Dealing with Insurance Companies After a Car Accident in Texas: Tips from an Experienced Attorney
If another driver is at fault for an accident that injures you or a loved one in Texas, you may be eligible to obtain financial compensation to help with the costs associated with the crash. Generally, the insurance company for the person who caused the accident should cover these damages for a seemingly simple, straightforward solution to your claim.
That said, navigating the process of negotiating with insurance companies following an accident in the Lone Star State can be incredibly challenging for various reasons. This is one of many reasons why it’s crucial that those involved in these accidents understand how to deal with insurers in the aftermath. The best thing you can do to help yourself in this situation is to contact a qualified Texas car accident attorney as soon as possible after your crash.
Required Auto Insurance Coverage in Texas
Texas law mandates that motorists have auto insurance, similar to most states nationwide. A minimum level of liability insurance is required by state law. In the event of an accident, this policy will pay for your medical care, repairs for your car, or a replacement vehicle.
The following are the defined minimums required by the Texas Department of Insurance for liability coverage:
- $30,000 for individual injuries
- $60,000 for multiple injured parties
- $25,000 for property damage
Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance are two additional forms of coverage that insurance companies in Texas must make available to their customers. If you choose not to purchase this coverage, written refusal is required.
Drivers without auto insurance in Texas are subject to fines and other penalties. For instance, if you can't produce proof of insurance during a traffic stop, the initial fine will be between $175 and $350. Drivers who do not carry minimum coverage face penalties of up to $1,000.
How Does Fault Affect Texas Accident Claims?
When it comes to vehicle accident claims, Texas follows the "at-fault" model utilized by several other states. Thus, the party deemed at fault in an accident must pay for the injured party’s medical bills and other accident-related losses.
Tort-based systems are another name for at-fault models. A tort is a civil proceeding (as opposed to a criminal case) in which the person at fault is held accountable (legally responsible) for compensating the claimant (here, the injured party) for monetary losses.
While the driver who causes an accident is usually at fault, another party, such as a vehicle manufacturer, can also share fault sometimes, depending on the root cause of the accident.
From there, an at-fault motorist’s insurance company must compensate victims for their damages under the policy's maximum coverage. Those who are hurt in vehicle crashes typically make a claim with the insurance company of the person who caused the accident and receive compensation directly from the insurer.
Should I Contact My Insurer After a Crash?
If you've been involved in a car accident, even if it wasn't your fault, you must inform your insurance provider as soon as you’ve able to do so. In fact, you risk breaking the terms of your policy if you do not report your accident.
However, use caution when speaking with any insurance provider, even your own. Don't go into extensive detail; just state the facts as you know them and direct any follow-up questions to your attorney.
Dealing with Insurers After a Texas Car Accident
According to our state’s law and information provided by the Texas Department of Insurance, victims of car accidents should take the following actions:
- If someone was hurt or property damage totaled $1,000 or more, call the police.
- Get the other motorist’s contact details, including their name, mailing address, phone number, insurance company, driver's license number, and vehicle registration. Exchange the same details with the other driver(s).
- Find out the name and badge number of the officer conducting the investigation, as well as the officer's contact information.
- Likewise, get in touch with the responding officer and get a copy of the crash report, the official document documenting the details of your vehicle collision.
- Report the accident to your insurance carrier and forward a copy of the police report to your provider.
Moreover, it’s essential that you seek medical care from a qualified professional, even if you believe your injuries are minor. When you get immediate medical attention and follow your healthcare provider’s treatment plan, it will be much easier to move forward with a personal injury claim.
Additionally, make copies and save the original documents that show any and all of your accident-related expenses, such as hospital bills and car repairs.
Communicating with an At-Fault Driver’s Insurer
Many injured victims opt to submit a claim with the insurance company of the negligent motorist. The other driver’s insurance company is then obligated by Texas law to acknowledge receipt of your claim within 15 days.
That said, the at-fault driver’s insurer will often conduct further investigation. Don't be surprised if a representative or adjuster tries to reach out to you in an attempt to get additional details.
It’s essential that victims avoid any communication with the other driver’s insurer before consulting an attorney. The insurance company can use anything and everything you say or write about the accident to either lower your payout or reject your claim altogether.
If the other driver's insurance company approaches you, keep the following tips in mind:
- Don't address or respond to their inquiries.
- Seek the advice of legal counsel without delay.
- If the insurer tries to get in touch with you again, direct them to your attorney.
Settlement Offers After a Texas Car Accident
As mentioned above, according to Texas law, you must hear back from the insurance company representing the negligent motorist within 15 days of filing a claim for damages following an accident. A request for more time (often extended to 45 days) to decide whether to accept or reject a claim must be accompanied by written notification explaining the insurance company's reasoning.
You may be tempted to take the first settlement offer from an insurance company. This is especially true if you have incurred significant damages after a crash, such as exorbitant medical expenses, the loss of vehicle usage without necessary repairs, and lost wages caused by time away from work.
Keep in mind that what appears to be a reasonable settlement offer initially may turn out to be far less than the value of your claim. In addition, once you’ve accepted such an offer, you are not eligible for further compensation, regardless of your actual future expenditures.
So, what should you do if the insurance company of the other motorist makes a settlement offer? Don't discuss the offer by phone. Instead, make sure to request that the insurer provide a written explanation detailing the full scope and details of this offer, and consult an attorney before finalizing a deal.
How to Know When an Insurance Company is Acting in Bad Faith
Unfortunately, to avoid paying a policyholder or any party with a legal claim, an insurance company may act in bad faith. The following are a few behaviors to keep in mind if you suspect an insurer is failing to address or reasonably evaluate your claim:
- Refusing to engage in good faith negotiations with an injured person and their legal representative
- Breaching the terms of an enforceable agreement or settlement
- Not responding to a claim within the required timeframe set by Texas law
- Failing to make a reasonable offer to settle the dispute
- Falsely denying a policyholder's insurance claim
In Texas, policyholders who suspect their insurer of bad faith have any legal recourse. First and foremost, it’s vital to retain the services of a qualified car accident lawyer. And with the help of your attorney, you can lodge a formal complaint against an insurance company through the Texas Department of Insurance.
Working with a Texas Car Accident Lawyer in Insurance Negotiations
After an auto accident, securing legal representation can help you negotiate fairly and effectively with an insurance provider. Your lawyer will communicate with insurers on your behalf, review and improve any settlement proposals, and, if necessary, take further legal action to resolve your case.
With the help of a Texas car accident attorney, you can safeguard your legal rights by dealing with insurance companies without stress and avoiding the pressure of unfair negotiations or settlement offers.
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