Texas car wrecks are an unfortunately common occurrence, but if you’ve never been in one before, you may have questions about how to get compensation for your injuries, lost wages, damage to your vehicle and other losses. You may not know what to do if an insurance company doesn’t pay your claim or how to get help.
The FAQ section below provides general answers to some of the most common questions car crash victims have. For specific answers about your individual circumstances, contact the Sloan Firm now for a free consultation.
If you have been hurt in an accident and someone else was at fault, you may be left with a lot of bills to pay on your own. Your insurance or the insurance of other party may not want to pay enough to cover your expenses. You may face being left with a serious injury or possibly a permanent disability, lost wages, medical expenses, and other costs. A lawyer can help you by gathering information and evidence, negotiating with insurers, and taking a case to court if necessary. Claims are often settled out of court. For an experienced firm like the Sloan Firm, it doesn’t matter if the case is resolved inside or outside of a courtroom. We fight for your interests.
You’ve probably heard that some lawyers charge in 6-minute increments for the work they do. If you send an email to them or receive an email from them, you may be charged $50. You don’t have to worry about that at the Sloan Firm. That’s because we take personal injury cases on a contingency basis. That means that you don’t pay us anything upfront. We get paid only if and when you win. Our fee will be an agreed-upon percentage of the amount awarded. This allows you to have the highest quality legal representation without any initial outlay of money. We are not paid unless we win for you.
The period in which you can file against your insurance company or another person to recover damages resulting from a car accident is called the “statute of limitations.” This is the time period designated by state statute in which you may file a lawsuit for a specific claim. The Texas statute of limitations for injuries and damages resulting from a car crash is 2 years. That means you have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a claim. There may be certain circumstances that extend the time period to file, so be sure to consult with a lawyer at the Sloan Firm even if you think you may have waited too long.
Texas uses a legal theory called “comparative negligence” when looking at fault for property damages and personal injuries. In many cases, there are several people to blame for an accident, not just one. Texas allows you to recover compensation for damages resulting from a car crash even if you were somewhat to blame, as long as you were not more than 50% at fault. However, the amount you are entitled to recover will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. For example, if you suffered $300,000 in damages and are determined to be 25% at fault, then the $300,000 will be reduced by 25%, or $75,000, for a total of $225,000.
If you are a victim of a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses
- Changes in earning capacity or ability to hold a job
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Other losses
You should be represented by an experienced lawyer who listens to what you want to achieve, knows the ins and outs of the insurance business and the rights of victims, and is willing to take a case to trial.
You can file a claim for wrongful death if your direct relative or spouse was killed in an accident. The amount awarded, if the claim is successful, will help to pay for loss of income, medical and burial expenses, and other damages.
In Texas, a wrongful death claim can be filed by the surviving spouse, child, and/or parents of the person who died. They may file individually or together as a group. In Texas, adult children may also file wrongful death claims over the death of a parent.
Damages in a wrongful death suit may be awarded for, among other things:
- Lost earnings
- Medical and funeral expenses
- Loss of companionship, love, comfort and society
- Mental suffering and anguish
Some of the most important evidence you can present is that of eyewitnesses — people who saw what happened and can testify about it. If you are well enough to talk to people after your accident, be sure to ask them what they saw, and get their names and contact information. Evidence may also be presented from the police report. Although law enforcement may assign blame for a crash, and that may be evidence of fault, it is important to remember that civil liability is a separate issue from traffic violations. In other words, police don’t have final say on who has to pay for the damages that result from a crash.
Physical evidence from the scene and from the vehicles involved also plays an important role. You can also take photos of the scene of the accident and the vehicles to show what happened. Depending on the placement of the vehicles and the damage, there may be more evidence to back up your account than that of the opposing side.
If you have been in a car accident and have serious injuries, the first thing you should do is get medical treatment. If your injuries are not life-threatening, and you are able to walk around, take pictures of the vehicles and the scene of the accident, and exchange contact and insurance information with the other drivers involved in the collision. Also take notes about the circumstances surrounding the accident to aid your memory later. Do not give an oral or written statement to an insurance company.
Call the police to investigate and make an accident report, and then ask for the officer’s contact information and the report number. Also, see if there is anyone in the vicinity who observed the accident and can provide eyewitness testimony. Make sure to get the name and contact information of any potential eyewitnesses.
If you have not already done so, seek a medical evaluation and treatment as soon as possible. Monitor how you are feeling over the next several weeks, since some injuries are not immediately apparent. Keep a journal about your injuries and your recovery process, including photos if helpful. This may be a great asset when it comes establishing how the accident has affected your life.
Most insurance companies provide an option for coverage with your auto insurance to cover car rental costs when your car is out of commission because of an accident. The monthly cost is low, but many people opt not to pay for it in an effort to minimize costs. However, if you are in a car accident, that small addition to your monthly or quarterly car insurance payment quickly becomes worth it, so consider adding it to your insurance coverage.
If the accident was another driver’s fault, his or her insurer should pay for a rental car while your car is in the shop or until you can purchase a replacement.
When people say a car was “totaled,” they mean it would cost more to repair the vehicle than to replace it, or that it would be impossible or extremely difficult to restore the vehicle to safe working condition. In some states, a car may be declared a total loss even if repair costs are less than the vehicle’s value, but in Texas, the cost to repair must be at least as much as the cash value of the car.
The insurance company makes the determination of whether your vehicle is a total loss once you take it to an approved auto body shop to get a repair estimate. Insurance companies use their own formulas to come up with a cash value for your vehicle, usually taking into account the vehicle’s age, condition, mileage, and local resale price for similar vehicles in the area. If the vehicle is deemed “totaled,” the insurance company will obtain a salvage title to your vehicle and then generally pay you the car’s cash value (or possibly your bank, if you have an outstanding balance on your loan) minus the deductible, if applicable.
If your insurance company ends up paying the amount to your lender, and there’s still a balance due, you are responsible for paying that amount. If you happen to have “gap coverage” as part of your insurance policy, that should cover the difference between the amount of the lien and the amount the cash value of your car.