Who Pays For a Car Accident in Texas?
Our Houston attorneys explain how the system works
When you’re in a car accident in Texas, the consequences can stretch on for months, years, or even the rest of your life. The crash itself was over in seconds. The medical expenses, lost income, and other costs you have to deal with as a result of the wreck can take much more time to resolve, and ultimately, someone has to pay for them.
That’s why you need to understand how you can get compensation for a car accident in Texas. The insurance system is complex, and a mistake can significantly affect your future. The best way to pursue car accident compensation is to get a lawyer who knows the system on your side.
Texas is a “fault” state for car accidents
Also known as an “at-fault” or “tort” state, this means that the at-fault driver (and their liability insurance) pays car accident injury claim compensation in Texas. Generally speaking, when you’re hurt in a car wreck, you have two options:
- File a “third-party” injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- File a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver, in which their interests will be represented by their insurance company.
If you have certain types of coverage on your auto insurance, you may also be able to file a “first-party” claim with your own insurance company.
What happens if you’re partially at fault?
Texas is a “modified comparative fault” state with a 51% bar. That means damages (financial compensation) for a car accident are divided between the at-fault parties in proportion to their percentage of fault. For example, if two other motorists were each 70% and 30% responsible for your accident, then you would get 70% of your compensation from the first motorist and 30% from the second motorist.
The modified comparative fault rule means that you can recover as long as you aren’t more at fault than the other party. So if you are 30% at fault, you can recover, but your recovery will be reduced by 30%. If you are 51% or more at fault, though, you can’t recover compensation at all.
What does car insurance cover in Texas?
Under Texas law, all vehicles registered in the state are required to carry what’s called 30/60/25 liability insurance. This means every vehicle must have:
- $30,000 in bodily injury liability for injury or death of one person in an accident.
- $60,000 total in bodily injury liability for injuries or death to multiple people in a single accident.
- $25,000 for property damage in a single accident.
Liability insurance is the only required type of car insurance in Texas, but you can optionally add other types of coverage to your policy, including:
- Collision and comprehensive – pays for damage to your car in crashes and non-crash events like fire or vandalism, respectively.
- Personal injury protection (PIP) – pays for medical bills and a portion of your lost income if you are injured in an accident, up to the policy limit.
- Medical payments (MedPay) – similar to PIP but pays for medical bills only.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) – stands in for the other driver’s liability insurance if they are uninsured, or if they have some insurance but not enough to cover the full cost of your accident.
What if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance?
Driving without insurance is against the law in Texas, but some drivers break the law, and it’s important to make sure you’re protected. If you have uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance on your policy, you can file a claim with your own insurance company to get coverage up to your UM/UIM policy limit. This also applies if you’re injured by a hit-and-run driver or “phantom vehicle” that is never found.
If you don’t have uninsured and underinsured motorist protection, your options are much more limited. However, a car accident attorney may be able to investigate and identify other possible sources of compensation depending on the circumstances.
Other parties that can potentially pay for a car accident in Texas
While most car accidents are the responsibility of a careless driver, there are situations where another party can be held responsible.
- Vehicle manufacturer: Manufacturers are responsible for making sure their cars are safe and reliable, and they can be held accountable if they don’t meet that responsibility. For example, if you were hit because the brakes failed on the car behind you, you may be able to sue the manufacturer to get compensation for the rear-end accident.
- “Dram shop” liability: The Texas “dram shop” law allows victims to pursue compensation for drunk driving accidents from bars, restaurants, and other businesses that serve alcohol, under some circumstances. To have a dram shop claim, you need to show that the business served alcohol to someone who was “obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others” and that the patron’s intoxication caused your injuries.
One of the reasons you need an experienced lawyer to pursue car accident compensation is that we can investigate and identify every possible source of compensation for your losses. Given the high cost of some car accidents, you need every advantage.
Your car accident claim should include compensation for all your losses
Depending on the extent of your injuries, your car accident could be worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Some of the damages (financial compensation) that should be accounted for in your claim include:
- Medical bills, medication, medical devices, surgery, physical therapy, ongoing care, and other medical expenses.
- Lost wages and lost future earnings if your injuries affect your ability to work.
- The reasonable cost of replacement services, such as childcare, maintenance, or yard work, that you cannot perform due to your injuries.
- Modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate a disability.
- Pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress.
- Property damage, including the diminished resale value of your vehicle.
For example, if you sustained back, shoulder, stomach or neck pain after a car accident, your claim should include not only the immediate medical treatment but ongoing care like physical therapy or pain medication. Your claim should pay for any medical devices you may need such as neck or back braces or mobility aids. If the accident increased the likelihood that you will need future back or neck surgery, that cost should be accounted for in your injury claim as well.
Your best shot at the most compensation is to hire an experienced car accident lawyer
Remember, you only get one shot at compensation for pain after a car accident in Texas. Once your case settles, that’s it; you can’t go back for more. You also only have a limited time to move your claim forward. The statute of limitations (legal deadline) is usually two years from the date of the accident, but that can vary depending on the circumstances. Moreover, it’s important to start investigating and building your case before evidence disappears and witnesses forget what they saw.
In short, you need full compensation for your car accident, and you can’t afford to go it alone. Contact Smith & Hassler today for a free consultation with an experienced Houston car accident attorney.