Texas insurance laws are supposed to protect all drivers by requiring everyone to carry sufficient insurance to compensation injured parties after serious accidents. Unfortunately, some people refuse to get insurance, can’t afford it, or simply don’t care. Is there any hope for your Caldwell, TX or Buffalo, TX car accident settlement when the other party isn’t insured? There is, if you work with an experienced car accident lawyer.
5 Things to Do if You Were Hit By an Uninsured Driver
1. Contact a Lawyer to Protect Your Legal Rights
Texas operates under a “fault” system, which means the party found to be responsible for the accident is liable for damages. In situations where the at-fault driver lacks insurance, victims can potentially pursue compensation through their own insurance policy if they have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. If you’re facing medical bills, repair costs, or other losses from an accident with an uninsured driver, though, consulting a lawyer is always a wise first step, even if you have UM coverage.
If you do not have UM coverage or if it’s insufficient to cover your damages, you might consider filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In some cases, there might also be another liable party: this could be anyone from a mechanic who didn’t properly deal with a repair to one of the cars to a government entity that failed to fix a known road hazard in a timely fashion. Your lawyer will know all the possible avenues to explore.
2. Review and Save All Documents and Records
If you or your passengers receive medical attention following the accident, it’s essential to keep a comprehensive record of treatments, medications, and any other related expenses. Save all correspondences, documents, bills, and receipts related to the accident. This can be invaluable not only for legal proceedings but also for personal reference. Having a chronological account of events and actions can simplify future discussions related to the accident, too.
3. Concentrate on Recovery
Don’t neglect doctor’s appointments, do anything that might exacerbate your injury (especially against medical advice), or fail to attend all follow-up appointments. If you’re careful to prioritize your recovery, this not only demonstrates the reality and extent of your injury but also protects you from an insurance company or the other driver claiming you weren’t injured as badly as you claim. You want to be able to demonstrate your good faith attempts to do everything possible to mitigate your injuries.
4. Don’t Accept Quick Settlement Offers
After the accident, you might receive a quick settlement offer, especially if you’ve claimed against your UM or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. While settling can be tempting, especially if bills are piling up, it’s crucial not to rush into this step. You must ensure any settlement covers all potential costs, including those that might arise in the future, so be sure to talk with your attorney before signing anything.
5. Don’t Discuss the Accident Except With Your Attorney
For the best possible outcome in a car accident settlement, it’s always wise not discuss your injuries or case with anyone but your car accident attorney, and, if you need to, a professional counselor bound by doctor/patient confidentiality rules. Don’t make comments on social media or to friends, which the opposing party may use against you. Don’t speak with the other party without your attorney present.
Remember, however, that your attorney is bound by attorney/client privilege and will always act in your best interest, so be sure to discuss everything with them.
Steps to Expect in a Caldwell, TX or Buffalo, TX Car Accident Settlement
1. Claim Process and Negotiations
After the accident, you will need to initiate a claim with your insurance company if you have Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. This involves contacting them, providing an account of the accident, and submitting necessary documentation, such as the police report, photographs, medical records, and more.
Your insurance company will then launch an investigation into the claim. They may assign an adjuster to handle your case. This adjuster will review the documentation, possibly visit the accident scene, consult with repair shops about vehicle damage costs, and may even interview witnesses. Once the investigation is complete, the insurance company will typically present a settlement offer based on their assessment of the accident and the damages incurred. This amount might not always reflect the true extent of your costs and losses, especially future medical expenses or lost wages. If it doesn’t, you’ll move on to the next stage.
This phase often requires back-and-forth discussions between you and the insurance company in a bid to reach a mutually acceptable compensation amount. Your attorney will be instrumental here, using evidence to justify a higher settlement and ensuring your rights are upheld. Most car accidents settlements are dealt with at this stage, but in some cases, negotiations do fail, and it may be necessary to go to court.
3. Initiating a Lawsuit
If negotiations fail, the next step is to formally file a complaint against the uninsured driver, or possibly even your own insurance company if they aren’t fulfilling their obligations relative to your UM coverage. This complaint will outline the reasons for the lawsuit and the compensation you’re seeking. After filing the complaint, the uninsured driver or insurance company (now the defendant) must be officially notified of the lawsuit and will have time to respond.
Both sides are then allowed to request evidence from the other. This could be in the form of documents, photos, or any other pertinent information. There may also be depositions at this stage, which are sworn, out-of-court testimonies where witnesses, including the involved parties, provide their accounts and can be questioned by attorneys from both sides.
4. Settlement Discussions
Before heading to trial, both parties may agree to mediation, a structured process where a neutral third-party (the mediator) assists them in reaching a potential settlement. While the mediator guides the discussions, they don’t have the authority to impose a decision, so both sides have to agree to a settlement or the case will proceed to court. However, most personal injury cases are settled, either in the negotiation stage or at this stage.
Trials in these cases do happen, though they are rarer than settlements. If your case goes to trial, each side will introduce their evidence, and the other side can then challenge that evidence and attempt to refute it. Once all evidence is presented, both sides will give closing arguments designed to convince the court of the merits of their case. The court will pronounce a verdict.
6. Judgment and Collection
If the court rules in your favor, the uninsured driver is legally obligated to compensate you. However, collecting that judgment can be challenging, especially if the driver lacks the financial means to pay, which is often the case. Your attorney can guide you on potential collection methods, which may include wage garnishment or property liens.
7. Potential Appeals
If either party is dissatisfied with the trial’s outcome, they may appeal the decision to a higher court. An appeal reviews the legal aspects of the case, not the factual evidence. Your lawyer can explain more about appeals in the context of your case.
Taking the Next Step
If you need legal guidance from an expert in Texas law, contact Brian C. Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer right away. He works personally on every case to get each client the maximum compensation for their injuries and losses.