What to do after a car accident in Texas?
Traffic accidents disrupt lives and put all your dreams and plans in limbo for a long time, or even permanently. It takes just one moment, a loud thud, and you are lying injured in your crashed car in the middle of the road. According to experienced car accident lawyers at McDonald Worley Law Firm, your actions and decisions during the first moments after a car crash have a long-lasting impact.
Even though you are frightened and in shock, remember that you will accumulate medical bills as a result of the accident, and you will need to have your car repaired. All these costs can be recovered by filing an accident claim. But it may be denied if the insurance company can latch on various technicalities. This is why the personal injury legal team at McDonald Worley decided to create this step-by-step guide that explains what you should do after a car accident in Texas.
Step 1: Make Sure Everyone Is Safe
First, you must make sure that you, the other driver and any car passengers are safe after the auto accident. If the vehicles are still operational, you should move them to the side of the road, away from the flow of traffic. Otherwise, turn on the hazard lights.
You may offer reasonable assistance to injured persons after a minor accident. The state of Texas has the so-called “Good Samaritan law” which states that “a person who in good faith administers emergency care at the scene of an emergency or in a hospital is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency unless the act is willfully or wantonly negligent”. Thus, if you notice that one of the persons involved in the motor vehicle accident is severely injured, you should not attempt to remove them from the vehicle, but call an ambulance.
Step 2: Report the Accident to the Police and Your Insurance Company
Texas laws state that any traffic accident leading to bodily injury or severe damage to the vehicles must be reported to the police. Your obligation is to call 9-1-1, report the accident, request an ambulance for medical assistance and wait for the law enforcement officers to arrive at the accident scene and investigate.
At the same time, you should report the accident to your own insurance company. Each company has its own deadline for doing so, but the sooner you inform them, the higher your chances of filing an insurance claim successfully.
Step 3: Document the Accident Scene
As far as your personal injuries allow it, take as much information as possible from the crash scene. This involves:
- taking photos of your injuries and the damage to the motor vehicles
- noting the initial position of the vehicles at the moment of the crash
- taking note of the road conditions (potholes, debris on the road, other road obstructions, etc.)
- look out for any traffic cameras that may have recorded the accident
- ask any witnesses if they took photos or videos of the accident and to provide you with their contact details.
At the same time, you are obliged to exchange the following information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident:
- license plate number
- name and address
- insurance coverage details.
If anyone involved in the accident asks you to show them your driver license, you are obliged by law to do so.
Step 4: Assist the Police Department Officers in the Investigation
The law enforcement officers have two main duties:
- they have to arrange for the safe transport of accident victims to the hospital and removal of the damaged cars by tow trucks
- they have to look at the crash scene and note their observations.
However, the police officers are under no obligation to note your version of how the events happened, and you should not insist if they refuse to listen to you. At the same time, you are not obliged to talk to them, with the exception of providing your identification details, proof of registration and proof of insurance.
It is very important to remember that you must not make any admission of guilt either to the law enforcement officers or to the other driver. Even saying “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” can be interpreted as an admission of guilt at a later date, when it comes to determine who the at-fault driver was.
Step 5: Seek Medical Care
You should always ask for medical care at the site of the accident. In many cases, injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash do not show symptoms until hours or days later. This may lead to complications of your injuries.
At the same time, once you decide to file a personal injury claim, insurance adjusters representing the fault party will argue that you did not suffer the injuries as a result of the crash, but at a later date. This will seriously cast doubt on your claim.
In hospital, apart from getting specialized care, the extent of your injuries will be fully documented in medical records. You will be able to get a fair compensation for your injuries and for damage to property if your personal injury attorney has solid evidence to prove your case.
Step 6: Do Not Negotiate with the Auto Insurance Company Adjuster
In most of the cases, once you reported an auto accident, you will be contacted by a representative of the insurance company within days. The adjuster’s objective is to get you to accept the financial compensation they offer and sign a waiver barring you from further actions to recover your expenses and damages.
You must remember that any auto insurance company is a for-profit business. Their main interest is their bottom line, not your welfare. Thus, the offer they make will certainly not cover all your costly hospital bills and other accident damages, including lost wages and non-economic damages.
Step 7: Hire Legal Representation
You should retain an accident injury lawyer as soon as possible and present your case to them. Provide all the evidence you managed to collect, and point the attorney to any sources of pieces of evidence (security cameras, witness statements, crash report).
The lawyer will evaluate your case and start investigating in order to determine:
- the circumstances of the automobile accident
- the proportion of fault of all involved parties
- the type of coverage of the other driver holds
- the extent of your economic damages.
The next step is to open settlement negotiations with the claim’s adjuster. The valuable evidence collected during investigation will be presented in order to obtain the maximum compensation for medical costs and property damage.
If the insurance company does not agree to pay the requested amount, the lawyer may instruct you to file an accident lawsuit.
You Were Partly at Fault for the Crash – Can You File Accident Claims?
All drivers have a duty of care towards other traffic participants. When a crash happens, accident investigation may find out that both drivers were at fault for it. In some states, any degree of fault bars a person from seeking compensation.
However, in Texas there is the comparative negligence law. It states that any person cam seek accident settlements if they are less than 50% at fault for the event that resulted in personal injuries and property damage. An experienced accident law firm can help establish your accurate proportion of fault, allowing you to file a personal injury lawsuit.
In the event that you are trying to negotiate your settlement on your own, the adjuster will use the Texas comparative negligence rule against you. They will attempt to persuade you that you have a greater proportion of fault for the collision and that they are actually doing you a favor by offering any financial settlement at all.
Remember that You Have a Time Limit to File Your Claim
All states have the statute of limitations for civil actions. It represents the period of time you have to file a claim or a lawsuit. When that time frame expires, your action will be dismissed. Actually, an auto insurance company rely on this statute of limitations (two years in Texas) and delay settling a claim as much as they can, until it may be too late for you to file a lawsuit.
At the same time, you must consider the fact that you may be unable to do anything at all for a long period of time. If you suffered severe injuries, such as spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injuries, you will be in hospital for weeks or months. If you hire an accident law firm, they will be able to work on your case while you focus on getting better. The lawyer will contact you only when you are required to sign a document or give a statement. Otherwise, your legal representative can pursue accident settlement negotiations or court procedures on your behalf.
Hire an Award-Winning Personal Injury Law Firm!
McDonald Worley, the driving force behind our law firm, has over 20 years of experience in helping people like you get fair compensation for their medical costs, economic damages and pain and suffering. In 2013, he was included by Time Magazine in the “Leaders in Personal Injury Law” top and in 2021 the law firm was designated as Client Champion by Martindale-Hubbell.
We are here for you in your time of need, and we don’t give up until we win your case, so call us for a free case review: 877-721-3423!