When to Contact An Attorney After a Texas Car Accident
Imagine this. You are sitting in traffic and feel another car crash into yours. Then, your airbag deploys as you slam on your brakes. Shock and panic set in immediately, and you try to figure out whether you are injured and if your vehicle is damaged. If you find yourself in this scenario, you are unfortunately not alone — Texas sees about 13,000 serious motor vehicle accidents every year. What should you do? Do you need a car accident lawyer? Searching for an attorney while dealing with hospital bills and car repairs may sound like a lot of work, but car accident lawyers can help you determine how to move forward.
Motor vehicle accidents may seem like a worst-case scenario, but they’re unfortunately more common than you would think. In 2019, vehicle accidents injured more than 255,000 people in Texas. Even a minor car accident can cause symptoms like neck stiffness, headaches, and back pain. Regardless of the severity of a collision, victims may feel anxiety and stress, making it hard for them to drive again. Given the serious long-term effects, it’s essential to know what causes car accidents, what to do after a wreck, and how to file a car accident claim.
Motor Vehicle Accidents Causes
The economic toll of car accidents exceeds $75 billion every year, and more than 100 people die every day after succumbing to a car accident injury. Every motor vehicle accident happens under different circumstances, but car accident lawyers see common patterns, and federal data provides more context. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these are the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents in the United States.
Many serious crashes involve distracted drivers, and driver inattention is a significant contributor to pedestrian and cycling deaths. People glance away from the wheel to check social media sites, send text messages, fiddle with navigation apps, and use voice-to-text software. Drivers who are on their smartphones are more likely to take their eyes off the road, drive with one hand, and not pay attention to traffic patterns, leading to motor vehicle accidents.
Distracted driving doesn’t always involve electronics. Even just craning your neck to get a better view of motor vehicle accidents increases your chance of causing a crash. If you’re daydreaming and letting your mind wander while behind the wheel, you might drift into other lanes or not realize the vehicle in front of you is stopping abruptly. Eating, applying makeup, looking at passengers, and blasting loud music also cause many motor vehicle accidents.
One-third of fatal motor vehicle accidents involve speeding, and irresponsible driving plays a role in more than half of deadly crashes. Exceeding the speed limit is illegal and punishable by a fine in Texas. You can expect to pay hundreds of dollars if a police officer issues a speeding traffic citation. Unfortunately, drivers still decide to speed, which puts everyone on the road in danger. Driving too fast increases the chances you’ll lose control of your vehicle.
Speeding happens for a wide range of reasons: Running late, being frustrated with traffic, or just wanting to reach your destination faster are common excuses people give. In reality, research shows that speeding only saves a few minutes. Even if it was more efficient, the risks of car accident injury aren’t worth it. Aggressive driving behaviors also make the roads more hazardous. Some examples include:
- Refusing to let a car merge or pass
- Following too closely
- Ignoring traffic signals
- Driving on the road shoulder to pass other cars
- Changing lanes without warning
A Texas lawmaker has introduced a bill to lower the statewide residential speed limit to 25 mph, which could help reduce speeding accidents. Until the bill becomes law, Texas drivers are still at risk. You know which behaviors to avoid while driving, but you don’t have control over other cars. You may still find yourself injured in a car accident even though you drive responsibly.
What To Do After A Motor Vehicle Accident
Making decisions in the immediate aftermath of a wreck isn’t easy. It’s best to make a plan ahead of time, even though you hope you won’t ever suffer a car accident injury. That way, you won’t have to figure out what to do in a high-stress situation.
Check yourself and your passengers for injuries. Before you get out of your car, determine whether anyone in your vehicle is injured. If so, call 911 immediately or ask someone nearby to do so. If your passengers are okay, ask the other driver whether they’ve suffered any injuries.
Get to safety. Even if you haven’t suffered injuries from a motor vehicle accident, you could still be in danger if you don’t move your car away from traffic. If an accident takes place in the middle of a highway, pull over to the road shoulder. If you’re unable to move your vehicle because it’s not driveable, leave it where it is and get to safety yourself.
Call for help. For a minor car accident, you may not need to call for medical assistance. But calling the police can help establish the details of the incident, which will be helpful when you file a car accident claim. Law enforcement will interview witnesses, talk to all of the drivers involved, and, if necessary, issue traffic citations. If an officer files a police report, your insurance company will reference it while processing your car accident claim. Assuming there’s no injury, you might be referred to your local police department’s non-emergency number.
Collect Information. You may decide to handle the accident without law enforcement, especially if there’s minimal damage. You will still need to ask the other involved drivers some questions. Get their contact information, along with the name and phone number of their insurance company, so that you can file a car accident claim. You should also write down license plate numbers and the contact information for eyewitnesses if there were any. Take multiple pictures of all vehicles involved, even if you don’t think there’s any damage. Also, don’t say you’re responsible for the collision — that admission can affect the chances of a car accident lawyer being able to help you get a settlement.
Car Accident Laws In Texas
In Texas, traffic collisions that cause injury or severe vehicle damage must be reported to the local police department or sheriff’s office. If an accident doesn’t meet the reportable standard and you decide against involving law enforcement, you still need to report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Symptoms might not show up for days or even weeks after the accident, and your chances of a successful personal injury claim are lower if you don’t notify insurance immediately.
Insurance companies handle car accident claims, and personal injury law varies by state. In no-fault states, everyone involved files an insurance claim, regardless of whether they were responsible for the accident. Drivers carry personal injury protection coverage (PIP) to cover their injuries and damages. Most states in the U.S. follow an at-fault rule, and Texas is one of them. In Texas, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for damages in a car accident case. You are required to carry a certain amount of auto liability insurance in Texas, and it’s called 30/60/25 coverage: $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.
After you file an insurance claim, the insurance company must have an adjuster look at your car to estimate the cost of repairs. After they have all of the necessary information, they have 15 business days to reject or accept your claim, and they must send you a check five business days after approval. For some drivers, this process is all that is needed, and no further action is taken.
Some car accident cases are processed by insurance without any involvement from the court, but others may require you to pursue legal action with the help of a car accident lawyer. Once a driver decides to file a personal injury lawsuit, a clock starts ticking. According to Texas’s statute of limitations, you have two years to file, although this deadline has been extended due to COVID-19. This rule also applies to car accident cases that involve vehicle damage with no injuries.
When To Hire A Car Accident Lawyer
It is never a bad idea to consult with a personal injury attorney when considering a car accident case, regardless of the circumstances surrounding your car wreck. In some cases, you will need to hire a personal injury attorney. Here are a few situations that require the expertise of a car accident lawyer.
Insurance companies will ask for your health history as they process your claim. If you have a previous injury, they might use it against you in your car accident case and argue that you were more susceptible to a car accident injury because of your pre-existing condition. Under Texas’s eggshell-skull rule, you are still eligible for damages even if you were injured before the vehicle collision. Car accident lawyers will help you navigate this complex situation and challenge the insurance company for you.
Car Insurance Claim Denied
You may assume that your insurance company will always help you after an auto accident — after all, that’s why you pay them. In reality, car accident claims are routinely denied. They may refuse to reimburse you or give you significantly less money for car repairs and injuries than expected. Insurance may dispute your claim because of when you reported the accident or because of exclusions in your insurance policy. You can push back on their decision, and a car accident lawyer will help you through the appeals process.
Fault Is Unclear
In many cases, it’s obvious who’s at fault for a car accident, like an intoxicated driver or one who chooses to run a stop sign. Sometimes, it’s not a cut and dry process, and insurance companies may try to deem you negligent. If a law enforcement officer files an official report after the accident, it may make it clear who’s responsible. But police don’t always determine fault in their write-ups, which leaves it to insurance companies. An insurance company will have an adjuster investigate and research to figure out who should be held liable. Their conclusion may not be in your favor, and if you believe you weren’t at fault, a car accident lawyer will aid you in proving that to your insurance company.
Do I Need A Car Accident Lawyer?
Once you leave the scene of a car accident, you may debate calling a personal injury attorney and wonder if a car accident lawyer will charge you a considerable sum for a consultation. This is a popular misconception. You don’t have to pay a car accident lawyer upfront when you decide to pursue legal action. In truth, you don’t have to pay anything unless you win your case. Car accident lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means they are paid if a lawsuit is successful and you receive a car accident settlement. A personal injury lawyer’s fee is taken from the settlement total. If you don’t win a personal injury lawsuit, you don’t have to pay anything.
A car accident lawyer can make the process less overwhelming. After a car accident, you will have a long list of things to do. If your car is damaged, your insurance company will likely provide you with a rental until repairs are finished, but you’ll need to go car shopping if your vehicle is declared a total loss. You may also be dealing with time missed from work, medical appointments to treat injuries and mental health symptoms due to the trauma of a car crash. Going back and forth with insurance is just one more thing, and car accident lawyers can handle that part for you. It’s also good to remember that a lawyer has expert knowledge of auto insurance and the relevant laws. They know the tricks insurance companies may play to get you to settle for less, and they can make sure you aren’t mistreated.
The Cochran Firm Texas has years of experience fighting for car accident victims. Our team of car accident lawyers can answer your questions, provide support, and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. Life is overwhelming after a motor vehicle accident, but you don’t have to navigate the claim process alone.