You had the perfect playlist and just the right people for your road trip to yet another Austin music festival. The last thing you were expecting was to get side-swiped by a bright yellow sports car blasting Nickleback. Do you have to call your insurance company? Who will pay for the damage? Can you sue the other driver? If you've been involved in a car accident in Texas, read on to learn about relevant insurance laws and the settlement process.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Texas?
Texas law requires drivers to file a Crash Report, Form CR-2 within ten days when the accident is not investigated by a police officer and it results in injury, death, or property damage greater than $1,000 (Sec. 601.004). Once you've determined everyone is safe, you should exchange personal, vehicle, and insurance information with the other drivers, and get the names and contact info for any witnesses (Sec. 550.023 ).
Also, make note of weather and road conditions, and take photographs of the vehicles. Finally, never assume responsibility for the accident at this point. Even if you feel responsible, the facts might show that you were not actually at fault.
Texas Car Insurance Laws
Texas is a "fault" car insurance state, which means you may file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver. So every driver can be held liable for any damages and injuries he or she causes in a car accident (Sec. 601.051). Most people cover this by purchasing liability insurance with at least the following minimum limits (though a driver can be sued for expenses beyond these minimums covered by insurance) (Sec. 1952.0515, Sec. 601.072):
- $30,000 for each injured person;
- $60,000 total for injuries per incident;
- $25,000 for property damage
Additionally, although insurance companies must offer it, drivers may decline to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage as a part of their insurance policy (Sec. 1952.101).
Once you're home safe after an accident, you should file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible, but you can check your policy to see what the exact deadline is. Additionally, don't wait to see a doctor, but do hold off on car repairs if possible -- your insurance company may want to inspect the damage or have you go to an approved repair shop.
The insurance company must accept or reject your claim within 15 days of receiving from you the necessary items for making a determination (Sec. 542.056). If they reject the claim, they must explain why; and if they accept any part of the claim, they must pay you within five business days (Sec. 542.056, 542.057).
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Texas?
Like most types of settlements , the willingness to settle and the amount offered after a car accident will depend heavily on the evidence supporting your case. For this reason, witness statements, police reports, and other documentation are extremely important. Settlement talks can continue even if a lawsuit is underway.
By law, insurance companies may not engage in unfair claim settlement practice, such as knowingly misrepresenting relevant facts or policy provisions, or negotiating in bad faith (Sec. 542.003).
To settle a claim, the insurance company may want you to sign a release which states that you won't file more claims related to the same accident. However, you should not do so until you're satisfied that the total settlement amount covers your damages, including future medical treatment as estimated by your doctor. Texas law prohibits insurance companies from postponing payment of a claim in order to pressure you into signing a release (Sec. 541.060).
What Is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Texas?
There is no exact formula for arriving at a car accident settlement amount since each accident is unique, but there are relevant factors to consider, such as the following:
- The severity of your injuries: minor whiplash will be less than a permanent spinal injury
- Costs of reasonable and necessary medical expenses
- Loss of past and future wages
- Whether you helped cause the accident: Texas follows the "modified comparative negligence" doctrine where damages are barred or reduced according to your degree of fault (Sec. 33.001 et seq.)
- The types of insurance coverage both parties have
- The amount of evidence and documentation you provide
- Your or your attorney's ability to argue your case
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Texas?
If you and the insurance company cannot agree on the claim, you may have to file a lawsuit to pursue damages. The deadline (a.k.a. the statute of limitations) for filing a personal injury or property damage complaint is two years from the date of the car accident (Sec. 16.003).
Get Legal Help With the Texas Car Accident Settlement Process
Car accident settlements in Texas can vary widely and often depend on your ability to argue your case against an insurance company's lawyers. Learn more about your options and the strength of your case by speaking with a local motor vehicle accident attorney who has experience with Texas's car accident settlement process.