What is a “No-Fault” Claim?
When involved in an automobile accident in the state of Texas many people ask if Texas is a no-fault state as far as compensation claims.
The question boils down to do you claim under your auto policy or do you make a claim against the at-fault driver’s automobile insurance policy?
There are many states where the system is based upon no-fault, and you claim under your auto policy. Texas, however, does not adhere to this system of compensation. In Texas, we use a comparative fault system to determine damages for personal injury such as auto accidents. In short, Texas is not a no-fault insurance state. Meaning if the other guy was responsible for causing the crash, the claim is made through their insurer.
How are Compensation Claims Handled in Texas Auto Accidents?
For automobile accidents that occur in the state of 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 not at fault, the claim will be made with the negligent party’s insurance company, and if the case cannot be satisfactorily settled, a lawsuit would be filed against the negligent driver, and their employer or another responsible party. If the other driver did not have a liability policy at the time of the crash, or your damages exceed the other driver’s policy limits you may want to also make a claim against your own insurance company if you had UIM or UM coverage.
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.
How to Prove Fault in Car Accidents in Texas
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.
It is not unheard of for someone who was at fault and who 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 course of 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 to the collision can be crucial and obtaining their contact information at the scene can make a massive difference in the outcome of the case. Many people 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 contact information of the witness 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 as far as 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 as long as you are not more than 50% at fault for causing an accident in Texas. If, however, a jury or judge determines that you are more than 50% at fault you will take nothing in the way of damages.
If you are partially at fault, but less than 51% of your losses are reduced by your percentage of fault is attributed by 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. Here is an article on what damages are available for car accident injuries in Texas.
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 that the insurance company will treat you fairly without counsel.
The rule of thumb is the more serious your injury, the more likely it is you will need a personal injury attorney to help you through the process. Anyone having severe injuries such as closed head injury, spinal cord injury, or needs surgical intervention should speak with the best personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Does Accepting Responsibility by the Insurance Company Mean I do not Need a Lawyer?
If the insurance company is accepting responsibility, they are hoping that 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 of gone by and they finally receive a settlement offer from the insurance company. It is only then that the victim realizes that the insurance company never really intended to be fair at all.
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 that 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 by an initial consultation. If you get the feeling that they are hurrying to get you off of the phone or to sign you up, it may be best if you looked elsewhere.
Always do your homework about an attorney you are considering retaining 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 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 of the entities that are rating attorneys have a financial relationship with the law firm or the attorneys they are rating, and the rating may be driven by the financial incentive paid to the rating agency.
Call 281-587-1111 to discuss a Texas car accident injury claim!