Who Pays For My Costs After A Car Accident In Texas?
Expenses for medical bills, car repairs, rentals, and more can add up fast
After a serious car accident in Texas, the financial burden can quickly become overwhelming. Whether the victim’s losses are the result of a rear-end collision on Prairie Street in Houston or a high-speed crash on I-10 or I-45, these unexpected expenses can disrupt lives and jeopardize the victim’s ability to meet other financial obligations, such as rent, utilities, or monthly car payments.
Thankfully, in Texas, crash victims often have recourse to secure financial compensation to address their accident-related expenses. However, understanding who is responsible for covering these losses and what is included in this compensation can be confusing. Here’s what drivers in Houston and Harris County, TX need to know.
Texas is an at-fault car insurance state
Texas is considered an at-fault car insurance state, also known as a "tort" state. In an at-fault system, the driver responsible for causing an accident is typically held liable for the resulting damages, including medical expenses, vehicle repairs, and other losses suffered by the injured parties.
In Texas, when a car accident occurs, the at-fault driver's insurance company is generally responsible for compensating the victims for their injuries and losses. This compensation is typically provided through the at-fault driver's liability insurance coverage. Texas law requires drivers to carry liability insurance to cover bodily injury and property damage liability, with minimum coverage limits established by the state.
The role of modified comparative fault
In Texas, the ability to recover compensation after a car accident hinges on a crucial rule: the 51% rule. Put simply, you can seek compensation for your injuries even if you bear some degree of fault for the accident, as long as your percentage of fault is not greater than the percentage attributed to the other party. Here's how it works:
If your degree of fault exceeds 50%, meaning you are 51% or more at fault for the accident, you are barred from pursuing compensation. However, if your fault is less than 51%, you can still seek compensation, albeit with a reduction corresponding to your percentage of fault.
For instance, consider a driver who is found to be 40% at fault in an accident. In Texas, they can still pursue compensation from the other party, but their damages will be diminished by 40%. To illustrate, if their total damages amount to $50,000, they would receive a final award of $30,000 after the 40% reduction. On the other hand, a driver who bears 60% of the fault would be ineligible to recover any compensation.
Common expenses that result from car accidents
If you've been injured in a car accident in Texas caused by another driver, you may be eligible for compensation that covers a comprehensive range of expenses, such as:
- Towing fees: In situations where your vehicle is rendered undrivable and needs to be towed from the accident scene to a repair facility.
- Car rental fees: If you require a temporary replacement vehicle while your car is being repaired.
- Medical expenses: This encompasses all medical treatments, including ongoing care like follow-up doctor's appointments, physical therapy, and even surgical procedures. The timing of these medical costs is immaterial; you should be reimbursed for all medical care related to your car accident injury.
- Vehicle repairs or replacement: If your vehicle was damaged to the point of being totaled in the collision, compensation may extend to the cost of repairs or the purchase of a replacement vehicle.
- Replacement income: In the event of serious injuries that prevent you from working while recuperating at home or in a hospital, compensation may cover the income you've lost during this period.
- Lost future income: If your injuries are severe enough to hinder your ability to return to work or limit your work capacity due to a permanent disability sustained in the car accident, compensation may extend to future income you would have earned.
- Home modification costs: This category includes expenses related to adapting your home, such as the installation of wheelchair ramps, in cases where your car accident resulted in a disability.
In essence, these are the various expenses for which you can seek compensation following a car accident caused by another driver in Texas. The goal is to provide coverage for the full spectrum of costs and losses you may have incurred as a result of the accident.
What happens when car accident expenses increase?
What if your car accident expenses unexpectedly increase in the months or even years following the collision? Such scenarios are not uncommon, particularly when dealing with injuries like severe back or spinal cord injuries that may require ongoing treatments such as follow-up surgeries or extended physical therapy due to chronic pain.
In these situations, questions arise about who should bear the responsibility for these additional costs. In an ideal scenario, the at-fault party would cover these expenses. However, reality often deviates from this ideal, and they may not be obligated to do so. This discrepancy is linked to the terms of your initial compensation for the car accident.
If you've already accepted a settlement offer for your car accident, the likelihood is that you'll need to shoulder these extra expenses yourself. This is because most settlement agreements are structured as one-time payments intended to account for the total costs stemming from the accident. Consequently, if unforeseen expenses arise, there may be limited recourse to secure the additional funds you require, as the settlement has already been finalized.
This emphasizes the importance of carefully evaluating any settlement offer before agreeing to it and seeking experienced legal representation after a crash. A car accident attorney can assist you in this critical decision-making process and can thoroughly assess any settlement proposals you receive following your crash.
Is there a cap on how much money crash victims can receive?
Unlike some states, Texas does not impose limits on the amount of financial compensation crash victims are eligible to recover.
For instance, if your accident-related expenses, including both present and anticipated future medical costs, as well as lost future income, accumulate to a substantial figure, such as $2 million or more, you have the right to seek full financial compensation for these damages.
Furthermore, Texas does not place restrictions on the compensation you can receive for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, or diminished quality of life.
However, it's essential to be aware that Texas does set limits on punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages. While punitive damages are subject to limits, compensatory damages for your accident-related expenses and non-economic losses have no such restrictions.
Common tactics auto insurance companies use to pay crash victims less
Insurance adjusters often use various tactics when handling accident claims, which can significantly affect a crash victim’s compensation. While not all car insurance companies resort to these practices, it's crucial for individuals to be aware of common tactics that may be used:
- Purposefully delaying claims: Car insurance companies may intentionally prolong the claims process, causing delays in payments or outcomes. For instance, an adjuster might repeatedly request additional documentation, such as medical records or repair estimates, extending the time it takes to process the claim.
- Offering quick settlements: The insurance company for the at-fault driver may offer a fast settlement soon after the accident before the full extent of injuries or damages is known. For instance, after a car wreck involving a back injury, an adjuster might offer a quick settlement to the injured party before they realize the long-term consequences of such an injury.
- Making lowball settlement offers: Some adjusters may initially offer settlements that are significantly lower than the actual value of a claim. For example, after a car accident, an insurance company might offer a minimal settlement that doesn't adequately cover medical expenses and vehicle repairs, hoping the crash victim will accept the lower amount due to financial pressure.
- Denying valid claims: To protect their profits, car insurance companies may deny claims that are entirely valid. For instance, a claim involving lost wages resulting from a clear at-fault accident might be denied without sufficient investigation, forcing the crash victim to appeal and endure further delays.
- Prolonged investigations: Insurance adjusters often conduct thorough investigations into car accident claims. While this is a standard practice, it can sometimes be used to find reasons to delay, deny, or devalue a valid claim. For example, during an injury claim following a car accident, an insurer might investigate the claimant's medical history extensively to find pre-existing conditions that can be used as grounds for reducing the victim’s payout.
- Seeking recorded statements: Car insurance adjusters may request recorded statements from injured parties, hoping to extract information that can be taken out of context and used against them. For instance, during a personal injury claim related to a car accident, an insurer might ask the claimant about their activities after the accident to dispute the severity of their injuries.
A car accident lawyer can advocate for the maximum compensation you deserve
At Smith & Hassler in Houston, TX, our car accident lawyers are committed to advocating for the maximum financial compensation crash victims deserve. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that can follow after a serious, injury-causing car accident.
With a track record of success handling car accident claims and lawsuits in Houston and Harris County, we have the knowledge, experience, and resources to navigate complex legal matters and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. Our primary goal is to ensure you receive the full and fair compensation you need to cover medical bills, vehicle repairs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other accident-related expenses.
When you choose Smith & Hassler to represent you, you're not just getting legal representation – you're getting a team that genuinely cares about your well-being. We'll work tirelessly to build a strong case, investigate the accident thoroughly, and pursue the best possible outcome for you.
Don't let the aftermath of a car accident overwhelm you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and take the first step toward securing the justice and financial compensation you deserve.
Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, "Who Pays For My Costs After A Car Accident In Texas?"