What is a “No-Fault” Claim?
When involved in an automobile accident in Texas, many people ask if Texas is a no-fault state regarding car accident compensation claims.
The answer is NO; Texas is not a no-fault state.
There are many states where the system is based upon no-fault, and you claim under your auto policy for car accident compensation. Texas, however, does not adhere to this system of compensation. In Texas, you must prove the at fault party caused the accident.
Texas Uses a Comparative Fault System
We use a comparative fault system in Texas to determine damages for personal injuries, such as auto accidents. In short, Texas is not a no-fault car accident state. The claim is made through the at-fault person’s insurance company.
How are Compensation Claims Handled in Texas Auto Accidents?
For automobile accidents in Texas, Texas uses a comparative fault model, which asks the finder of fact, usually a jury, to decide who is responsible for causing the accident. The at-fault parties’ insurance carrier typically pays damages, although the lawsuit is filed directly against the driver.
If you are in an accident and are not at fault, the claim will be made with the negligent party’s insurance company. If the case cannot be satisfactorily settled, a lawsuit will be filed against the negligent driver, their employer, or another responsible party.
If the other driver did not have a liability policy during the crash, or your damages exceed the other driver’s policy limits. In that case, you may also want to claim your own insurance company if you have UIM or UM coverage. You also may be entitled to PIP or personal injury protection benefits under your auto insurance policy. PIP benefits are paid without regard to fault.
What Are the Minimum Car Insurance Limits in Texas
Texas mandates that every person driving a car license in the state of Texas must have automobile insurance at least within the following minimum limits:
- $30,000 liability coverage per person/$60,000 per occurrence and
- $25,000 for property damage.
However, Houston has many accidents where the person at fault has no liability insurance.
Often, liability insurance coverage is above the minimum coverage in Texas. You may also be able to stack coverage with your auto insurance if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
What Compensation Can I Get After a Car Accident in Texas?
We recommend hiring an attorney after your car accident to maximize your damages. Compensation will vary depending on how the accident occurred and the extent of your injuries. Here are a few examples of legally permissible compensation in Texas for a car accident injury:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost wages or reduced earning capacity
- Medical bills
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Property damage and rental car
How to Prove Fault in Car Accidents in Texas
Because Texas is not a no-fault state, it is imperative if you are injured in an automobile accident in the state of Texas that, you or your representatives are prepared to prove responsibility for causing the accident. Because a jury apportions liability in cases that cannot be settled, the initial investigation and what you do at the scene can be critical.
Be Wary of a Driver Changing Their Story
It is not unheard of for someone who was at fault and admitted the mistake at the scene to change their story once they have talked to their insurance company or an attorney has been hired to defend them.
The best action is to hire an automobile accident attorney in Houston as soon as possible after the crash and let them do the initial investigation.
Witnesses are Helpful
Witnesses to the collision can be crucial, and obtaining their contact information at the scene can make a massive difference in the case’s outcome. Many rely upon the police officer investigating the crash to record the witness’s information on the crash report.
Relying on the officer is a huge mistake because the vast majority of the time when the injuries are not initially thought to be life-threatening, the officer fails to keep the witness’s contact information and does not include it in the official crash report.
Obtaining photographs at the scene showing not only the property damage and severity of the impact but of the location of the vehicles at final rest and other helpful information is always a good idea. Photographs can show not only the severity of the hit but also the impact position and lane of travel.
Does a Ticket Mean the Other Person is Responsible?
Just because the other party receives a citation or a “ticket” is not binding upon the other insurance company regarding accepting liability or what a jury may determine.
Most traffic tickets are dismissed when fought, and evidence that the ticket was issued, barring conviction, probably will not be admissible in a Texas civil trial for personal injury damages.
If I’m Partly at Fault, Can I Still Collect Damages in Texas?
Yes, if you are partly at fault, you can still collect if you are not more than 50% at fault for causing an accident in Texas. If a jury or judge determines that you are more than 50% at fault, you will take nothing in the way of damages. In Texas, it does not matter if you are hurt in a car accident, construction accident, or another incident. If you are less than fifty-one percent at fault, you may be able to get compensation.
If you are partially at fault, but less than 51% of your losses are reduced, your percentage of fault is attributed to the judge or jury.
By way of example, if, for instance, your damages were $100,000 and a jury found you 33 1/3% at fault and the other driver 66 2/3% at fault, your damages would be reduced to $66,666.66.
Can I Handle a Texas Car Accident Case Without a Lawyer?
Yes, there are many instances where you can handle a personal injury case on your own; however, do not expect the insurance company to treat you fairly without counsel.
The rule of thumb is that the more serious your injury, the more likely you will need a personal injury attorney to help you through the process. Anyone having severe injuries such as a closed head injury or spinal cord injury or needing surgical intervention should speak with the best personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Medical Care Impacts Your Damages
It is vital that you seek needed medical care as soon as possible after an accident. A big part of an insurance adjuster’s evaluation of your compensation will rely on what your treating doctors have to say and how much your medical bills total.
Some of the most important evidence on damages is a treating physician’s opinion on the injuries and damages sustained in the car accident.
Does Accepting Responsibility by the Insurance Company Mean I Don’t Need a Lawyer?
If the insurance company accepts responsibility, they are hoping you do not hire a lawyer so they can settle the case for much less than its real value.
Many victims of a car accident in Texas find out they need a lawyer after months have passed, and they finally receive a settlement offer from the insurance company. Only then does the victim realize that the insurance company never intended to be fair?
Unfortunately, in some instances, waiting to retain the best attorney for my car accident makes it much more challenging to get a quality lawyer to help, and there are things you may have done or failed to do that hurt your case.
If I Speak to a Lawyer, Do I Have to Pay or Hire Them?
No, most reputable personal injury law firms offer initial consultations without cost. You can get a feel for the law firm through an initial consultation. If you feel they are hurrying to get you off the phone or sign you up, it may be best to look elsewhere.
Find an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
Always do your homework before retaining a lawyer for a Texas car accident before you sign any paperwork with the lawyer. Be wary of a mill or high-volume law firm, as your case may be only a number to them. Finding the best personal injury lawyer in Houston takes some research.
Be wary of claims from many organizations regarding the status of the attorney or law firm unless it is truly a peer-review-driven (other lawyers) rating.
Most rating entities have a financial relationship with the law firm or the attorneys they are rating. The rating may be driven by the financial incentive paid to the rating agency. Look for an attorney who has punitive damage experience if your accident involved a drunk driver.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in Houston at Baumgartner Law Firm for Help
Contact a top-rated Houston personal injury lawyer at Baumgartner Law Firm for more information by calling (281) 587-1111.
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