Were You Involved in an Automobile Accident?
Looney, Smith & Conrad, Car Accident Lawyers
Since 1995, criminal defense trial attorney Paul Looney has litigated
60 criminal jury trials with zero final convictions
More than 4 people every minute are injured in motor vehicle accidents nationwide. Most accidents are minor and most drivers are insured, but sometimes a car crash can turn into a complicated mess.
Was the other driver uninsured or under insured? Were there multiple cars involved in the accident? Is there disagreement about who was at fault? Is the insurance company denying coverage or compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage and/or pain and suffering?
Responsibilities Before and After an Automobile Accident
Financial Responsibility Laws
Texas requires automobile liability insurance coverage in the minimum amount of $30,000 for each person, $60,000 for each accident and $25,000 for property damage. Alternatively, a surety bond can be filed to prove a person can pay for any damages caused. Liability insurance covers the other driver’s vehicle when the person causing the accident is at fault. If a person wants to insure his or her vehicle, additional coverage is required.
If a person is involved in an accident in Texas, he or she must stop at the scene even if it is only vehicle damage. The cars should be removed to an investigation area so other vehicles have access to the roadway. Assistance needs to be provided to anyone injured and “911” should be called for assistance.
Information needs to be exchanged between drivers including driver’s license and insurance company information. If the accident causes injury or death, or if the vehicle is not drivable, the police must be called. Local officers should be called if the accident occurs within a municipality or the sheriff’s office if it occurred outside a municipality. The Department of Public Safety may also be contacted.
After an Automobile Accident
Insurance companies need information from witnesses including names, telephone numbers, etc. Those involved in the accident need to gather appropriate information and then contact their insurance company as soon as possible. A copy of the accident report should be obtained if there is one, and information given to your insurer. It is against the law to intentionally provide false information about an accident to an insurance company.
Texas Department of Insurance
The Texas Department of Insurance regulates insurance rates and maintains a website that accepts complaints regarding a person’s experience with the insurer. Insurers in Texas use a person’s credit report, the comprehensive loss underwriting exchange (C.L.U.E.) report and the motor vehicle record from the state to determine insurance rates. Insurance agencies often increase rates after an accident, but TDI regulates all rates and insurers must not discriminate. An insurer cannot refuse to renew an insurance policy because of a not-at-fault accident.
Consumer Bill of Rights
The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) requires automobile insurers to provide a copy of the Consumer Bill of Rights with issuance of a policy. The Bill of Rights tells the consumer what information is available about the insurer at the TDI. If a claim is denied after an accident, the insurer must notify the person insured about the reason. The insurance company has to let the insured person know before settling an insurance claim on that policy.
Sometimes it takes more than a quick insurance claim or settlement to resolve car accident cases, especially when car accident injuries are involved. A personal injury lawsuit may need to be filed in civil court, to start the settlement negotiation process and an automobile accident lawyer hired.
Arbitration and Mediation
If a car accident claim cannot be resolved with the other driver’s insurance company, a lawsuit will probably have to be filed. There are, however a few alternatives to court including arbitration and mediation.
Mediation involves voluntarily meeting with a trained mediator who attempts to help the parties resolve their dispute by agreement. The mediator can’t decide the dispute or require either side to do anything.
Arbitration, on the other hand, involves an agreed-upon arbitrator hearing evidence and deciding the dispute in a judge-like manner. Neither arbitration nor mediation can happen unless both parties (the other driver or insurance company) agree.
Another alternative is to file a consumer complaint with the state insurance department. Sometimes this works instead of going to court because insurance companies are licensed and regulated by this department and are generally concerned about complaints they may receive through this agency.
Small Claims Court
Depending on the amount attempting to be recovered, a lawsuit may be able to be filed in small claims court. Since small claims car accident cases are decided by judges and not juries, they get to trial relatively quickly.
Small claims cases have simplified and expedited pre-trial procedures and they are not governed by formal rules of evidence in court, which enables people to represent themselves.
The downside is that there are limits on how much can be claimed in small claims court. The limit in Texas is $10,000.
Regular Civil Court
In Texas, if more than $10,000 is attempting to be gained, the case will go to a regular civil court in the state where the accident happened. This court will be slower, more expensive and governed by more rules than the small claims court.
The general structure of a car accident lawsuit is:
- Case filed in regular civil court;
- Discovery (pre-trial phase) during which the parties, using procedures set up for this purpose, exchange information about the case;
- Trial; and
- Appeal (although it doesn’t happen in most cases)
A lawyer is not required for a lawsuit in regular court but it is a good idea because this court is governed by formal rules of procedure and evidence. A person can be at a major disadvantage when trying to represent himself or herself.
The insurance company will have legal representation for the person being sued. A person representing themselves faces the risk of not following procedural rules resulting in the case not going to trial. Should the case proceed to trial, the self-represented person may be frustrated by unknown evidentiary rules and be unable to prove their case. Either way, the self-represented person loses.
Hiring a Lawyer
The most important qualification for hiring an Automobile Accident Attorney is experience. Hiring an Accident Lawyer who has won a lot of cases in court is important. Look for a personal injury lawyer if a fatality resulted in the accident.
When a decision is made to hire an Accident Attorney, the earlier in the process this is done the better (within a week or two of the injury). This gives the personal injury lawyer time to investigate while the facts are fresh and to help make important initial decisions that will affect the case such as which health care providers to consult.
When you need a Texas Car Crash Lawyer or Truck Crash Lawyer, contact
Looney, Smith & Conrad, P.C. at 281-597-8818 or 979-826-8484 or Text us: 405-388-6191.
Our experienced Texas Car Accident Attorneys and Truck Accident Attorneys are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
We serve Houston, the State of Texas and the entire United States.