Jason Stephens | December 3, 2020 | Car Accidents
Car accidents occur for many reasons. While some car crashes might involve defective car parts, hazardous road conditions, or poor weather, most car accidents involve driver negligence or errors.
Common causes of car accidents include:
- Distracted driving
- Following too closely
- Drowsy driving
- Impaired driving
- Reckless driving
- Failing to obey traffic laws
If you are at fault for a car accident, the people hurt in the accident could pursue personal injury claims. That includes your passengers, the other driver, passengers in the other car, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The outcome of the injury claims depends on numerous factors.
Damages Available in a Car Accident Claim
The types of damages available in a car accident claim include financial losses and pain & suffering damages. The amount of money a person receives for a car accident claim depends on the severity of their injuries, the amount of financial losses, and other factors.
Damages that you could be liable for if you are at fault for a car crash include:
- The cost of the person’s medical treatment and care
- The person’s loss of income, including benefits, salaries, commissions, wages, bonuses, and other income
- Pain and suffering damages, including mental, physical, and emotional suffering
- Loss of potential earning capacity because of permanent impairments
- Scarring, disfigurement, disabilities, and permanent impairments
- The loss of enjoyment of life and quality of life
- Other out-of-pocket financial losses and expenses related to the accident or injury
If a person died because of the car accident, the victim’s family could sue you for compensation under the Texas wrongful death statute.
I Thought My Car Insurance Covered Accident Claims
Texas is an at-fault insurance state for car crashes. All drivers are required to maintain liability car insurance coverage. The minimum car insurance coverage in Texas is:
- Bodily injury coverage for injuries to one person in the amount of $30,000
- Bodily injury coverage for injuries to two or more people in the amount of $60,000 per incident
- Property damage coverage in the amount of $25,000
Generally, when you cause a car accident, the people injured in the crash file insurance claims with your insurance provider. Your insurance provider handles the claims. You have no input on whether the company pays the claims or denies the claim.
If the company accepts that you were at-fault and admits liability for the claim, the company is only liable for damages up to your policy limits. Therefore, if you have minimum coverage, the most your insurance company must pay for a single person injured in the wreck is $30,000. The maximum amount the company must pay for the accident is $60,000.
While $30,000 might sound like a lot of money, it does not go far when a person sustains a severe injury. In cases involving catastrophic injuries, such as brain damage, spinal cord injuries, or amputations, the total of past and future damages could reach into the millions of dollars.
If your car insurance coverage does not pay the victim in full for all damages, you could be personally liable for the remaining amount. It is important to remember that you can purchase higher amounts of liability insurance to protect yourself if you cause a serious car accident.
What Happens if My Car Insurance Company Denies the Claim?
Your car insurance company could deny the claim or fail to settle the claim with the accident victim. Common reasons insurance companies give for denying injury claims include:
- The insured was not responsible for the cause of the crash
- The victim contributed to the cause of the accident
- The insurance policy does not cover the accident or driver
- The car accident was not the cause of the victim’s injuries
- The insurance contract lapsed for non-payment or other breaches of contract
- The victim failed to file a claim before the expiration of the statute of limitations
The accident victim can appeal the denial of the claim with your insurance provider. However, if the claim is not resolved, the victim may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit.
What Happens if I Am Sued for a Car Accident?
The personal injury lawsuit names you as the defendant. It does not name your insurance provider. However, some insurance companies hire a lawyer to defend the lawsuit.
You have the right to consult with and hire a car accident attorney to represent you separately. If you believe that the person’s damages exceed your policy limit, it could be wise to speak with an attorney. The attorney hired by your insurance company may not always act in your best interest.
The lawsuit could settle before a trial. If the case proceeds to a trial, the jurors decide whether you are responsible for the crash and, if so, how much money the victim is entitled to receive for damages.
Even though the case went to trial, your insurance provider is still only liable for damages up to your policy limits. Any amount over the policy limits is a personal judgment against you.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Interests
Your actions and statements following a car accident could impact the outcome of the personal injury claim. For example, suppose you apologize to the other driver or say you are sorry at the accident scene. In that case, the victim’s attorney might allege that you were admitting liability for the crash.
Until all the factors of the accident are analyzed, you cannot be sure who is more at fault for the crash. The other driver could also be partially at fault for causing the collision. If that is the case, the other driver could be barred from recovering compensation for damages if they are 51 percent or more at fault.
Until you have a chance to talk with a car accident lawyer to discuss the accident, some tips to keep in mind that can help protect your best interests after a car accident include:
- Never admit fault for the crash
- Take photographs of the accident scene and make a video of the accident scene
- Ask eyewitnesses to provide their name and contact information
- Do not discuss the accident with friends or family members
- Seek medical attention immediately for your accident injuries
Unfortunately, if you fail to cooperate with your car insurance carrier, your actions could be considered a breach of contract. The insurance company might be able to break the contract, and you could be responsible for all damages.
Therefore, seeking legal advice as quickly as possible can the best step you can take after a car accident. Knowing your rights and options after being accused of causing a car accident is the best way to protect yourself.