For Texans who suffer a car accident injury, the full impact of it can last for months or even a lifetime. Although some injuries heal, others may be permanent. Unfortunately, some types of injuries only cause worsening problems or complications over time. For example, someone who is paralyzed may develop pressure sores that become infected or other problems.
When car accident injuries create more medical expenses or limit your income because of an inability to continue in your line of work, it is important to have adequate compensation. Car accident injury attorneys help victims in Texas fight for fairer settlements. To better understand what to expect from a car accident lawsuit payout in Texas, it helps to know the state laws regarding fault and how compensation relates to that.
Texas Laws Regarding Fault in Accidents
The state of Texas uses modified comparative fault for accidents, and there is a 51% bar. Comparative fault means that fault on both sides is considered. For example, if a person is partially to blame for causing an accident, the extent of each side’s fault is determined. One person may be 10% at fault, and the other party may be 90% at fault. The fault percentage can vary considerably based on different situations and contributing factors.
Also, fault may be distributed between more than two people if additional vehicles are involved. In an accident, there may be three or more negligent drivers. For instance, a report may show that the plaintiff is 15% at fault, one driver is 45% at fault and another is 40% at fault. A 51% bar means that someone who is more than 51% at fault cannot collect compensation from the accident. In accidents involving a plaintiff who is partially liable seeking compensation, the award is reduced in accordance with the plaintiff’s percentage of responsibility.
In some cases, drivers who cause accidents may not be completely at fault. Manufacturers or certain businesses may be partially to blame in some situations. For example, if a manufacturer of a vehicle sells a car that has defective brakes or some other defective part that contributes to the accident, the manufacturer may be to blame. Another example is what is called “dram shop” liability in Texas. Restaurants, bars and other businesses that serve alcohol can be partially to blame in some cases of drunk driving. If you can show that the entity served the person alcohol to the point the at-fault driver became intoxicated, this law may apply. Going after bars or manufacturers can be a complex process that involves the help of a car accident attorney.
How Compensation May Be Paid
Compensation for car accidents is usually paid through insurance companies. All drivers in Texas are required to have liability insurance that meets the state’s minimum standards. One approach for collecting compensation is to file a lawsuit against the driver who is at fault, and the insurance company will represent the individual’s interests.
Another option is to file a third-party claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver or drivers. An attorney who handles a car accident injury case can tell you which option is favorable in your case. Some people with a certain type of coverage may be able to file a first-party claim with their own insurance company. When insurance limits do not offer enough, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against a person who is to blame. An attorney can advise you on the right course of action.
How Fault Percentages Affect Compensation
In the previous sections, you learned that you are eligible to pursue compensation from any involved negligent parties if you are the one with the lesser fault. Now, it is important to understand how fault percentages affect the amount of compensation you are eligible to receive. You can collect the percentage of the damages that you are not at fault for in an accident.
For example, imagine that you are in an accident with one other driver. The other driver is 80% at fault, and you are 20% at fault. If damages total $50,000, you are eligible for 80% of that amount since it is reduced by 20% for your share of the fault. However, if you were not at fault at all, the other driver would be liable for the entire amount.
What Insurance Covers for Car Accident Injury Claims
According to state law in Texas, every vehicle owner must insure the automobile. The minimum requirement includes at least $30,000 in bodily injury coverage for the death or injury of a person involved in an accident. It must also include $60,000 total liability for bodily injury or death in case multiple people are injured in the same incident. For property damage liability, the minimum is $25,000 to cover vehicle, real estate or personal property damage per incident.
Although collision, comprehensive and additional forms of insurance are not required by law, some people carry them anyway. Also, some drivers raise their limits for liability in case they are in an accident with more injured parties or more severe injuries. For example, if a driver causes an accident that severely injures another driver and three passengers, it is better to have a limit over $60,000 to ensure that medical expenses are more likely to be covered.
Some people also choose to carry personal injury protection, or PIP, which provides coverage for them if they are injured in an accident and lose some income or have expensive medical bills. There is also MedPay insurance, which is similar to PIP and only covers medical costs. Uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance is another type of coverage that can provide some compensation if the driver who causes the accident does not have insurance. However, it is often not enough to cover the total cost of the accident’s damages.
What Happens When a Driver Without Insurance Causes an Accident
Because state laws have such strict penalties for driving without insurance, most drivers in Texas carry at least the minimum required by law. However, there are some drivers who do not have insurance. If you do have UM/UIM or MedPay coverage of your own, you can file a claim with your own insurer. You can do this as well if you are hit by someone who leaves the scene of the accident. Unfortunately, your options for recovering compensation are more limited if someone without insurance hits you or if someone hits you and leaves the scene. In some cases, people without insurance do not have any assets that people can pursue. However, this may not always be the case, and an attorney can investigate the accident further to see if there is a way to file a lawsuit or identify another source of compensation.
Compensation for a Car Accident Injury in Texas
Each case is different and has unique factors. How much you receive depends on the extent and severity of injuries, percentage of fault, insurance and other factors. Just because an insurance policy’s limit is $30,000 per injured person in an accident does not mean that is the maximum you can receive for any accident. For example, if you suffer severe injuries that should bring you $200,000, you may sue the at-fault driver in some instances if the individual’s insurance policy limit is smaller than that amount. Because there may be other sources of compensation and ways to approach an accident compensation case, it is important to work with a knowledgeable car accident attorney in Texas.
Common Types of Expenses in Texas Car Accident Cases
Fortunately, you do not have to pay upfront for an attorney to handle your case. Attorneys typically collect compensation only after you receive an award, and the attorney takes a percentage that you agree on beforehand. After an accident, these are some of the main types of expenses people have:
- Vehicle repairs or replacing a totaled vehicle.
- Lost wages from missing work due to injuries.
- Medical bills, medical equipment, in-home care, physical therapy or medications from accident-related injuries.
- Child care, cleaning help or other services required because of accident-related injuries.
- Vehicle or home modifications due to a new disability.
- Pain, suffering, mental anguish or emotional distress from accident trauma.
How a Texas Car Accident Injury Attorney Helps
Personal injury claims are complex and require a lot of work. Insurance companies know that people are in vulnerable positions after accidents. However, they often try to reach out to victims directly and offer them low compensation amounts. Although it can be tempting to accept a cash offer when money is tight after an accident, it can limit your future ability to collect compensation that you may need later if your injuries worsen or are permanent. Attorneys factor in past injuries and the estimated medical care that you will require in the future.
An attorney can help you find resources to assist you as you deal with the aftermath of the accident. During that time, your attorney handles all the hard work on your behalf so you can focus on your life and trying to deal with changes. Perhaps you will need to train for a new type of career if a disability from the accident made you unable to continue your current line of work. If that is the case, your attorney will also consider the cost of lost income and training for a new career when calculating a settlement.
A personal injury attorney files paperwork, handles correspondence, conducts investigations, collects evidence and tries to build a strong case in your favor. Once you have an attorney representing you, insurance companies or any other parties that are involved in the case must contact your attorney. Your attorney also carefully evaluates your medical records to determine your prognosis, the extent of your injuries and other important factors that may affect your compensation amount. Rest assured that your attorney will fight for the fairest settlement based on the individual factors of your case. While most insurance companies or liable parties settle cases outside of court by agreeing to a certain amount, some parties may not be as reasonable. When a case must go to court for a trial, your attorney will prepare everything necessary to try hard to persuade a jury to agree on a fair settlement for your injuries.
If you or someone you know was recently injured in an accident in Texas, attorneys are available to help. Reach out for a free car accident injury case evaluation. Since injury cases take time to settle, it is wise to contact an attorney as quickly as possible after your accident.