in Houston, TX
Our experienced attorneys in Houston, TX can help you submit a claim that is backed with convincing documentation. We will hold the other driver and/or the insurance company responsible for paying you everything you are owed. To get in touch with us, contact Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC.