If you have suffered a car wreck, you will likely need the help of a car accident lawyer in Houston at McDonald Worley to get the justice you deserve. You are probably wondering things like how will I pay for my car repairs, who will pay for my medical bills, and how can I recover compensation for my lost wages.
We proudly offer a free initial consultation to all injury victims, allowing them to get answers to all of their questions, while also receiving guidance from an experienced accident attorney.
Our team of personal injury lawyers has nearly 100 years of combined experience defending the rights of injury victims. Our knowledge and expertise have earned us recognition, and we are here to assist you.
We pride ourselves on helping people when they need it most, and we are dedicated to obtaining compensation whenever possible for our injured clients.
After an accident, we are here to take the stress off of your shoulders, allowing you to focus on your physical recovery while we seek justice for you.
We are available 24/7 to take your call and you owe us nothing unless we win your case.
Table of Contents
- 1 What to do After a Car Accident – Step by Step
- 2 Do You Need a Car Accident Lawyer in Houston?
- 3 How to Find a Car Accident Lawyer in Houston for Your Case
- 4 The Most Common Car Accident Causes
- 5 The Most Common Types of Injuries Sustained from Car Accidents
- 6 Car Accident Laws in Texas
- 7 How to Understand Whether You Have a Strong Car Accident Injury Claim
- 8 How to Prove Negligence or Fault in a Texas Auto Accident Case
- 9 How to Work with Insurance Companies After a Car Accident
- 10 Gathering Evidence and Necessary Documentation for a Car Accident Case
- 11 How to Determine the Settlement Value of a Car Accident Injury Case
- 12 Addressing Unfair Insurance Tactics
- 13 How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
- 14 How to Maximize the Settlement Amount for Your Personal Injury Case
- 15 Frequently Asked Questions
- 16 Contact our Houston Auto Accident Attorneys Today
If you have been injured in a car accident in Houston, contact our offices today and let one of our experts help you get the compensation you deserve for your damages.
The Lone Star State is known for a lot of impressive things. It’s the live music capital of the world and cooks up some of the best BBQ on earth. But it’s also infamous for having some of the worst drivers in the country.
The Texas motor vehicle traffic crash facts from 2019 documented that one reportable crash occurred every 56 seconds. One person was injured every two minutes and three seconds. One person was killed every two hours and 26 minutes due to bad driving. More than 250,000 people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2019.
With statistics like that, anyone who lives and drives in Texas should know more about the driving laws, the most common types of accidents and injuries that occur, and what to do after a car accident. It’s also helpful to understand how a car accident lawyer in Houston can help and how to find the best one to cover your case..
What to do After a Car Accident – Step by Step
How you treat the moments following a car accident can mean the difference between winning a claim compensation or losing everything. If you’re involved in a car accident, there are ten crucial steps that you should follow if you want the best chance at a successful claim case.
- Make sure you’re in a safe location. If you’re on a busy road, vacate high traffic areas. If you’re on a road with little to no traffic, make sure you’re not positioned at a turn in the road or other blind spot where speeding drivers might hit you.
- Call the police to make sure they’re on their way before you speak with anyone else at the scene. When an officer arrives, make sure they collect data on the scene so that they can help you file a police report. Police likely will not create a report if the accident took place on private property, but you always have the option to file a personal report.
- Exchange driver, vehicle, and insurance information with the other person or people involved in the accident. Take a picture of the other driver’s license, license plate, and proof of insurance. If you don’t have a camera, note down all the essential information from these documents, including full name, address, phone number, and account numbers.
- Don’t speak unless you must. As you’re gathering information from the other driver, don’t say anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. Limit responses to one-word answers and don’t share anything other than the essential details that you must exchange with the other driver. No matter how small, any statement can be used against you by the other party’s insurance company. Never, ever apologize or admit fault for the accident.
- Take pictures and record other evidence from the scene. Make sure you capture any vehicle involved in the accident, along with where they were positioned on the road. Capture the damage done to all vehicles. Jot down any notes or memorable facts while they’re still fresh in your mind.
- Get a medical examination as soon as possible, whether you feel hurt or not. If you’ve sustained severe injuries, you’ll have no choice but to ride in an ambulance to the nearest medical facility. But even if you’re okay enough to walk away and think you only have minor scrapes or bruises, you should always get an evaluation by a medical professional as soon as possible. Sometimes people don’t notice injuries because they’re in shock, and sometimes, something that started out small can turn into a big deal. Having documentation from a medical professional will help your case and help you recover.
- Call your insurance company within 24 hours following the accident. If you’re unable to call them, have a close family member or friend do it for you. It’s crucial to begin the claim process as soon as possible.
- You must also call the at-fault insurance company to begin the claim process but do not agree to a recorded statement until after you consult with a car accident lawyer in Houston. Even if they make you feel pressured into giving one, you’re under no obligation to do so and have every right to decline. Even if you feel confident in your case, just one wrong word can harm it in the long run.
- If you don’t understand the details of your insurance coverage, make sure you have them explain them to you. Before you proceed with filing a claim, it’s crucial that you understand what protections you’re entitled to and for which specific areas you’re insured, such as underinsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection coverage, and rental coverage.
- Consider finding a lawyer to help you through the claims process. In most cases, you’ll benefit from getting help navigating the complicated process if you want a fair outcome in which you receive the full amount you deserve.
Do You Need a Car Accident Lawyer in Houston?
Whether you’ve just been in a fender-bender, a serious car wreck, or an accident with an 18-wheeler, you might be wondering if your case is one that you can settle on your own. For most personal injury claims from a car accident, it’s wise to work with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer in Houston who can help you receive full compensation for your injuries and damage done to your personal property.
However, every case is different. In some cases, it might not be necessary to hire a lawyer. Here’s everything you need to know to help you decide whether your unique case would benefit from hiring a car accident lawyer in Houston.
Accidents Resulting in Serious Injury or Death
If the accident resulted in a victim sustaining serious injuries or if anyone died in the accident, it’s crucial for you to contact an experienced car accident attorney immediately. Any accident that results in death or someone being seriously injured is likely to turn into a complicated lawsuit or even multiple lawsuits. Suppose you were the one who was seriously injured in the accident. In that case, you’ll likely need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver or their insurance company to recover the cost of your medical bills from undergoing necessary treatment.
On the other hand, you could be the one facing a personal injury or wrongful death counterclaim. In such cases, you should never represent yourself in any lawsuit filed from a serious car crash. There are complex laws involved in such cases, and the court will be considering multiple legal issues. The amount of potential damage you can be held responsible for is very high.
Civil legal cases involving serious injury or death are very complex and require expert advice and counsel. An experienced car accident lawyer in Houston knows how to navigate the process and properly calculate the amount of compensation you deserve. They will also be able to defend your case against possible counterclaims effectively.
There’s no harm in scheduling a case review with a reputable lawyer because most of them offer free and confidential legal consultations for personal injury or wrongful death cases.
Accidents Resulting in Lost Wages
If you were involved in a car accident that resulted in such serious injuries that you can’t return to work, you’d need a lawyer to help you prove your case and receive maximum compensation for lost wages. In the most serious cases, the victim can be injured so severely that their capacity to earn is impacted for life. A lawyer is necessary in such cases to help calculate and prove past and future lost wages.
Accidents Involving Multiple Parties
Accidents that involve three or more vehicles or different parties like property owners, commercial entities, or pedestrians can become very complicated. The negotiation process and insurance claim settlement can even lead to multiple lawsuits.
This applies to more than the common multi-car pileup accident on a freeway.. For example, consider the complications involved in settling a case in which the driver of a commercial truck enters an intersection illegally by going through a stop sign. When this happens, the driver of a car swerves to avoid colliding with the commercial truck and hits a cyclist in a bike lane. This sort of accident can happen in a split second and involve multiple parties, each with their own set of rights, driving laws, and insurance coverage types.
An experienced car accident lawyer in Houston is essential for helping you receive fair compensation in an accident that involved multiple parties. They will also help keep your liability to the other parties involved as low as possible while communicating with the other lawyers and insurance companies involved in the case.
Accidents Involving an Uninsured Motorist
Suppose you or another party involved in the car accident didn’t have insurance when the wreck took place. In that case, it will be in your best interest to get a car accident lawyer in Houston to defend the case immediately. The law in Texas requires drivers to be held financially responsible for the accidents they cause. While it isn’t common for people to drive without insurance in the state of Texas, some do, and when they’re involved in an accident, the case can get tricky.
Most auto insurance policies in the state include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Still, it may not be enough to cover the total cost of medical treatment and damages that resulted from the accident.
An experienced car accident lawyer in Houston will be able to evaluate all the options available for uninsured drivers or file a civil lawsuit to claim damages against the uninsured party.
Collecting Evidence about the Accident
In many cases, it can be challenging to prove who was at fault in a car accident. Judges, juries, and insurance companies will never take anyone’s word for anything. Whatever claims you try to make concerning who’s at fault for causing the accident will need to be backed up with substantial proof and documented evidence.
Car accident lawyers can be crucial for collecting evidence that will help prove your settlement claim, especially if you failed to gather sufficient evidence when the accident took place. A lawyer can access information that would be difficult for you to obtain, such as police reports, 911 call records from the scene of the accident, witness reports, and other such information. They will also talk to other lawyers, insurance providers, and medical professionals to gather statements that will help you in your case.
Upcoming Settlement Discussions
Insurance companies will present settlement offers at specific points throughout the settlement process before the case goes to trial.. While most car accident lawsuits settle at some point before the trial phase, you need to decide whether it’s in your best interest to accept a settlement offer. Especially during the beginning of the settlement process, the settlement offers that an insurance company makes will be unreasonably low.
While settling a lawsuit before it goes to trial will end up saving you money, you shouldn’t settle unless the amount that the insurance company is offering is fair and provides enough to compensate for the injuries and damages you sustained in the accident.
In most cases, an experienced car accident lawyer will be able to negotiate a higher settlement offer during settlement discussions than you would be able to arrive at on your own. Be sure to look for a lawyer who has experience negotiating settlement agreements that were favorable to their clients.
Too Much Time has Passed Since the Accident
The state of Texas has a statute of limitations, which gives people up to two years to file a personal injury claim after an accident takes place. If the time has slipped away from you and you want to file a claim after a lot of it has gone by, you should consult a car accident lawyer to determine whether you still qualify to file a claim.
If you’ve filed a claim, but you feel like the insurance company is dragging things out and time is running out on your statute of limitations, an experienced attorney can help move things along so that you don’t get denied a settlement after the time runs out. Running out the statute of limitations is a fairly common tactic that insurance companies use to get out of paying a settlement.
Reasons Why a Car Accident Lawyer in Houston May Refuse a Case
Now that you know all the reasons why a car accident lawyer can be helpful when filing a personal injury or damages claim, you should know the reasons why they may refuse to take on your case.
Not all lawyers will take all cases. There are some instances where a case just isn’t strong enough for them to spend their time and resources working on it. Here are several circumstances under which a car accident lawyer in Houston would refuse to take a case.
There Were No Injuries
In small accident cases like fender-benders, everyone usually leaves the scene uninjured or suffers such minor injuries that they heal quickly without the need for medical treatment. These cases typically don’t require the need for an accident attorney. Any potential issues can be worked out directly between you and the insurance company.
You are the At-Fault Driver
If you’re clearly at fault for causing a car accident, there’s nothing that a personal injury lawyer or car accident lawyer in Houston can do to help you. In such cases, your insurance company will generally provide you with an attorney to defend your case against claims from the other party.
However, if you suffered injuries in an accident that you’re at fault for, you can contact a lawyer about pursuing a claim. A lawyer will be able to tell you whether the common law doctrine of contributory negligence prevents you from receiving compensation for injuries you suffered as a result of your own actions. If there’s a chance that you can receive compensation for your medical treatment, an experienced lawyer will be able to help you claim it.
You Don’t Need to Receive a Settlement Payment
Suppose you’d been involved in a minor accident or small collision that didn’t cause personal injuries or result in damage to your vehicle or personal belongings. In that case, you can simply move on with your life without even pursuing a claim.
Before you decide to forego filing a claim, be sure to check your vehicle and belongings thoroughly and get a medical examination that clears you of any potential injuries you may not be aware of. It’s possible to suffer injuries that don’t present right away and may have long-term complications. Similarly, a vehicle can be damaged without exhibiting symptoms right away. If you find out that you’ve suffered injuries or that your car has sustained damage, you can hire an attorney to help you get a fair settlement.
You Understand Your Insurance Coverage and How to Use It
Insurance policies can be complex and confusing. For most people, one of the most complicated parts of handling a car accident is trying to figure out how to navigate the insurance claim process and the intricate details of their coverage.
However, if you happen to be familiar with your insurance plan, specific coverage, and how to navigate the claims process, you may very well be able to proceed without the assistance of an attorney.
If you have suffered severe injuries or damages to your vehicle or personal belongings – even if you understand your insurance coverage and how to use it – it won’t hurt to consult with a qualified attorney who may be able to get you a higher settlement amount than you’d be able to receive on your own.
You Have the Time and Resources to Pursue an Uncomplicated Claim
If you understand how to navigate your insurance policy and the claims process, didn’t suffer any significant injuries or damages, and have the time and resources to pursue your uncomplicated claim, then there’s no reason to hire an accident lawyer.
Since a large part of the claims process involves making phone calls, gathering evidence and documentation, and following up on details with the insurance company, the help of an attorney may not be necessary. If there aren’t many documents involved and only your insurance company and the at-fault insurance company are involved, you may very well be able to handle the case simply on your own.
Potential Compensation Amount isn’t Worth the Cost of an Attorney
Before you contact an attorney or decide to pursue a claim, consider whether the costs are worth hiring one. Many personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning that you will need to pay them by giving a percentage of the amount you recover from the settlement. This means that if the amount is small, you might end up paying the attorney most of what you win. Many attorneys will even advise you not to hire them if your claim is too small because the cost of their services would actually be higher than the maximum amount that you could win.
How to Find a Car Accident Lawyer in Houston for Your Case
When you begin your search for a lawyer to help you settle an auto accident claim, the results can be overwhelming. There are thousands of lawyers and attorneys out there who are essentially qualified to help a person through the claims process, but how can you find the most qualified lawyer? And how do you know which type of lawyer is the best to handle your specific case? Here’s everything you need to know to make sense of the overwhelming search results and find the best accident attorney for your case.
Auto Accident Attorney vs. Personal Injury Lawyer
As you get into your search for a lawyer who can help you with your claim, one of the first things you’ll notice is that there are many options for both auto accident attorneys and personal injury lawyers. So, what’s the difference between the two, and which one is best to handle your case?
Although some lawyers will call themselves auto accident attorneys and others will call themselves personal injury lawyers, there isn’t much of a difference between them. Auto accident attorneys (see also: car accident attorneys, car crash attorneys, auto collision lawyers, etc.) may state that they specialize in specific areas, which might make them more of an expert on a subject as long as they have experience.
When deciding which lawyer or attorney is best to handle your case, experience is the number-one factor you should focus on. Personal injury lawyers and auto accident attorneys sometimes specialize in a specific area where they would have more experience handling cases of that kind. Some specialties to look out for are:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Wrongful death
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
The list goes on. When you’re choosing an auto accident attorney or personal injury lawyer to represent your case, finding the best one is less about their title and more about their experience specializing in your unique case. For example, suppose you suffered a spinal injury as a result of a commercial 18-wheeler accident. In that case, you’ll want to find a personal injury lawyer or auto accident attorney who specializes in commercial truck collisions and spinal injuries. They should have some history of dealing with the specifics of your case with favorable outcomes.
Regardless of what the attorney calls themselves, if they have the right level of experience, you can rest assured that they’ll know how to build your case, calculate damages properly, and how to negotiate to get you the maximum settlement amount.
Narrow Your Search
Now that you know to focus on experience level when searching for a lawyer to represent your case, there are a few practical ways to narrow your search and find some lawyers to shortlist.
If you know someone amongst your friends or family members who have suffered injuries from a car accident in the past and had a favorable settlement, get recommendations from them to find out who they worked with.
Even if you don’t know anyone with an auto collision settlement, you might know people who work with or are acquainted with reputable auto accident attorneys or personal injury lawyers that you can meet with to discuss your claim. It’s a very common practice in the industry for lawyers to refer business to one another, so if you know any type of lawyer, it won’t hurt to ask whether they know a good car accident lawyer in Houston that you can talk to.
Suppose you don’t know anyone who has had any experience with an attorney or who knows an attorney. In that case, you can begin a search for one by using a trusted lawyer directory online. These guides will show you a list of lawyers by specialty in your city and state with their contact information and their firm’s contact information. You can connect with them or begin more intensive research from there.
In addition to lawyer directories, you can use a legal referral service from a state or local bar association. The Texas State Bar offers a Lawyer Referral and Information Service that will assist you in finding a lawyer who matches your type of case and budget. However, when using a state or local bar association directory, note that the quality of the attorneys listed can vary greatly. You’ll have to conduct more intensive research to check their level of experience in their areas of specialty and favorable outcomes.
Qualities and Terms
In addition to a lawyer’s level of experience, you should consider various qualities and terms when searching for a car accident attorney. The specific terms and qualities a person is seeking will differ according to case specifics, personality, location, and more. In general, anyone looking for a car accident lawyer in Houston can consider the following questions and tips:
- Consider a law firm’s complete team of staff in addition to the partners or lawyers who make up the firm’s public image. Understand that your primary contact for your case may end up being someone different from the person you speak with initially as you interact with the firm.
- Consider the age, size, and experience level of the firm as a whole. Take into account awards the firm may have received or leadership roles they hold in organizations and the community.
- Find out whether the firm has good judicial connections by contributing to campaigns and participating in the local bar association.
- Learn more about a firm’s comfort level with going to trial. Find out how many of their cases have been brought to trial and their success rates. The most reputable firms will usually boast this information on their websites.
- Find out whether they have an office near you and whether they’ve tried or settled cases similar to your own in your city.
- Look for attorneys and law firms that have experience handling your specific case type.
- Learn more about the firm’s negotiation ability. As most personal injury cases are settled before going to trial, you’ll want to ask the firm what kind of settlements they’ve obtained. Some of the most reputable car accident attorneys will boast this information on their firm’s websites.
- Consider your personal comfort level with the lawyer. They can have all the experience in the world, but if you’re uncomfortable with them or vice-versa, you’d be better off working with a different attorney.
- Get a sense of how many cases they’re working on and how long their cases are taking. Understand whether they’re too busy to devote the amount of time and care you expect them to devote to your case.
- Find out if the attorney you’re considering hiring has encountered any past problems in their practice. Have they been censured or disciplined by a legal or ethics committee in the past? You can look this information up before you even contact the attorney so that you don’t waste your time talking to them if they’ve had such issues in the past.
- Research reviews from past clients on the attorney and the firm. Try to read from independent review sites apart from what’s posted on the firm’s site.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the state of Texas and are looking for an attorney to help you settle your claim, contact an experienced car accident lawyer in Houston at McDonald Worley to discuss your case. With almost 100 years of combined experience defending personal injury victims, you can rest assured that you’re in capable hands. The firm offers a free initial consultation with an experienced accident attorney, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
McDonald Worley handles the following types of car accident cases:
- Drunk driving and drug-related accidents
- Distracted driving (texting and driving)
- Head-on collisions
- Rear-end accidents
- Hit-and-run accidents
- Rollover accidents
- Speed-related accidents
- Uber accidents
McDonald Worley also has experience with the following injury cases resulting from car accidents:
- Head and brain injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Facial disfigurement
- Neck injuries
- Internal injuries
- Leg and knee injuries
The firm will handle the entire car accident claim process, including filing the claim, communicating and negotiating with adjusters, reviewing settlement offers, and making sure you receive timely compensation.
The Most Common Car Accident Causes
While it’s been established that car accidents injure hundreds of thousands of people in the Lone Star State every year, each collision is different. Different types of crashes result in various kinds of injuries, life-altering damages, or even death. Below are the most common car accident causes in Houston..
Driving Under the Influence
Drunk driving is defined as a driver having 0.08 percent Blood Alcohol Content or higher. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they can “handle their drinks.” Still, human beings are human beings, and the fact is that every time a person takes a drink of alcohol, it decreases coordination and judgment.
In Texas, 866 people were killed in car crashes where a driver was under the influence, accounting for 25 percent of the total number of people who died due to motor vehicle accidents. More DUI and alcohol-related crashes were reported between 2:00 A.M. and 3:00 A.M. than any other hour of the day, and a higher number of these crashes occurred on Saturday.
Distracted driving is defined as a driver taking their eyes off the road for a prolonged period. Whether intentional or unintentional, distracted driving is considered negligent and unsafe. Although the first thing that comes to mind when you think of distracted driving is someone texting or talking on a mobile phone, it can include a range of other activities, including:
- Adjusting the radio
- Programming a GPS
- Talking to other passengers
- Applying makeup
Although it’s the number-one reason for most motor vehicle accidents in the country, 377 people were killed in accidents caused by distracted driving in Texas in 2019.
Rear-end crashes are defined as accidents that occur when a driver collides into the back of another vehicle. This type of accident typically occurs at stoplights, in traffic jams, or parking lots and can happen when one driver stops suddenly, causing the car behind them to collide into the back of their vehicle. The driver who crashes into the car in front of them is almost always at fault. The at-fault driver is typically distracted, tailgating, or speeding and unable to stop in time to avoid the collision.
Head-on collisions are one of the most severe common accidents that occur. A head-on collision is defined as an accident that occurs when the fronts of two vehicles crash into one another. They typically occur on highways or interstates when one driver heads into oncoming traffic and has a direct crash with another car.
Head-on collisions generally result in serious injuries that require immediate medical attention, such as spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and whiplash. 600 people were killed in head-on collisions in 2019.
Rollover accidents are dangerous accidents that typically involve one vehicle. They often involve only one car and happen when a driver is traveling at high speed and loses control of the vehicle. When the vehicle rolls over, it can roll onto its side or roof and sometimes tumble several times before doing so.
Most rollover accidents are due to a driver’s negligence when driving distracted or encountering poor road conditions, unexpected road hazards, or poor weather conditions. While this type of accident has a high mortality rate, wearing a seatbelt can significantly increase the odds of surviving.
A single-vehicle crash is defined as an accident that involves only one vehicle. Most single-vehicle crashes occur when the driver reacts to a potential danger on the road by swerving to avoid it but ends up crashing into a pole, tree, or guardrail. Hydroplaning is another common cause of this type of accident.
Single-vehicle, run-off-the-road crashes resulted in 1,161 deaths in 2019, accounting for more than 32 percent of all motor vehicle traffic deaths combined.
Chain Reaction Accidents
A chain reaction accident is defined as an accident that involves three or more vehicles. Chain reaction crashes can be minimal or massive and result in multiple injuries or even fatalities. This type of accident is typically caused by distracted driving, tailgating, hydroplaning, and low-visibility conditions.
Accidents Involving Commercial Semis, Big Rigs, Tractor-Trailer Trucks
Being involved in a car accident is frightening, but getting in an accident involving a commercial tractor-trailer truck can be downright overwhelming. These trucks have 18 wheels, measure 70-80 feet long, and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Texas sees an average of 300 commercial truck accidents per year, resulting in over 2,000 injuries. The most common causes of 18-wheeler accidents include:
- The truck moving out of its lane and into another lane or off the road
- Loss of control due to vehicle failure, speeding, or inclement weather
- Rear-end collisions resulting from the truck driver’s failure to brake properly, speeding, or following too close.
- Hydroplaning in wet weather conditions
- Jackknife accidents, which occur when the trailer on the truck swings out to the side. When this happens, the tractor and trailer can hit multiple vehicles traveling in the same or opposite directions as the truck.
These accidents can result in head-on collisions, multi-vehicle pileup accidents, rollovers, and other serious accidents.
Crashes Caused by Dangerous Road Hazards
Dangerous road hazards can be controllable or uncontrollable. Inclement weather can cause uncontrollable conditions like wet and icy roads. Construction zones, poor road maintenance, and confusing sign placement are examples of controllable road hazards. Debris on the road is another common and dangerous road hazard. Debris can be anything from fallen branches to stuff that fell out of a vehicle because it wasn’t secured properly.
Crashes Caused by Defective Vehicles
Defective vehicles are defined as vehicles with faulty brakes, steering wheels, electrical systems, tires, seatbelts, airbags, and any other issue that can affect the vehicle’s ability to operate safely. A motor vehicle defect can create several dangerous situations resulting in accidents, personal injuries, and even death.
When a vehicle’s seatbelts or airbags are defective, these accessories designed to keep the driver and passengers safe in the event of an accident can actually cause more severe injuries. Common examples of seatbelt and airbag defects include:
- The seatbelt releasing, tearing, or ripping during an accident
- False seatbelt latching
- The seatbelt failing to lock in place during a sudden stop or accident
- Airbag ripping or catching on fire during an accident
- Airbag failing to deploy during an accident
- Airbag deploying randomly when there isn’t an accident
Keeping up with general maintenance of your vehicle and doing routine checks on seatbelts and airbags can help you avoid having an accident caused by a defective vehicle.
More Texas Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Facts
In addition to the facts surrounding the most common car accident causes, here are some of the most significant crash statistics from the 2019 Texas Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Facts report:
- The fatality rate on Texas roadways was 1.26 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled
- The death toll from motor vehicle traffic fatalities was 3,610
- There were 12,897 serious injury crashes
- 15,843 people sustained serious injuries in serious injury crashes
- Traffic crash fatalities in rural areas accounted for 51.69 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities
- There were 1,866 deaths in rural traffic crashes
- Single-vehicle, run-off-the-road accidents resulted in 1,161 deaths (32.16 percent of all motor vehicle traffic deaths)
- 731 people were killed in crashes that occurred in intersections or related to an intersection
- 600 people were killed in head-on collisions
- There were zero deathless days on Texas roadways in 2019
- There was one crash that resulted in six or more fatalities in 2019
- 21 people were killed in one day in traffic crashes on both Wednesday, June 5, and Saturday, December 7, making those the deadliest days in 2019
- December was the deadliest month of the year, with 333 people killed in traffic crashes
- One person was killed every two hours, 26 minutes throughout the year
- One person was injured every two minutes, three seconds throughout the year
- One reportable crash occurred every 56 seconds throughout the year
- 42 percent of people killed in vehicles where restraint usage was applicable were reported as not restrained when the fatal crash occurred
- 256,338 people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in Texas in 2019
- 410 motorcyclists were killed in 2019, including operators and passengers
- 45 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2019 weren’t wearing helmets at the time of the crash
- There were 660 pedestrian fatalities due to motor vehicle collisions in 2019
- There were 68 bicyclist fatalities due to motor vehicle collisions in 2019
- 886 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes where a driver was under the influence of alcohol (25 percent of the total number of people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes)
- More DUI alcohol crashes were reported between 2:00 A.M. and 2:59 A.M. than any other hour of the day
- More DUI alcohol crashes occurred on Saturday than any other day of the week
- 377 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving in 2019
This information is based on reportable data collected from the Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Reports (CR-3), received and processed by the Department of Transportation as of April 15, 2020.
Houston, TX Motor Vehicle Accidents Statistics
You might be shocked to read that Texas hasn’t had a single day of zero road deaths since November 7, 2000. Stats show that someone is killed on Texas roads every 2 hours and 20 minutes. Also, someone gets injured nearly every 2 minutes. The total statewide number for annual crashes is over half a million.
In terms of identifying which demographics are most likely to be injured or killed in a crash, the data shows that drivers aged 18 up to 34 as being the highest risk group. Of the fatalities who lose their lives in accidents, studies indicate that more than 4 in 10 weren’t wearing seat belts when the crashes happened.
When looking at accident statistics on a city level, it quickly becomes clear that highly populated and urban areas are home to most of the accidents. More than 3/4 of all accidents happen in urban areas, and Houston leads the way. This city alone accounts for almost 13 percent of state collisions. San Antonio comes in second with over 8 percent, and Dallas is third with just over 6 percent.
These numbers highlight how Houston is the riskiest city to drive in across the state. Houston has more reported accidents than any other city, with nearly 70,000 a year. Houston also leads all other cities in terms of 1,304 incapacitating injury collisions and 245 fatalities.
It’s easy to understand why so many people just leap to conclusions that speeding and drunk driving are the primary culprits behind this data. However, distracted driving is an element that is mostly responsible. Drunk driving and speeding do come in at #2 and #3, but the primary and number one cause is still drivers engaging in things that divert their attention away from the road. Reckless driving follows these causes, and it’s defined as a being a blatant disregard for the consequences and safety involved with the operation of a motor vehicle.
The Most Common Types of Injuries Sustained from Car Accidents
Now that you know more about the most common types of car accidents in Houston, you can see how they would result in many different types of injuries. Depending on the type of crash, the types of vehicles involved, and the impact, motor vehicle collisions can lead to injuries on any part of the body, which can be minor or severe. All injuries sustained in car accidents will require treatment, and in some cases, injuries are permanent. Read on to learn about the most common injuries suffered from car accidents in Houston..
Scrapes and Cuts
Scrapes and cuts are among the minor injuries a person may sustain after being involved in a car accident. While the scrapes and cuts aren’t considered severe, they can eventually lead to infections or severe health conditions if left untreated.
Whiplash is a severe injury that occurs when the neck is jerked back and forth in a rapid movement. It’s a typical result of rear-end accidents. While the term has become commonplace to the point where it doesn’t sound severe, whiplash can be deadly. Symptoms of whiplash include:
- Stiffness in the neck
- Neck pain
- Loss of range of motion
- Numbness or tingling in the arms
Brain Injuries and Traumatic Brain Injury
Brain injuries happen as a result of trauma being inflicted on the head. If the brain in the trauma area becomes affected, the victim can face dire consequences, including a decline in physical mobility or cognitive ability.
Traumatic brain injury is a more severe type of brain injury that occurs when an immense force strikes the head. This type of brain injury can result in temporary damage, including personality changes, dramatic mood swings, and insomnia. It can also result in permanent brain damage, such as memory loss and paralysis. Symptoms of traumatic brain injury include:
- Worsening headaches
- Decreased coordination
- Repeated vomiting
Treatment for traumatic brain injury is typically extensive and expensive. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment can include expert consultations, surgery, psychotherapy, speech and occupational therapy, and medication.
Burn injuries damage the outer layers of the skin and the tissues beneath the skin’s surface. There are four types of burn injuries that need to be identified and appropriately treated to avoid infection. The four types include:
- Light burns, which are caused by light or UV rays
- Thermal burns, which are caused by steam, hot liquid, fire, and other similar things
- Chemical burns, which are caused by acids, alkalis, or other chemicals
- Radiation burns, which are caused by coming in contact with nuclear radiation
While it’s unlikely that a person will suffer light or radiation burns from a car accident, it’s essential to understand the various types so that you can identify the source and proceed with the proper course of treatment.
In addition to the various types of burns, there are also varying degrees of burns: first, second, and third. First-degree burns are the least severe, while third-degree burns are the most severe. First-degree burns are simply red and sensitive, while second-degree burns can be distinguished by the appearance of blisters and swelling in addition to the redness and pain. If a second-degree burn is left untreated, it can evolve into a third-degree burn. Third-degree burns result in nerve damage, with numbness and pain being symptoms.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are defined as injuries that occur when the spinal cord and its nerves are damaged. Traumatic spinal cord injuries are more severe than spinal cord injuries and result from a sudden blow to part of the spinal cord that damages the vertebrae protecting the spinal cord. These types of injuries are some of the most debilitating, life-threatening, and dangerous injuries that a person can sustain. They can lead to permanent paralysis and resulting psychological effects like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States. Common symptoms of a spinal cord injury include:
- Loss of sensation, movement, or bladder control
- Uncontrollable spasms
- Intense pain caused by damaged nerve fibers
- Difficulty breathing
- Changes in sexual functions
- Weakness or paralysis
- Numbness or loss of sensation in the body
Internal injuries, also called internal bleeding, happens when injuries are so severe that they impact the internal organs. Internal bleeding is often caused by trauma and occurs when a brute force impacts the body and tears or crushes the blood vessels. Internal injuries may present immediately following an accident or worsen over time. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal swelling or pain
- Pain, tightness, and swelling
- Purpled skin
- Loss of consciousness
Broken bones are one of the most common injuries that people sustain from car accidents. The severity of the break can range from an acute fracture to a complete break or even a shatter in some cases. Broken bones are extremely painful and can take several months to recover from. Treatment usually requires a cast or operation.
Emotional Injuries and PTSD
Emotional and psychological trauma is a typical result of any car accident. Emotional and psychological injuries can include stress, depression, paranoia, and in severe cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by going through or witnessing a traumatic event. PTSD can interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily tasks, maintain relationships, and work. Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Uncontrollable thoughts
- Severe anxiety
- Intrusive memories
- Changes in reactions
- Negative changes in mood and thinking
Car Accident Laws in Texas
Car accidents are serious, life-altering events, which is why Texas has created a set of laws to protect victims of car accidents and impose penalties on those found to be at fault for causing a car accident due to negligence. Each state has its own set of laws. If you get into a car accident in the state of Texas, it’s essential to understand the laws so that you can apply them to your case..
Statute of Limitations
Texas has a strict statute of limitations for personal injury claims regarding car accidents. It allows a driver two years from the day of the accident to file a personal injury claim or claim for property damage resulting from the accident. In the case of filing uninsured or underinsured motorist claims, the statute of limitations is four years. There are rare exceptions to the statute of limitations rule.
It’s important to understand that the statute of limitations only applies to civil personal injury lawsuits. The rule has nothing to do with the amount of time you have to contact your insurance company to file a claim. Most insurance companies require the driver to contact them “as soon as possible” after a car crash, but each company has its own specific set of deadlines and timelines. Check your policy or visit your insurance provider’s website to learn when you need to call them to file a claim following a car accident.
What is an At-Fault State, and is Texas One?
An at-fault state is a state in which you can file a lawsuit or insurance claim against a driver who’s responsible for causing a car accident that results in damages and injuries. Texas is an at-fault state, which usually means that drivers have liability insurance to cover damages if they’re found to be at fault for causing an accident. There are minimum liability limits with this type of insurance, which are as follows:
- $25,000 for property damage
- $30,000 per injured person
- $60,000 total for injuries per incident
Texas also has a modified comparative fault law that allows the person filing the claim to recover damages assuming they were less than 50 percent at fault. However, if the courts determine a percentage that puts both the claimant and the other driver at fault, they’ll reduce the claimant’s compensation by an amount that matches their amount of fault.
An uninsured driver is a person who does not have insurance. The driver is considered underinsured if he or she does not carry adequate coverage to fix repairs. Uninsured and underinsured motorist’s coverage will pay for your expenses if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance.
Insurance companies in Texas have within 15 days of receiving your information to accept or reject your claim. If any part of your claim is accepted, the company is required to issue a payment to you within five business days. If your claim is rejected, the company is required to explain why. If you feel that the company is treating you unfairly in any manner, you have the right to talk to an attorney and file a suit against the insurance company for fair compensation.
The statute of limitations and insurance requirements are the most critical car accident and personal injury laws to know in the state of Texas. Still, there are several other laws that drivers in the state should at least be aware of.
Texas Transportation Code Sec. 550.021 states that accidents involving personal injury or death must be handled in the following manner:
- Stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or return to the scene of the accident if the car was stopped beyond it
- Determine who was involved in the accident and whether they need aid
- Remain at the accident scene until the other driver complies with the requirements as stated in Sec. 550.023
Failure to comply with the above can result in:
- Imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for five years or less
- Confinement in a county jail for one year or less
- A fine of up to $5,000
- Both fine and imprisonment
Texas Transportation Code Sec. 550.022 states that accidents involving damage to a vehicle must be handled in the following manner:
- Stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle was stopped beyond it
- If the accident occurs on a median, shoulder, main lane, ramp, or adjacent area of a freeway in a metropolitan area and the vehicles involved in the crash can be driven safely, each driver should move their cars as soon as possible to a designated accident investigation site (nearest suitable cross street, location on a frontage road, other appropriate location) to minimize the risk of causing another accident with freeway traffic
- A vehicle in this section is deemed safe to drive if it doesn’t require towing and can be operated in its usual manner under its own power without risking additional damage to the vehicle, roadway, or other traffic
- Remain at the accident scene until the other driver complies with the requirements as stated in Sec. 550.023
Failure to comply with the above can result in:
- A Class C misdemeanor if the total amount of damage done to all vehicles is less than $200
- A Class B misdemeanor if the total amount of damage done to all vehicles is more than $200
Texas Transportation Code Sec. 550.026 states that any driver involved in an accident that results in damage to another vehicle or the injury or death of a person must immediately notify the local police department or sheriff’s office according to the following guidelines:
- Local police department must be informed if the accident took place in a municipality
- Local police department or local sheriff’s office must be informed if the accident took place less than 100 feet outside a municipality limit
Understanding the laws above and following the appropriate procedures in the event that you’re involved in a car accident can help you avoid incurring fines or even jail time due to ignorance of the law.
How to Understand Whether You Have a Strong Car Accident Injury Claim
When you’re looking for an attorney to represent your accident case, a law firm will first evaluate the case to determine whether or not you have a strong one. There are three key factors that they’ll evaluate to make this determination:
- Who’s at fault or responsible for the accident
- The damages and extent of injuries incurred
- The other party’s or at-fault party’s ability to pay
Read on to understand the details about each of these categories to get a better idea of whether or not you have a strong car accident claim.
Determining Who’s at Fault
The accident details are crucial in helping a lawyer determine what happened and who they think is at fault. The more evidence you can provide, including photos and notes from the accident scene, the police report, and witness statements, the better you can paint a clear picture of what occurred at the scene.
Even if the police report isn’t in your favor, it’s not the final word. The police report simply serves as an objective source of information about the details of the crash. In addition to witnesses and police reports, there are experts who can be hired to pull electronic information from the vehicles involved in the accident or survey the accident scene. All of these different types of evidence can help the lawyer come to a determination of who’s at fault.
In order to receive compensation in the state of Texas, you must be able to prove that you’re less than 50 percent responsible for the accident.
Calculating Damages and Extent of Injuries
Simply being involved in a car accident doesn’t necessarily mean that you can claim compensation for damages or injuries. If your insurance company is offering fair compensation and you didn’t sustain severe injuries but just experienced a little pain that faded pretty fast, it’s probably best not to push your luck by hiring a lawyer to file a claim. In order to have a valid claim for personal injury damages, you need to prove that you were injured by the accident through medical records or testimony.
A board-certified attorney with experience in personal injury trial law can evaluate the extent of the injuries you sustained, how they’re impacting your daily activities, and the effect they’ll have on your ability to earn a decent living. In some severe cases, an economist or vocational expert will need to be consulted to help quantify the amount of economic loss the injuries will have on the victim’s life.
Determining the Ability to Pay
Even if you have a strong case, it’s not worth anything if the at-fault party is unable to pay the claim. In addition to determining who’s at fault and the extent of the injuries sustained in the accident, a car accident attorney will want to check whether the other party has insurance, and if a company is involved in the claim, the size of the company.
The law and constitution in Texas protect several assets from a court judgment, including their homes, IRA, and 401(k). In most cases, the available insurance is the only source used to pay for harms and losses in car accident cases.
When looking into the available sources of coverage, an experienced car accident attorney will check what type of insurance the at-fault party has. They’ll also look at other factors such as whether the at-fault party was on the job during the accident, whether you have uninsured or underinsured coverage, and if you were driving another person’s car, does their insurance policy apply to you as the driver?
It’s important to note whether you have uninsured or underinsured coverage. Uninsured motorist’s coverage will pay for your expenses if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance. As a driver, you’re considered underinsured if you don’t carry adequate coverage for repairs. In Texas, $30,000 is the minimum amount required for coverage.
How to Prove Negligence or Fault in a Texas Auto Accident Case
The most promising way to prove that another party is at fault for causing a car accident is to hire a car accident lawyer in Houston who can help prove your case. In order to hold someone else legally responsible for causing a car accident, you must prove that the other driver or the driver’s company was negligent.
Negligence can be defined as failing to act reasonably or to exercise reasonable care, which results in the injury of another person or damage to their personal property. There are no laws in the state of Texas to define what is or isn’t reasonable per se. The judge or jury will determine who is at fault based on the circumstances of the accident and the evidence presented to them. A knowledgeable accident lawyer will analyze your specific case and understand what needs to be done to ensure that your case is successful.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Texas abides by a modified comparative fault rule that states a driver’s recovery for damage and personal injury can be reduced by the percentage that they’re found to be at fault. If the driver is found to be at fault for 51 percent or higher of the accident, compensation will be barred. Because of this rule, many auto insurance companies will refuse to take full responsibility for the accident, even when the fault is apparent. Instead, they’ll attempt to limit your compensation amount by trying to show that you’re at fault for the collision.
A board-certified personal injury lawyer can help you prove your innocence by showing that the other party was at fault. They’ll use various methods to establish enough details to hold the person who’s at fault accountable. These methods include:
- Checking the scene and surrounding area for surveillance
- Obtaining the dashcam or body video from the officer at the law enforcement agency that responded to the crash
- Obtaining copies of the 911 calls related to the accident
- Gathering public records related to the accident
- Hiring experts to inspect the vehicles and scene of the crash for additional evidence that may have been overlooked
- If any vehicle involved in the accident had an ECM or “black box,” an expert could download the content
If it’s absolutely necessary and in your best interest, a personal injury lawyer can file suit in order to take depositions, subpoena records, and conduct discovery. An experienced lawyer will know when the case is strong enough to bother taking these extra measures. In the event that the insurance company still refuses to provide fair compensation, the lawyer can take the case to trial, where a jury would decide upon a fair ruling.
How to Work with Insurance Companies After a Car Accident
Insurance companies are infamous for not treating claims fairly. Some of the most common ways they try to lower your compensation amount is by stating that they’re accepting responsibility for the accident or that their insured is at fault. Some other common excuses are:
- They’ll only accept part of your medical care claims
- The medical care you received was due to a pre-existing condition and not resulting from the accident
- The medical care you received was too expensive
There are also many other reasons they’ll try to come up with to say that your claim isn’t worth as much as what you deem to be fair.
The Meaning of Liability
Liability insurance provides financial protection for someone who ends up harming another person or their property in a car accident. There are two types of liability car insurance coverage: bodily injury liability and property damage liability.
Bodily injury liability covers a driver if they’re at fault for an accident that resulted in the other party being injured. This coverage ensures that the at-fault driver won’t be held liable for covering medical expenses, loss of income, or funeral costs.
Property damage liability protects an at-fault driver from paying for repair or replacement of other vehicles involved in an accident. It also covers damage caused to other forms of personal property like mailboxes, fences, or buildings that may have been damaged in the accident.
A car accident lawyer in Houston can help make sense of the laws that apply to your particular case and ensure that all harms and losses are accounted for in the settlement.
Gathering Evidence and Necessary Documentation for a Car Accident Case
Fault, damages, and ability to pay are the three categories you should always keep in mind when preparing evidence and documentation for a car accident claim. Gather as much evidence and records in paper form as possible to prove your case.
Remember that insurance companies and judges won’t take your word for anything. They’ll require some type of documentation to support any claim you make, so the more you have, the stronger your case will be.
Follow the tips below to understand the most important documentation that you should try to gather to prove your innocence and recover the maximum compensation amount in a car accident claim.
Proof of Fault
In order to prove that the other person involved in the accident is at fault, there are several documents you’ll need to gather. These include:
- The police report from the accident
- Photos of the accident scene and vehicle damage
- 911 call recordings from witnesses who may have called the police during the accident
- Surveillance videos from security cameras in the area
- Phone records, including call, text, and data, to prove that you weren’t using the phone when the accident occurred
- Miscellaneous records, including GPS data and black box reports if applicable
If you don’t have some of these items or are unable to obtain some of them, gather what you do have. A lawyer can help access some more difficult items like surveillance videos and 911 call recordings.
Proof for Extent of Damages
In order to get a fair amount of compensation to cover your medical expenses and other damage, you’ll need to provide documentation to prove the extent of the harms and losses you incurred due to the accident. Gather as much of the following forms of documentation as you can to verify the total amount you’re attempting to claim.
Medical and medical billing records:
- A list of all doctors and medical facilities you see
- All invoices and bills received after the collision
- Prior medical records to prove that you didn’t have any pre-existing conditions
Keep in mind that medical records and billing records often come from two different places. For example, if you were treated at a hospital, the facility will have your medical records but may not have your billing records. Many doctors aren’t directly employed by the hospital, leaving you responsible for collecting billing records from multiple sources to prove your total cost of treatment.
Payroll records and other documents related to missing work are necessary if you missed work due to the car accident.
If you sustained visible injuries in the crash, photos of them could really help your case. Document photographic evidence of any bruises, cuts, scarring, and anything that can help prove the damage your injuries put you through.
Understand as Much as Possible about Insurance Coverage
While it isn’t typical for insurance companies to share information about the insured person’s policy unless you file a lawsuit against the person, you can better understand what you’re dealing with by gathering information about your own insurance details.
Start by obtaining a copy of the declarations page of your insurance policy. This will explain what type of coverage is available to you. In the state of Texas, there are various types of coverage that a person can have, including:
- Liability coverage
- Coverage for damage to your vehicle
- Uninsured motorist coverage (UM)
- Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM)
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
- Medical pay
- Accidental death benefits
Many insurance companies will try to get out of covering UM, UIM, and PIP policies. If your insurance company says that you don’t have these types of coverage, make sure you ask for proof in the form of a signed rejection for them. If they can’t provide signed rejection documents, they’re responsible for providing you with UM, UIM, and PIP coverage.
How to Determine the Settlement Value of a Car Accident Injury Case
As every car accident is different, so is every accident claim. There’s no set settlement value for any case. The settlement value is determined by analyzing the details of each case and considering the factors that can be proven through admissible documentation. As previously noted, insurance companies and judges will never just take your word for anything. You need to provide proof for each and every item you’re trying to claim. The following are some of the most significant factors to consider when determining the settlement value of your car accident injury case.
The law in the state of Texas entitles you to recover the medical expenses associated with the accident as well as the cost of medical expenses you’ll incur in the future as the result of your injuries. A knowledgeable attorney will know how to ensure that your future medical expenses are covered fairly in the settlement. One of the best ways to document future expenses is to take a deposition from the physician responsible for your treatment in which they outline the treatment(s) they believe you’ll need in the future as a result of your injuries from the accident.
If the extent of your injuries is severe, it may be helpful to hire an expert in life care planning to assess your overall financial needs in the future. Significant injuries typically require expensive future needs that you’ll want to cover in your damages.
In many cases, when a person is injured in a car accident, they miss time from work, and in some unfortunate cases, are unable to return to work. If you have missed any work due to the injuries you sustained in a car accident, you’re entitled to receive compensation for the lost wages as part of your accident claim. It’s usually pretty simple to prove lost wages by presenting pay stubs that document the time you missed due to the accident.
The part that gets a bit more complicated is proving future wage loss. The best way to demonstrate this is to get a deposition from the doctor treating your injuries from the accident in which they outline the physical and/or mental limitations you have after sustaining injuries from the collision. A vocational expert then needs to provide a documented evaluation of the types of available jobs in the marketplace based on these limitations and the average pay for such jobs. An economist would then need to take this information and use it to provide a documented calculation of the wage loss you’re forced to experience over the remaining course of your work-life expectancy.
As medical expenses and lost wages can be proven, documented, and calculated in a straightforward manner, they’re considered economic damages. However, there are also non-economic damages that a person suffers after an accident. These damages are more difficult to calculate because there aren’t any invoices, bills, reports, or other documented proof you can present to prove their existence.
Non-economic damages include things like mental anguish, pain and suffering, or disfigurement. The surest way to receive compensation for non-economic damages is to work with a lawyer who can use things like witnesses, photographs, day-in-the-life videos, and other such records to help the insurance company or jury understand the extent of the damage you’ve sustained.
Addressing Unfair Insurance Tactics
Insurance companies make money by collecting premiums and paying as low as possible for claims. Insurance adjusters are not on your side. Their primary job responsibility is to pay your claim as little as possible. There are various unfair tactics they may try to use to accomplish this. Here are some of the most common.
A lien is a court-ordered demand for repayment from a health insurance provider or other third parties. It can be placed on your personal property, and you may be required to repay these expenses. While the average person may not be aware of their liens, insurance companies are very familiar with the lien process.
When you discuss your settlement with your attorney or insurance company, make sure you know whether you have liens on your case and their total repayment amount. In most cases, car accident settlements are all-inclusive, which means that the settlement amount covers your damages as well as any lien on your case. If you’re unaware of this, you may not be able to deposit the check you receive from the insurance company because it will be made out to you and the lien holder(s). Make sure you square away all lien details before reaching an agreement.
The state of Texas has a two-year statute of limitations on car accident claims, and it isn’t uncommon for insurance companies to try to take advantage of this. In some cases, they will knowingly delay and drag out the claims process until your statute of limitations runs out, freeing them from the responsibility of covering your claim. If you notice that the insurance adjuster is telling you that they’re going to resolve this-or-that issue or take care of your bills, but you never receive an agreement to sign, get things moving by working with an attorney. If the insurance company succeeds with dragging the process out long enough, the day after that two-year mark is up, you’ll find yourself transferred to a new department that will tell you that your claim won’t be paid. Don’t let this happen to you.
Insurance companies will usually try to push for a quick settlement, but settling for one is rarely in your interest. A quick settlement allows the insurance company to close your file quickly and cheaply. This type of settlement is rarely a fair one and doesn’t usually cover the harms and losses you suffered due to the accident.
If you let the insurance company rush you and agree to a quick settlement, you may soon find that you’re left unable to cover your medical costs and other damages. In many cases, it takes time to gather all the medical bills from treatment following the accident, and some injuries take time to develop, so you may not even know you have them until it’s too late to get them covered.
Using Recorded Statements
Since you’re obligated to cooperate with your insurance company, you may naturally feel that the same obligation exists for you to cooperate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, but in reality, no such obligation exists. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will often try to trick you into giving a recorded statement by saying that they can’t determine fault without one. Still, you should never agree to give one until you speak with your lawyer. Giving a recorded statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company will never be helpful to your case, and you have every right to refuse to provide one.
Arbitrary Allocation of Fault
Insurance companies are infamous for trying to accept partial responsibility, typically around 60 to 80 percent, to get out of paying the full compensation amount. If you ask them how they came to their conclusion, they may give an illogical explanation or even try to make up speeds and concoct situations that didn’t even happen. If your insurance company is trying to use the excuse of arbitrary allocation of fault, the best thing you can do is find a lawyer to help you organize evidence to support your case. Obtaining witness statements that dispute the insurance company’s claims also helps.
Refusing to Cover Medical Care
It isn’t uncommon for car insurance companies to try to pick and choose the medical care they feel you should have received and refuse to cover certain types of care. Insurance adjusters are not medical professionals and have no right or basis for making such decisions. If they’re trying to weasel out of covering specific medical treatments or procedures required to care for your injuries after the car accident and you can prove that they were medically relevant and necessary, work with a lawyer to file suit and get the compensation you deserve.
Car Insurance companies can be intimidating, but you always need to remember one simple rule: just because they say something doesn’t make it true. The only one who has the final say in your claim case is a judge. Experienced car accident attorneys are well-versed in addressing the unfair tactics that insurance companies try to use to get out of paying you what you deserve. If an insurance company isn’t being fair with you, get help from a lawyer and take them to court if you need to.
How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
Whether you’re just starting the claim process or are well into it and wondering what’s taking so long to settle, one of the most common questions after a car accident is how long it will take to receive compensation from the insurance company. While every case is different, there are many factors and steps involved in the settlement process, which can make things take a while.
Events that Need to Happen Before an Accident Settlement Offer
Before you even receive an initial offer from the insurance company, three things need to happen:
- Medical treatment has been completed, or the patient has reached maximum medical improvement. This can take days to years.
Waiting for medical treatment to be completed is usually the number-one cause for delay in settling an accident claim for someone who faced serious injuries. The best way to move this step along is to get the doctor to write a report outlining the future procedures or surgeries that will likely be required for your care, along with an estimate of their costs.
- All medical records, medical bills, and doctor’s reports for future lost wages and bills must be obtained. This can take days to months, depending on the volume of records and reports that need to be gathered.
Medical records are essential for settling a case if you want to settle before a lawsuit. The most important variable that the insurance companies focus on to determine the value of a settlement is how your medical records reflect your injuries.
- Receiving a response to your demand package. This typically takes between 15 and 90 days.
After you send a settlement demand along with the relevant medical records, medical bills, and other information that will help prove your case, the insurance company will need to take time to evaluate your claim. While most claims shouldn’t take more than three weeks to be settled after the company receives the settlement demand, you or your lawyer will need to keep following up with them to ensure that your case remains at the front of the line.
Waiting for the Settlement Check
Once your case settles, it doesn’t mean you’ll receive a check right away. It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to drag out the process even after the claim has been settled. A good car accident attorney will stay on top of the insurance company to expedite the process and ensure that you receive your settlement check as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there’s no rule that requires an insurance company to respond to a bodily injury demand letter in a car accident case.
Choosing to File a Lawsuit
While insurance companies aren’t obligated to be fair, you do have the right to file a lawsuit if you feel that the company is mistreating you or if you can’t get them to respond to your demand letter. A lawsuit will maximize the compensation you receive in many serious injury cases, but it won’t come quickly.
Many insurance companies will offer an early settlement, and many people accept it because they want or need the money fast. However, filing a lawsuit with an experienced car accident attorney will often result in an offer that pays out many times more than the original settlement offer..
Throughout the course of a personal injury case timeline, there are six critical markers at which the decision to settle or pursue the lawsuit is presented. Each comes with its own set of pros and cons, depending upon the specifics of the case. Read on to learn about the six settlement inflection points and what needs to be considered during each.
- Immediately following the accident – this is the worst time to settle a case. There is no chance that the insurance company will offer fair compensation at this point.
- After presenting the insurance company with your demand package – this is the point at which most people choose to settle a personal injury car accident case. Depending on the details of the case, some people might decide to move ahead with filing a lawsuit at this point. Generally speaking, the more severe the injury is, the wider the gap will be between the real value of the case and the settlement offer. In some cases, a jury would end up offering a much higher amount than the insurance company.
- After filing the lawsuit – soon after filing a lawsuit, you’ll likely be presented with another potential settlement opportunity. As the insurance company realizes that you’re serious about getting maximum compensation, they’ll present a new offer.
- Mediation or pre-trial conference – before a trial begins, the lawyers and parties involved in the case must attend a pre-trial. This usually takes place anywhere from a few months to several months before the trial is scheduled to begin. The pre-trial presents an opportunity for everyone to get together and discuss settlement before moving ahead with the case. Most personal injury lawsuits settle at this point, but sometimes it’s worth it to wait. If you show patience and perseverance and that you’re willing to take the case to trial, you could walk away with a much larger settlement in the long run.
- The day of the trial – if the case hasn’t been settled before the trial, the next logical time for an insurance company to make a new offer is the day of the trial. This is when your leverage for settlement is highest. However, there’s always the risk of running into a complication during the trial, and you must also consider how much it will cost to try the case.
- Post-verdict – cases can be settled after winning or losing a verdict at trial. Sometimes, the lawyers or defense counsel settle to avoid reversing the verdict during an appeal. In other, typically large-verdict cases, the plaintiff may want to get an immediate resolution instead of letting the case drag through an appellate process.
Deciding Whether to Settle or Go to Trial
After a lawsuit is filed at some point but before getting into the litigation process, it’s common to receive at least one settlement offer. It can be enticing to accept the offer, and in some cases, it can be the right thing to do, but how do you know whether you should settle or continue to trial?
Based on factors like financial obligations, personal risk tolerance, and willingness to endure a trial, you may decide to settle at some point before the trial, during which you believe you’re being offered a reasonable compensation amount. Most civil cases end up being resolved before a trial.
The most significant benefit to settling before a trial is that there’s no longer a risk of losing everything if you go to trial and end up losing the case. The amount of money you’ll have to spend on lawyer fees and other expenses will also end up being lower if you don’t go to trial, especially if you have a case that involves expert witnesses, for which the expenses could double or triple – and all of that would come out of your award.
How Long Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Take to Settle?
Once you decide to file a lawsuit against an insurance company, the case can settle at any time. In many cases, the insurance company will be pressed to settle soon after the suit has been filed. Many insurance companies will immediately increase their offers once they see that you’re serious about getting a maximum compensation amount and don’t mind waiting for it.
In some cases, the insurance company will increase their offer to settle the case at a pre-trial conference or private mediation after the discovery phase of the litigation is over.
Sometimes, insurance companies hold out hope until the last minute. While they don’t want to go to trial, they also don’t want to offer too much too soon, so in some cases, they’ll settle with a reasonable offer literally on the courthouse steps.
How to Maximize the Settlement Amount for Your Personal Injury Case
In any car accident case where a personal injury claim is filed, the goal is to receive the highest settlement amount possible. With complicated laws to navigate and insurance companies trying to save money by paying you less, it isn’t always easy to receive the compensation you deserve. Here are a few ways that you can get the highest settlement amount for your personal injury case:
- Find a lawyer who has a history of success at trial. Even if you think you have a simple case and that you don’t necessarily need the most reputable lawyer in the country, the fact is that most insurance companies know full well the type of lawyer you have defending you. If your lawyer doesn’t have a history of winning cases, the insurance company will most likely offer smaller settlement amounts. They’ll understand that your attorney is more likely to accept a low-ball settlement because they might lose in the trial.
- Work with a lawyer who believes in your case. As important as it is to work with a lawyer who has a history of success at trial, it’s just as important to find one who believes you and your case. If at any time you feel that they don’t believe in you or your case, don’t hire them.
- Show the insurance company that you’re ready to file a lawsuit against them. Prepare yourself and your case for the litigation process before you start settlement negotiations. When you show the insurance company that you’re willing to proceed with a lawsuit, they’re more likely to offer a fair amount for settlement. When the insurance company sees that your attorney has taken extra effort to get the lawsuit started before the process begins, they’re likely to take your case more seriously.
- Be honest during negotiations. Your lawyer should be able to tell the truth about the facts of a case, whether they’re in your favor or not. They should not make any statements that they can’t back up. An unwillingness to acknowledge obvious weak points in a case naturally destroys an attorney’s credibility when they try to convey the strengths of the case.
In addition to the points above, always remember that the more documented proof and evidence you can obtain to support your case, the better. Every claim or statement you or your lawyer make will need to be supported by documented evidence.
Frequently Asked Questions
To help you make sense of some things that may still be on your mind, here are some of the most frequently asked questions by people who have been in a car accident on a Texas roadway.
How Much will an Auto Accident Attorney Cost?
In most cases, car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee, which means that you don’t have to pay them unless the claim is successful. Once the claim is settled successfully, the lawyer takes a fixed amount (usually a percentage between 25 to 40 percent) of money from the settlement amount awarded to you.
How do I Know if I Have a Strong Case?
A lawyer will determine a few factors about your case to decide whether it’s strong enough to be worth pursuing.
The first thing they’ll consider is whether the amount of damage involved is worth a large sum of money.
The second thing they’ll examine is whether the other party (defendant/at-fault person) has the resources to cover the settlement amount should your case win. If the defendant doesn’t have insurance, assets, or funds to cover the settlement amount, it won’t be worth more than the paper it’s printed on.
The final thing the attorney will consider is whether you can prove liability. If there’s no documented evidence to support your claim, it will be extremely challenging to prove who’s at fault. There needs to be sufficient facts and documented evidence to confirm that the other party was at fault for the accident that caused your injuries or damages.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Claim for a Car Accident in Texas?
Every state has laws that stipulate the amount of time a person has to file a legal claim. These laws are called the statute of limitations. In Texas, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim for a motor vehicle accident is two years. This means that a person has a maximum of two years from the date the car accident occurs to file a claim.
If you don’t file a claim within two years, the lawsuit will be barred, and you’ll lose your chance of receiving compensation from the defendant. If you file anyway, the court will most likely dismiss the claim when they realize that it’s past the statute of limitations. If they somehow don’t dismiss it, the defendant’s attorney will likely file a motion to have it dismissed, which will be granted by the judge.
If you think your statute of limitations has run out, speak with an experienced accident attorney in Texas. They’ll be able to tell you if there’s any way for you to file a claim.
What is the Average Settlement Amount for a Car Accident?
There is no average settlement amount for a car accident claim as there are hundreds of thousands of accidents each year, and every one of them is different. Determining the value of a case requires careful consideration of various complicated factors. An experienced car accident lawyer in Houston can help you figure out how much your case is worth aside from medical bills. They will help calculate the total damages from the case and explain what other factors are involved in determining the value of your case.
What Legal Claims do I Have?
Depending on the severity of the car accident, several civil claims may arise from it. Some of the most common claims people file after a car accident include claims for property damage, negligence, and intentional conduct. An experienced auto accident attorney can evaluate the specific details of your case and tell you what claims are available to you.
How is the Value of a Car Accident Claim Determined in Texas?
While every car accident case is unique, certain factors play a part in determining the value of a vehicle accident claim. These include:
- Your medical expenses
- The nature and severity of your injuries
- Whether you’re partly at fault
It’s important to note that Texas requires drivers to have a certain amount of car insurance. While some drivers choose to get additional coverage, the minimum insurance policy limits that every driver is required to carry are:
- $60,000 per accident for injuries
- $30,000 per injured person
- $25,000 per accident for property damage
What Types of Insurance Are Available for My Claim?
In some cases, whether or not your property damages and medical expenses are covered will depend on the defendant’s insurance policy. If their policy is unable to compensate you, your insurance policy may cover your damages and medical expenses, depending on which type of policy you have. Some common types of basic car insurance include:
- Liability coverage
- Collision insurance
- Comprehensive insurance
- Uninsured motorist insurance
- Underinsured motorist insurance
- Medical payments coverage
- Personal injury protection insurance
- Gap insurance
- Towing and labor insurance
- Rental reimbursement insurance
- Classic car insurance
A knowledgeable car accident lawyer in Houston will review your insurance policy and let you know whether your insurance will cover your medical expenses, property damage, and any other relevant losses.
What Can I Do if the Insurance Company Denies My Claim?
In some cases, your insurance company may deny your claim and your appeal. Insurance companies are in the business of making money by paying out as little as possible to accident settlements, so there are various reasons why the insurance company may try to deny your claim, including:
- Lapsed or canceled policy
- You don’t have full coverage
- You didn’t report the accident
- Your name isn’t on the policy
If your insurance company denies your car accident claim, speak with a lawyer who may be able to argue a case that the insurance company won’t be able to refuse.
Can I Recover for Medical Bills and Lost Wages?
You may be entitled to compensation for the costs of your medical bills if you file a personal injury lawsuit. In addition to the costs for the treatment you required after the accident, you may be able to recover for future medical treatments if you need them as a result of the injuries sustained in the car accident.
If the car accident caused you to miss work, you might also be entitled to compensation for lost wages if you file a personal injury lawsuit. Suppose the injuries you sustained in the car accident were so severe that your earning capacity was permanently reduced as a result of them. In that case, you may be able to recover for the total earnings that you stand to lose over time.
Since it can be challenging to gather all of the necessary documentation required to prove the total amount of medical bills and lost wages, it’s wise to work with a knowledgeable attorney who can calculate everything properly and help prove your case with acceptable evidence and documentation.
What Happens if I Can’t Work as a Result of My Injuries?
If you were involved in a car accident that resulted in severe injuries, you might be unable to work anymore because of them. In such cases, you may be entitled to receive disability benefits as well as recoup lost wages if you file a personal injury lawsuit.
To guarantee the most favorable outcome, you must work with an experienced car accident lawyer in Houston. While securing disability benefits and claiming future lost wages are lengthy and complicated processes, a knowledgeable attorney will be able to lead you through them to a favorable result.
Can I File an Accident Claim Against the Government?
You are technically allowed to file a claim against the government, but as the government is immune from lawsuits in pretty much any situation, your claim will most likely be dismissed. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:
If your case falls under the Texas Tort Claims Act, the government’s immunity will be partially waived. In such a case, you’ll be allowed to file a lawsuit in two instances:
- For injuries and damages caused by a motor vehicle accident
- Injury or death resulting from a condition of personal or real property
Even if you make it so far and can file a suit, it must then be shown that the government employee involved in the case met the following criteria:
- At the time of the injury, they were acting within their scope of employment
- They would be found liable even if they were a private citizen instead of a government employee
If your case falls under the Texas Tort Claims Act and you show that the government employee you’re filing against meets the above conditions, your accident claim against the government will likely be allowed to proceed.
While the statute of limitations is still two years, there’s an additional requirement where the government is concerned. You must provide notice within three to six months from the date of your accident.
There are also limits on how much a person can recover from the government. In a car accident case, the personal injury damage limit is $250,000.
What Happens When the Other Driver is Uninsured?
While most drivers in Texas carry insurance, what happens when you’re involved in a car accident but the other driver is uninsured or doesn’t have sufficient insurance to cover your damages?
The Letter of Protection in the state of Texas requires all motorists to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance to cover medical expenses or damages resulting from an accident that’s caused by their negligence. This amount was raised in 2019 from $25,000 to $30,000 per person. However, this is a minimum liability amount, and in most cases, it’s not enough to cover damages while fully compensating for the injuries sustained by people in the accident. There’s also the issue that while this law makes it a mandatory responsibility for all motorists to carry insurance, some people simply don’t abide by it and are driving around without insurance.
By way of the Demand Letter in the state of Texas, your insurance provider must offer Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM). If you have auto insurance, the only way that this type would not be covered is if you specifically decline it in writing. The UM/UIM coverage amount should equal the coverage limits you pay for liability protection.
Each insurance policy is different, so you’ll have to check your specifics to understand the process you need to follow before you can rely on UM/UIM coverage. You may also get some trouble from your insurance provider if they’re trying to save money by giving you less.
An experienced car accident attorney is crucial for guiding you through the best processes available to you to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries and other damages you suffered.
What if My Insurance Policy Lapsed or was Canceled?
Sometimes a driver may let their auto insurance policy lapse because they can’t afford to pay for it. Other times the policy lapses because the driver completely forgot to pay or renew it. Whatever the reason, when your insurance policy lapses, it’s essentially the same as you driving around with no insurance at all, which is dangerous and can lead to a lot of (expensive) issues for you.
In addition to facing potential fines from the state and increased premiums, if you get into an accident that’s your fault and you don’t have insurance to cover the other party’s claim, you may be forced to pay out-of-pocket to cover their property damages and medical expenses. You also may face revocation of your driver’s license and vehicle registration, as well as the requirement to pay daily fines until you provide proof of coverage. You may have to pay a fine to reinstate your driver’s license and vehicle registration once you can provide proof of coverage. The laws vary from state to state, but New Hampshire is the only state that doesn’t require its drivers to carry car insurance by law.
Some insurance companies allow their policyholders a short grace period after the date that their premium is due to give the benefit of the doubt to those who mean well but forget to pay on time sometimes. Not every company does this, and some states don’t allow it by law. If you do have a grace period in your insurance policy and decide to use it, you could face late fees, and your insurance company may not want to reinstate your policy if it lapses.
Canceling your auto insurance policy is also considered to be a lapse in coverage, during which time you will not be covered if you get into an accident. Canceling your insurance could also lead to a rate increase in the future. In addition to rate increases and all the other adverse outcomes of driving with a lapsed insurance policy, having one can also jeopardize your eligibility for auto insurance from other companies. Some insurance providers simply won’t sell their policies to drivers who can’t prove that they’ve had continuous coverage for a certain duration in the past.
Suppose you’re involved in a car accident and find that your insurance policy has lapsed or been canceled. In that case, you need to speak to an experienced auto accident attorney right away so that they can help you avoid getting slammed with fines, settlement payments, and even losing your license and registration.
Contact our Houston Auto Accident Attorneys Today
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