After you have a car accident, you may find yourself making a car accident claim and pursuing a car accident settlement. Many people confuse the two, but they’re basically just different steps in the process: generally, a claim comes before a settlement. Your Bryan, TX and Hempstead, TX car accident attorney can tell you more about the process as it relates to your specific case.
Car Accident Claims
A car accident claim is the formal request you make to an insurance company to cover the damages resulting from a car accident. In Texas, which is an at-fault state, you’ll be making the claim to the insurance company of the driver who bears primary responsibility for causing the accident and your injuries. The damages you claim can be for both physical injuries and property damages.
How the Claim Process Works
After an accident, the victim typically contacts the insurance provider of the party they believe is at fault. Upon contact, an insurance adjuster is assigned to assess the details of the accident. The adjuster will review all the evidence, which may include medical reports, witness statements, the police report, and any photographs of the damage. Their role is to determine how much, if anything, their insurance company should pay.
Determining Fault in Texas
Texas follows a “modified comparative fault” rule. This means if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you’re barred from recovering any damages. However, if you’re deemed less at fault than the other driver, you can recover damages, but the compensation gets reduced by your percentage of fault. This means that if you’re considered 20% responsible for the accident, and your damages amount to $50,000, you would only see $40,000 after your percentage of fault was removed.
As you can imagine, it’s in the insurance company’s best interests to assert that you bear fault for the accident, and as much as possible. This is just one reason it’s important to have a skilled lawyer on your side: someone with experience in dealing with the sometimes underhanded tactics of the insurance companies.
What Happens Next
In some rare cases, the insurance company might just pay your claim as requested, once the adjuster has investigated the accident. However, insurance companies will frequently overlook things like ongoing therapy expenses, future medical expenses, or loss of income, and they often minimize noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering. It’s important to make your claim with the help of a lawyer who can make sure you haven’t missed anything in your claim.
If you make a claim and the insurance company won’t pay a fair amount, then you would go on to the next step, which is to file a lawsuit. When you hear “lawsuit,” you probably think of going to court, but most cases are actually decided out of court in a “settlement.”
Car Accident Settlements
A car accident settlement is an agreement between the parties involved in the accident, usually made after a period of negotiation. This agreement involves one party paying the other an agreed-upon sum to cover damages, in exchange for the injured party agreeing to drop any further legal action related to the accident.
Why Would Someone Opt for a Settlement?
Settlements are often pursued because they can be quicker and less expensive than going through a court trial. Legal proceedings can be time-consuming and costly, for both parties, and a settlement provides a more immediate resolution for all involved. Even if a case seems to have solid evidence, juries and judges can be unpredictable. Your lawyer will be able to tell you the best choice for your situation.
Factors That Influence Settlement Amounts
Assessment of Damages
Damages include both economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages are easily quantifiable because they come with receipts and other paperwork attached. Examples of economic damage include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, cover pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium, which are subjective and vary from one case to another.
Strength of Evidence
The clearer it is that the other party was at fault, the more likely they or their insurance company will be to offer a higher settlement. Strong evidence, such as clear accident reports, witness testimonies, and medical records, strengthens your position in negotiations. Your attorney will know where to find the evidence you need and will help you present it in the strongest possible light.
Insurance policies come with limits. No matter how severe the damages, insurance companies won’t pay out more than the policy’s maximum limit. If you’ve suffered significant losses, you need to find out about these limits quickly, as you might need to seek additional avenues for compensation if the at-fault party’s regular insurance policy doesn’t cover all your expenses.
Skill of Your Legal Representation and Experience
Having competent legal representation is a non-negotiable for a successful settlement negotiation process. Attorneys who know Texas accident law will be able to accurately value your claim and advocate effectively for you, ensuring you receive fair compensation.
Threat of Litigation
If an insurance company believes the injured party isn’t afraid to go to court, and they see that the injured party has a strong case, they will be more inclined to offer a better settlement to avoid a court trial. Conversely, if they believe the injured party has a weak case, they might offer a lower amount or resist settling.
When Settlements Can’t Be Reached
If settlement negotiations reach an impasse, you might opt to file a lawsuit. This legal action is a formal request for a court to decide on the compensation you’re owed. However, this is a more extended, and often more demanding process than pursuing a settlement.
While a lawsuit can yield higher compensation, especially if your case is strong, it also means incurring more fees and potentially waiting years for a resolution. Additionally, there’s the emotional and mental toll of preparing for and attending court hearings. Most personal injury cases settle out of court for these reasons. However, there are times when an insurance company simply refuses to do the right thing, and you may have no choice but to take them to court.
Understanding Texas’s Statute of Limitations
In Texas, you usually have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage. There are some exceptions, and if a government entity is responsible for your injury, the timeline is even shorter. Missing this deadline might mean forfeiting your right to pursue compensation through the courts, so always get a lawyer as soon as possible.
Get Help for Your Car Accident Settlement in Bryan, TX and Hempstead, TX
Car accident claims initiate the process of seeking compensation for your losses, while settlements offer a resolution that’s quicker and more certain than taking a case to trial. However, if a fair agreement can’t be reached, the courts are an avenue for justice. If you or someone you know has been in a car accident in Texas, you’re not alone in making your claims. Contact Brian C. Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer. Brain has years of experience in car accident claims, settlements, and trials and will help you win the justice you deserve.