Houston Car Accident FAQs
It’s guaranteed that you will have questions if you or a loved one were injured in a Houston car accident. To help get you the answers you need, the knowledgeable attorneys at Seerden Law Firm have compiled the following list of our clients’ most frequently asked questions.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you’ve been hurt in a crash in Houston or the surrounding communities, the best way to get personalized answers is by talking with a lawyer about the specific facts of your case.
I Feel Fine After My Car Accident. Should I Still See a Doctor?
Car accidents are stressful situations. When the body experiences a sudden shock, it produces adrenaline, the hormone responsible for our “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline production raises our heart rate and increases our lung capacity in reaction to the danger, but it also blocks the sensation of pain. That means that you may not feel any injuries unless they are obvious, like a broken bone.
Seeing a doctor promptly after a car accident can accomplish two goals. Most importantly, it can ensure that you are not hurt more seriously than you think. Second, it creates a medical record of your injuries and shows that you took every reasonable step to minimize the trauma after the crash. This will make it more difficult for insurance companies to dispute your personal injury claim for compensation.
Should I Speak to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?
It’s best to notify your own insurance company of the car accident first. In most cases, they will take the next step of contacting the other driver’s insurance carrier to start the claims process.
However, there are some very important things that you need to know before informing any insurer of the accident.
- Stick to the facts. No matter how sympathetic and friendly the insurance representative sounds, they’re hired to do one thing — save the insurance company money. They will do anything necessary to lower your ultimate settlement amount. Your notice should only state when and where the accident happened, the contact information for every driver involved (including license plate numbers, registration information and driver’s license numbers), as well as the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses.
- Never agree to give a recorded statement. You are not required to give a recorded statement to the insurance company of the at-fault driver.
- Don’t speculate about any injuries. Again, only provide the basic details of the accident. It’s not always possible to know how serious the injuries are in the days, weeks or even months after a crash. Underestimating the severity of your injuries could result in a lower settlement than you deserve.
While you are not required to hire a car accident attorney to represent you in dealings with the insurance company, it can be a good idea to at least consult with one, particularly when injuries are involved.
How Much Money Can I Recover in My Car Accident Claim?
Every car accident is unique. Even cases with seemingly identical facts can have different outcomes. But there are common factors that will play a role in how much compensation you may receive, including:
- Severity of the injuries
- Long-term effects of the accident on you and your family
- Your occupation and if the crash affected your future earning potential
- Who is at fault for the crash
- Past, current and future medical costs
- Other economic losses, such as property damage on the vehicle and lost wages
- The victim’s age
- Pre-existing health conditions
Texas law also enables car accident victims to obtain compensation for losses that cannot be calculated easily, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish. In rare cases, victims may also be awarded punitive damages if the other driver’s actions were especially reckless.
A car accident lawyer can put a fair dollar value on your claim after evaluating the circumstances of the accident. Most of the time, the true value of a claim is more than what the insurance company offers during initial settlement negotiations.
Who Pays for the Towing and Storage of My Vehicle?
If your car cannot be driven after the accident, it will need to be towed to an auto repair shop or storage lot. The at-fault driver’s insurance company should pay for towing and storage fees until your car can be evaluated and repaired. Keep in mind that storage fees can get expensive and insurance carriers will only pay up to what they think is a “reasonable” amount of time to get the car repaired. It’s in your best interest to get the claims process started promptly.
It’s also possible for your own insurance company to pay the towing fee and be reimbursed for the cost when as part of your settlement with the other driver’s insurer.
Who Decides if My Car is Totaled?
The insurance company will decide whether your car is beyond repair, or totaled. This is determined by looking at whether the cost to repair your car would be more than the vehicle is worth, minus depreciation. Depreciation is a decrease in your car’s value over time.
Who Pays the Balance of the Loan if the Totaled Car or Truck is Financed?
If your car loan is not paid in full, then you are still responsible for the balance on the vehicle. Most likely, the settlement check will be issued to your lender and you will receive any remaining proceeds once the vehicle is paid off. But if you still owe a balance beyond the settlement amount, you will need to contact your bank or finance company to make pay arrangements for the remainder.
Will I Have to Pay for a Rental Car?
If another driver was at fault, his or her insurance company should pay for the rental car for what it deems a reasonable amount of time for you to get your car fixed. This is determined by looking at the estimated number of hours of labor it will take to get the vehicle repaired. The timeframe may be adjusted if the mechanic finds more damage than estimated or has to order a part in order to complete the repairs, but you’ll need to let the insurance company know.
It’s also possible for your insurance company to pay for the rental car if:
- You have uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage and the at-fault driver had no insurance or not enough insurance to cover the rental.
- You have UM or UIM coverage and the accident was a hit-and-run.
- Your auto policy has rental reimbursement coverage in the event of an accident.
Your insurance company will also only pay for the rental for a set amount and a set period of time until your car is repaired. Acting as quickly as possible can prevent you from having to pay for your own rental fees.
What if I Was Not Wearing a Seat Belt at the Time of The Wreck?
Texas law requires all motorists and their passengers to wear seat belts. But if you were not wearing your seat belt and were injured in a crash, you may still be entitled to compensation.
First, let’s set the record straight. You should always wear your seat belt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that you can reduce your risk of dying in a car accident by 45 percent by buckling up, and cut your risk of moderate to critical injuries by half. There’s no logical reason to go without a seat belt.
However, compensation in personal injury actions is greatly determined by fault. Who was responsible for the wreck? Sometimes, only one driver is at fault. Other times, multiple drivers — including you —may share responsibility for the accident.
Texas uses a modified comparative negligence system to assess fault in auto accidents. The court will assign a percentage of fault to you based on how much it finds that your lack of a seat belt contributed to your injuries. As long as your percentage of fault is less than 51 percent, you can still be awarded damages. However, your total award will be reduced by your proportion of fault.
Example: Say you were awarded $200,000 in a car accident case, but that the court decided that you caused 25 percent of your injuries by not wearing your seat belt. Your total damages would be reduced by that percentage, and you would receive $150,000.
It’s important to remember that you cannot recover any compensation if you are found to be more than 51 percent responsible for the crash. Because so much is at stake, it’s worthwhile to contact a car accident attorney who can fight so that you are not assigned an unfair portion of fault.
What if the At-Fault Driver Had No Insurance?
Texas law requires drivers to have at least a minimum amount of liability coverage. However, not everyone follows the rules. If you’re hit by an uninsured driver, your own insurance policy can help pay for the damages if you purchased uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.
UM insurance can pay for injuries that happen to you, family members, other occupants in the vehicle and anyone who was driving the car with your permission. This money can account for losses such as medical expenses, lost income, car repairs, rental cars, property damage, pain and suffering and temporary or permanent disability (up to the policy limits).
Your insurer is required to offer you UM coverage and if you decline, it must be done in writing.
What if the Driver Didn’t Have Enough Insurance to Cover My Injuries?
The minimum liability insurance amount required in Texas is at least $30,000 of coverage for injuries per person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 of coverage for property damage. This is called 30/60/25 coverage.
However, the expenses from a car accident add up quickly, even if the injuries are not catastrophic. Many times, victims find that the costs of their injuries and property damage exceed the minimum policy limits. Without some other form of insurance, that means victims will be on the hook for any remaining expenses.
Underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance can be purchased to protect yourself in these circumstances. You can use your UIM coverage to pick up the difference once the other person’s policy limits are reached.
Like UM coverage, insurers are required to offer you UIM coverage and if you choose not to purchase it, it must be declined in writing.
Do I Need an Attorney for my Houston Car Accident?
You are never required to hire an attorney. In very minor accidents where there is minimal property damage and no injuries, a lawyer is probably unnecessary. But if you were in a crash with more serious injuries, it’s smart to at least meet with a lawyer for a free consultation.
The car accident attorneys at Seerden Law Firm offer free consultations to victims and their families. There’s no obligation to act beyond the initial meeting, and at the very least you can leave knowing your legal options.
Our skilled attorneys can handle every aspect of your car accident claim. That includes:
- Managing all communications with the insurance company
- Conducting a thorough, independent investigation of the accident to determine what happened and who should be held liable
- Collecting medical records, receipts, police reports, photographs, video surveillance, physical evidence and witness statements to build a strong claim on your behalf
- Using our years of experience handling Houston car accident claims to put a full and fair value on your claim
- Demanding maximum compensation during settlement talks with the insurance company
- Keeping you constantly updated on the progress of your case
- Taking your case to trial if settlement negotiations break down
Our attorneys are dedicated providing top-quality legal services with compassion and care. However, we’re prepared to fight aggressively you are offered less than what you are owed.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you’ve been injured in a Houston car crash, it costs nothing to learn about your rights to compensation. Call or contact us today to arrange a free consultation with one of our car accident attorneys. There’s no fee unless we obtain compensation on your behalf.