By: Anthony J. Milano

Were You Involved in an Auto Accident in the Houston Area?

Hiring a Houston car accident lawyer is not only smart, it’s necessary!  It’s no secret that Houston highways and roads are some of the most dangerous in the U.S. The Houston Chronicle, using federal highway data, concluded that Houston is the “the most deadly major metro area in the nation for driver, passengers, and people in their path.”  A Houston car accident lawyer will handle the insurance claims process and, either through a fair settlement or verdict, and will help you achieve the compensation you deserve. 

Should You Hire a Houston Car Accident Lawyer?

If you were injured and the accident wasn’t your fault, the answer to this question is almost always YES!  Insurance companies are notorious for employing the “three D’s” scheme: DELAY, DENY, DEFEND.  They do their best to delay processing and paying on your claim; they do everything possible to deny your claim; and they defend against your claim all the way to trial and appeal.  This scheme, of course, is designed to maximize the insurance company’s profits.  Hiring an attorney levels the playing field.  The fact is the amount of your compensation from a car accident will, in most cases, be more when you are represented by a car accident attorney than if you were handling your case on your own.  In our experience, before a client hires us, the insurance company will always try to do their best to offer a “nuisance” settlement offer as quickly as possible.  A “nuisance” settlement offer is basically a nominal amount of money (e.g., $500) for your trouble offered to settle the bodily injury portion of your claim and will sometimes include the insurance company paying for a medical bill or two at a reduced rate.  In a “nuisance” offer scenario, insurance adjusters are trained to settle claims for as little as possible and as quickly as possible before the involvement of an attorney. 

How Much Do Car Accident Lawyers Charge?

Car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee basis.  This means that they only get paid when they’re able to get a settlement from the insurance company for your case or when a jury awards a verdict in your favor.  You won’t need to pay the attorney if you lose your case.  This is great news for anyone who has been injured in a car accident and doesn’t have the funds to pay a lawyer up front for their services.  The typical contingency fee ranges anywhere from 33 1/3% to 40% of the gross settlement before a lawsuit is filed and 40% to 45% of the gross settlement/verdict after a lawsuit is filed.  Case expenses such as court filing fees are usually deducted out of the client’s portion of the settlement.

Settlement example:

In this example, let’s say the accident happened when Paula Plaintiff, a 20-year-old college student, was rear-ended by Dexter Defendant.  The accident totaled Paula’s 2010 Honda Accord and Dexter’s 2018 Ford F-150.  Dexter was determined to be 100% at fault for the accident.  Paula was rushed to the emergency room by ambulance to the closest emergency room.  At the emergency room, three CT scans were taken of her head, back, and pelvis.  She was diagnosed with a concussion and whiplash.  The pain in her back and neck persisted, so, she sought treatment with a chiropractor for six weeks.  Additional medical diagnostics were performed, including an MRI of her neck and back.  Moderate sized cervical and lumbar spine disc herniations that caused spinal cord and nerve impingement were found.  She was later referred to an orthopedic surgeon for a consultation.  The orthopedic surgeon recommended Paula receive two epidural steroid injections in her neck and back to alleviate the numbness, pain, and weakness she had been experiencing since the accident.  After she had been released from treatment, Paula’s attorney drafted and sent a demand package to Dexter’s insurance company.  After several rounds of negotiations between Paula’s attorney and Dexter’s insurance company, Paula agreed to settle her case for $120,000.  After Paula’s health insurance had paid for the emergency room visit, she had $10,000 in outstanding medical bills that still needed to be paid.  After all medical bills and case expenses were paid, Paula received a net settlement amount of $69,500.

Total Settlement$120,000.00
Attorney’s Fees (33 1/3%)$40,000.00
Outstanding Medical Bills$10,000.00
Case Expenses$500.00
Net Settlement to Client$69,500.00

How Much is My Car Accident Case Worth?

This is one of the first questions asked by someone injured in a car accident.  I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that no Google search query, online forum, legal website, blog, or online “settlement calculator” can answer this for you.  Each case has its own unique facts.  Insurance companies and juries alike do not use a common formula to calculate the value of each case.  It should be noted that insurance companies do not share their claims and settlement data with anyone outside their own organization.  Each insurance company may use their own database or bodily injury claims software such as Colossus to streamline the settlement process.  Juries, on the other hand, are presented with evidence of damages in trial and are tasked with calculating these figures using their best judgment.

Damages

Both insurance companies and juries value cases based on the amount of “damages” that are proven in a case. “Damages” is a term used in the law for the harm or loss that an injured party suffers as a result of an accident. Recognizable damages according to Texas law include:

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses include those paid out-of-pocket or by your health insurance/Medicaid/Medicaid, and any outstanding medical bills such as an emergency room bill, physical therapy bill, MRI bill, labs bill, or if you paid for pain medication prescriptions out-of-pocket.  Not only are past medical expenses part of recognizable damages, but future medical bills can also be included.  These may include the cost of future surgery recommended by your treating physician.

Lost Wages

Lost wages include the amount of money you lost from taking time off of work dealing with your injuries.  This can include sick and vacation time that you took, as well as the time you took off and weren’t paid.  Lost wage damages also include future lost earnings that will be lost in the future as a result of the injury. 

Physical Pain and Suffering

Past and future physical pain and suffering damages compensates an injured party for the subjective physical pain they’ve endured in the past and will ensure in the future from their injuries.  This can include the muscle pain from a muscle strain or pain from a broken or fractured bone.

Mental or Emotional Pain or Anguish

Mental or emotional pain damages compensates an injured party for the psychological injury that has resulted from the physical injury.  Anguish damages compensates the injured party similarly for the apprehension that results from an injury and all the uncertainties that may follow, such as the fear of injury reoccurrence or susceptibility to a future health condition.

Loss of Consortium / Loss of Companionship & Society

Loss of consortium compensates the injured party’s spouse or children for the loss of services, companionship, and other values the injured party once contributed to the spouse or family.  Loss of consortium can include the loss of household services, support, love, companionship, guidance, society, affection, sexual relations, and solace. Loss of consortium is a “derivative” claim, meaning it piggybacks onto underlying primary injured party claim and belongs solely to the spouse or family member of the injured spouse.

Disfigurement

Disfigurement damages compensates the injured party for the lasting physical scars that are left as a result of the injury.  This can include scars from the accident itself, such as from abrasions, burns, or cuts, or from surgery performed as a result of the injury.

Physical Impairment

Physical impairment damages provides compensation to the injured party for no longer engaging in or enjoying activities that he or she was able to do before the injury.  Most of the time you’ll need a permanent injury to recover physical impairment damages.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Loss of enjoyment of life compensates the injured party for the loss of the ability to engage in certain life activities such as taking part in hobbies, playing with your children, loss of job security, or loss of attending to your domestic and household matters.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are designed to punish the responsible party by paying the injured party money damages, in addition to the above damages (compensatory damages).  Drunk driving accidents are a good example of where this type of compensation is given.

Factors Affecting Case Value

With all of this in mind, there are factors that attorneys, insurance companies, and juries may use to evaluate a case.  These factors include:

  • Location of Accident (Venue)
  • Property Damage
  • Severity of Injuries
  • Medical Treatment
  • Insurance Policy Limits
  • Prior Claims
  • Insurance Company
  • Comparative Negligence
  • Health Insurance/Medicaid/Medicare
  • Plaintiff’s Profile
  • Defendant’s Profile
  • Aggravating Factors

For a more thorough discussion on typical car accident settlements, click here

When Should I Hire an Attorney for a Car Accident?

Usually, if there are no injuries and the damage to your car is minimal, you may be able to handle your case without the help of a car accident lawyer.  However, even in these situations, initially, you may not think you are injured but later symptoms of an injury begin to surface.  It’s always best to play it safe with your health and seek medical attention immediately.  The next step is to call an experienced car accident lawyer for a free consultation.  If you are injured, you should absolutely seek the advice of an attorney.  If your accident concerns any of the following, you should think about hiring a lawyer as soon as possible:

Liability is in Dispute

Many times, determining the party or parties at fault in an accident aren’t so straightforward.  The insurance company has a duty to investigate liability when their insured is accused of being at fault for the accident.  The investigation may include interviewing their insured, interviewing the other parties involved in the accident, and other witnesses to the accident, as well as analyzing the police report, and reviewing the property damage for clues.  Intersection accidents where there is controversy surrounding who failed to yield the right of way is a classic example of how liability can get murky, especially when there aren’t any independent witnesses of the accident.  The insurance company may deny the claim altogether or assign a percentage of fault that places the innocent party in a position where they may not be able to recover 100% of their damages.  This is when hiring an attorney is crucial. 

Commercial Vehicle Accidents

When accidents involving commercial vehicles, such as 18-wheelers, buses, trucks, or vans are involved, devastating injuries or deaths can be quite common.  Preservation of evidence techniques and litigation are almost always required and demand the legal expertise of an experienced commercial vehicle accident lawyer.  Handling these cases on your own is highly inadvisable.

Complex Accident Facts

The countless possibilities of how an accident can occur are as vast as you can imagine.  Several car pileups, chain reaction rear-end accidents, and single-vehicle accidents involving a phantom vehicle are just some of the examples of these types of complex accidents.  The complexities of many accidents require the expertise of a seasoned car accident lawyer to evaluate liability and the legal rights of all parties involved. 

Insurance Company Denied Your Claim

One of the most common of the “three D’s” strategies employed by insurance companies—Denials—are used against car crash victims to limit the number of paid claims.  A Denial is a reason to immediately hire a car accident lawyer.  The insurance company will usually send a letter highlighting the reason(s) for the denial.  There are a variety of reasons that an insurance company will deny a claim.  Some of the most common are:

  • Injured party was 51% or more at fault for the accident (Texas Modified Comparative Negligence applies)
  • “Word against word” where neither party can present objective evidence of the other’s fault
  • Police cited neither party or the wrong party for the accident
  • There was no mechanism for injury (e.g., nominal property damage)
  • Minor impact involving soft tissue injuries only (a.k.a. M.I.S.T.)
  • At-fault driver was an excluded driver on the policy
  • Policy lapsed, expired, or was cancelled
  • At-fault driver was not covered due to a Rideshare policy exclusion
  • Liable party was driving a stolen vehicle and the “permissive use” doctrine applies
  • Suspected fraud

Insurance Company Gave You a Low-Ball Offer

If you decided to handle your car accident injury claim on your own and have been receiving low-ball offers from the insurance company, the next step is to call a car accident lawyer and have them take over the negotiations for you.  Insurance adjusters know when they are dealing with an inexperienced injured party, they can take advantage of the emotional gravity of the situation and easily sway them into agreeing to an unreasonable settlement amount.  They’ll usually try to settle for a nominal cash amount and sometimes agree to pay for some of your past medical bills. 

You Were the Victim of a Hit-and-Run

If you were involved in a hit-and-run accident and you were not able to get any or only minor details of the at-fault party before they fled the scene, hiring a lawyer may be necessary to be properly compensated for the damage done to your car, any injuries you have suffered, and any other damages you may have.

The At-Fault Party Has No Insurance

Just like being the victim of a hit-and-run accident, being hit by a person with no insurance requires the expertise of a car accident lawyer.  An attorney will perform a thorough investigation, searching for any available insurance policies or responsible parties from which compensation can be sought. 

Government Entity At-Fault

When a government entity may be to blame for an accident such as the federal, state, or local government, there are many complexities involved that only a car accident attorney should handle.  Details such as time limitations in which you can bring a claim and other Texas Tort Claims Act provisions can create a precarious situation for the inexperienced injured party.  If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by a government operated vehicle or poorly maintained public road conditions (e.g., potholes, cracks, etc.) or missing/malfunctioning road traffic warning signs and signals, your best option is to call an experienced car accident lawyer.

Crash Caused by Defective Vehicles

There are instances where injuries are the result of car manufacturer defects, such as airbag defects, defective tires, a defective seat belt restraint system, defective brakes, and other vehicle defects.  When an injury occurs that is the result of a defective vehicle component, the only option is to have a lawyer evaluate your case.  The details involved in these types of accidents are far too complex to handle your own.  A team of experts must be properly assembled to investigate whether a defective component existed, determine liable parties, evaluate causation, and calculate the legally recognizable damages involved.

What to Do After a Car Accident

Whether you’ve been injured in a car accident or not, it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your rights. 

Even if you think the damage is minor or don’t immediately feel like you’ve been injured, it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of a Houston car accident lawyer.  If you end up seeking medical treatment for an injury that surfaces later on or the damage to your vehicle ends up being more than you thought, you want to make sure you can document the accident for insurance claim purposes.

1. Seek Medical Attention Immediately

After you’ve been involved in an accident, seek medical attention immediately.  Call 911 and wait for the police and other first responders to arrive.  Your health should be your number one priority at this point.  If the fire department or ambulance arrives, it might be the best thing for you to go. Don’t be cheap and avoid going to the emergency room if you feel like you’ve been injured. Remember, even a minor impact can create substantial injuries.  To rule out any life-threatening conditions such as internal bleeding, broken bones or traumatic brain injuries, it may be smart to go to the emergency room even if you don’t think your injuries are serious.  

If you decide to seek treatment at the emergency room, make sure you’re as thorough as possible in describing any of your symptoms to the emergency room personnel.  If the doctor doesn’t know your symptoms, they won’t be able to properly diagnose and treat you and these complaints will not appear in your emergency room medical records, which can later hurt your case down the road.  Also, always listen to the doctor’s orders. If they recommend that you follow up with your primary care doctor or another healthcare provider, you should always do so.

If you don’t immediately seek medical attention and you are injured, seek treatment as soon as possible.   

2. Know the “Rules of the Road” – What are your Duties under Texas law?

After assessing your overall health and safety, you should know the duties under Texas law after you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident.  Title 7, Subtitle C, Chapter 550 of the Texas Transportation Code (“Rules of the Road”), which applies to accidents on most roads and highways, other than some residential property parking areas or garages/parking lots.

When an accident involves personal injury or death, the parties involved are required to immediately:

  • stop their vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible;
  • return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident;
  • determine whether a person is involved in the accident, and if a person is involved in the accident, whether that person requires aid; and
  • remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of the duty to give information and render aid.
    • This includes giving the operator’s name and address, the registration number of the vehicle the operator was driving, and the name of the operator’s motor vehicle liability insurance to any person injured or the operator or occupant of or person attending a vehicle involved in the collision;
    • if requested and available, show the operator’s driver’s license to any person injured or operator or occupant or person attending a vehicle involved in the collision; and
    • provide any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including transporting or making arrangements for transporting the person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if the injured person requests the transportation. If there are injuries or death of a person or damage to a vehicle to the extent that it cannot be normally and safely driven the duty of the operators of the vehicle involved to immediately alert the police.

Failure to stop or comply with these rules can result in a 2nd degree felony for accidents involving death of a person, 3rd degree felony for accidents involving seriously bodily injury, or up to five years imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or up to one year confinement in the county jail do so can result in jail time, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. 

When an accident only involves only vehicle damage, the parties involved are required to:

  • immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close as possible to the scene of the accident without obstructing traffic more than is necessary;
  • immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident; and
  • remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements to give information and render aid.

If an accident occurs on a main lane, ramp, shoulder, median, or adjacent area of a freeway in a metropolitan area and each vehicle involved can be normally and safely driven, each operator shall move the operator’s vehicle as soon as possible to a designated accident investigation site, if available, a location on the frontage road, the nearest suitable cross street, or other suitable location to give information and render aid, and minimize interference with freeway traffic. Failure to comply with this provision can result in a Class C misdemeanor.

Failure to comply with this provision can result in a Class C misdemeanor, if the damage to all vehicles is less than $200; or a Class B misdemeanor, if the damage to all vehicles is $200 or more.

3. Have a Police Officer Fill Out a Crash Report

Make sure when the police arrive, have them fill out a crash report.  This is an important piece in dealing with your accident claim.  More information about crash reports is below.

What is a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report (CR-3 Form)?

A Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report is a written summary of a motor vehicle crash.  It identifies the time, date, location, the parties involved, the location, identifies witnesses, facts of what happened and may state who was at fault for the accident or at least assumptions based on the officer’s opinion.

It is required that a police officer investigates a vehicle accident and write a Peace Officer’s Crash Report if the accident resulted in injury to or death of a person or if damage to the property of any one person is $1,000 or more. This report must be filed with the department no later than 10 days after the accident.  You can purchase most Texas Crash Reports online here.

If the accident doesn’t immediately involve injury or death or property damage that exceeds $1,000, then you should still fill out a Blue Form Crash Report (CR-2 Form), even though it’s not legally required.  The CR-2 Driver’s Crash Form is for the driver’s records only and, as of September 1, 2017, is no longer turned in or retained by the Texas Department of Transportation. Drivers involved in a crash not investigated by a peace officer should retain this form for their records and fill them out as soon as possible so not to fail to put any important details that may be forgotten from passage of time.  You can download the CR-2 Form here.

Important: if you’re immediately taken to the emergency room after an accident without giving the officer your statement, it’s in your best interest that you call an attorney as soon as you can.  Often times when only one party gives their statement, the officer may side with that party if there are no other witnesses or other evidence. This can damage your case.  You’ll need an attorney to contact the officer and discuss the facts with him or her to clarify who was at fault.

4. Gather Evidence

Take as many pictures as you can of the scene.  We now have the best tool to document every important event in our lives—the smartphone.  Most of us have an iPhone or some other smartphone that has a high-resolution camera. Use it.  Take pictures of the road, your car, the other driver’s car and any injuries that you may see after, even minor ones, such as bruises, cuts, and scratches. Also, take pictures of the other party’s driver’s license, license plate, insurance card, and registration, as well as the surrounding area buildings, traffic signals/signs (speed limit signs), lighting, road conditions (e.g., skid-marks, potholes, debris, rain, ice, etc.), security cameras, and traffic light cameras. Document witnesses that may have witnessed the accident and make sure the police interviews them and gets their contact information, if they have not done so.  If the police do not get a statement from any witnesses, make sure you or your attorney interviews them as quickly as possible.  If the insurance company gets a statement from them first, there’s a possibility that their statement of the facts may be influenced by the interviewer (e.g., insurance adjuster).

Also, make sure you document any other damage to property besides your car that resulted from the accident, such as damage to your cell phone or other personal property within the passenger compartment or trunk.  If you replace these items with your own money, save your receipts in order to submit them to the insurance company for reimbursement.  Also, try to document how the accident happened by writing what happened in your phone’s notes.  Note whether the other driver may have been speeding, texting while driving, was distracted or may have been drunk or high.  Make sure to document whether the accident happened in a construction zone or school zone.  This will be a good reference in staying consistent when telling your side of the story to the police, your attorney, or the insurance company.

5. Limit Your Conversation with the Other Party

Limit your conversation with the other driver, drivers, or parties just to checking on their physical well-being. You can ask them if they are OK. Do not accept fault or place blame on the other party or get emotional or hostile. Remain calm and let the police handle interviewing the parties involved.  There will be time to give your side of the story.

6. Keep Track of Your Damaged Vehicle

If your vehicle was disabled as a result of the accident, make sure you know exactly where your vehicle is being stored.  The towing company will usually give you a card that has this information.  If you were taken to the emergency room by ambulance immediately after the accident and don’t know where your case was towed, call the police department that arrived on the scene of the accident.  Find out more about towing and storage here.  This information will also be in the crash report. You can download your crash report online here or find out how to get your crash reports below:

7. Open a Claim with the Insurance Company

Information that You’ll Need to Open a Claim

First of all, it is highly recommended that you contact a lawyer before speaking to any insurance company, especially if you are injured.  But, if you want to risk it alone, keep reading.  You should know that most insurance companies bifurcate auto claims into two distinct sub-claims for internal processing purposes: property damage (vehicle damage) and bodily injury.   Before you call to open a claim, you should have as much of the information in front of you as possible.  Obtain and review your crash report, review your notes, pictures, and any other evidence you gathered after the accident.  You want to be well prepared to answer questions as consistently as possible.  Most information that you’ll need with be on the crash report.  When setting up the claim, you’ll call the auto claims number and a claims representative will answer.  They are usually open 24 hours, so, you can open a claim any hour of the day.  The claims representative will ask you general biographical information of the parties involved, including names, addresses, dates of birth, vehicle information, vehicle identification numbers, driver’s licenses and plate numbers, as well as the date, time, and location of the accident.  In regard to the property damage, they will also ask you where the vehicles are located (i.e., storage lot) and to describe the damage that was done.  Most importantly, they will also ask you how the accident happened.  Remember that they will be looking for any indication of fault.  So, be well-prepared, concise, and brief.  Next, they will ask you if anyone was injured.  Be very careful how you answer them.  To illustrate, let’s assume the accident just happened one hour ago, your adrenaline is still pumping, and you don’t feel any injuries at all.  You may be tempted to say you’re not injured and feel fine.  If you haven’t contacted a lawyer yet, you should defer to answering any questions regarding injuries to after you’ve had an opportunity to calmly assess your condition.  If you haven’t seen a doctor yet, you don’t know if you’re injured.  You may wake up in the morning feeling stiff and sore.  Don’t chance it. 

Once the claim is set up, they will assign a claim number and, in most cases, assign a claims adjuster immediately.  Write down all this information in your notes.  You’ll need this information when communicating with the insurance company.  Keep in mind that when you call the insurance company, they record their conversations.  So, be careful what you say whenever you talk to them.  For your convenience, we have provided the ten largest insurance companies claims department contact information below.  If your accident happened in the Houston-area, it’s likely that these are the offices that will be handling them:

State Farm Claims:Geico Claims:
P.O. Box 106171P.O. Box 509105
Atlanta, GA 30348San Diego, CA 92150
P: 844-292-8615P: 800-207-7847
F: 855-820-6318F: 214-442-5164
Allstate Claims:Progressive Claims:
P.O. Box 66063617950 Preston Road, #400
Dallas, TX 75266Dallas, TX 75252
P: 800-255-7828P: 800-776-4737
F: 866-447-4293F: 713-465-1504
Liberty Mutual (Safeco) Claims:USAA Claims:
P.O. Box 515097P.O. Box 5000
Los Angeles, CA 90051Daphne, AL 36526
P: 800-225-2467P: 800-531-8669
F: 603-334-8181F: 800-531-8877
Farmers Claims:American Family Claims:
P.O. Box 2689946000 American Parkway
Oklahoma City, OK 73126Madison, WI 53783
P: 800-435-7764P: 800-692-6326
F: 877-217-1389F: 866-912-5328
Nationwide Claims:Travelers Claims:
P.O. Box 182068P.O. Box 650293
Columbus, OH 43218Dallas, TX 75265
P: 800-421-3535P: 800-235-3610
F: 888-669-7698F: 877-749-0075

Opening a Claim with Your Own Insurance Company

It’s at this stage that having an attorney may be crucial.  Communicating with the other driver’s insurance company or your own, can quickly turn disastrous. If you open a personal injury protection (PIP) or uninsured / underinsured (UM/UIM) claim with your own insurance company, keep in mind that your relationship immediately becomes adversarial.  You may think that because you’ve been a good customer for several years by paying your premium on time and not filing any claims that they are on your side when you need them.  Well, insurance companies are for-profit businesses first and they will do their best to delay, deny, and reduce the amount of claims paid out to maximize their profits.  It’s nothing personal, just business.  It is highly recommended that you contact a lawyer prior to speaking to your own insurance company.  If you choose to go it alone, be extremely cautious when communicating with your own insurance company.  They may use your words against you to deny or delay your claim.  In most UM/UIM claims, they will require a recorded statement from you.  There is usually a provision in your policy that mandates a recorded statement be taken and is required when filing an UM/UIM claim.  It is always suggested that you lawyer up prior to giving any statements.  If you want to handle the claim yourself, be extremely prepared and review the suggestions above.

Opening a Claim with the Other Party’s Insurance Company

When the other party’s insurance company asks for a recorded or “off the record” statement, NEVER give it to them.  It is almost never required that you give a statement to the other party’s insurance company.  No matter what the insurance company tells you, do not give them a statement.  No matter what they tell you, they will make their liability determination without your statement by interviewing their insured, any witnesses, reviewing the crash report, investigating the scene of the accident and any other evidence. 

If you did give the insurance company a statement, not all is lost.  If you told them you felt fine and now are feeling like you are injured, it’s not too late to claim an injury.  There are several reasons why you may have told them you weren’t injured:

  • Latent Injury: Certain injuries have a way of surfacing hours or days after a car accident.  Particularly, sprains and strains of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments (i.e., soft tissue injuries).  Initially, after the accident, you may not feel any different due to the body’s “fight or flight” response to trauma but may wake up the next morning in pain. 
  • Not Seriously Injured: When the insurance may have asked you if you were injured, you assumed they meant a serious injury.  Many people have a misunderstanding when they are asked if they are injured after a car accident.  They may think by “injured” the insurance company means, are you bleeding profusely, have a broken bone, or severe head injury.  Injuries come in all levels of severity.  Some are life-threatening, like a traumatic brain injury. Some are moderate, like a fractured rib.  Some are minor, like a sprained muscle.  However, all require medical treatment.
  • Financial Reasons: You may feel that since you didn’t seek immediate medical attention due to economic reasons, the insurance company won’t believe you were injured.  The fact is people may feel apprehensive about seeking medical treatment even if they feel injured because they do not have health insurance or any money to pay for medical bills.  The bottom line is if you feel injured either before or after speaking with the insurance company, it’s not too late to seek medical treatment.  Your health always comes first. 
  • Aggravation of a Preexisting Injury: You may think it’ll be too difficult to distinguish between the existing injury and the aggravation of your preexisting injury.  Keep in mind if your condition was made worse by the accident, the responsible party is liable for your damages (e.g., medical bills).

8. Get Consistent Medical Treatment

If you were injured, it’s very important to get consistent medical treatment.  There are two main reasons why you want consistent medical treatment: number one, your health.  Inconsistent medical treatment will only delay the healing process.  Ignoring your health only leads to even further medical problems.  Number two, it helps your case.  Gaps in treatment will only hurt your injury case and lower your potential settlement amount.  When insurance companies see that you haven’t been consistent with your medical treatment, they may think you are not as injured as you claim.  Logically, if someone is in pain, they will do anything possible to feel better.  Ignoring doctor’s orders and missing appointments shows that you may be exaggerating your injuries. Of course, no one likes going to the doctor, but without consistent treatment you’re setting your case back.

Remember to keep track of all your medical treatment.  Keep a file for all your medical bills, records, prescriptions, and receipts for medical expenses that you paid out-of-pocket.

9. Limit Your Communication with the Insurance Company

If you haven’t hired a lawyer, the insurance company will attempt to frequently communicate with you by phone, e-mail, and mail.  They may offer to pay some of your medical bills and something on top of that for your trouble.  If they get you on the phone, try not to disclose too much information on your injuries.  They will do their best to catch you off guard and prove inconsistencies in your statements. 

Insurance companies will always send medical authorizations to you in the mail for you to sign.  Do not sign any medical authorization without first discussing your case with a lawyer.  Giving them access to all your medical records is a recipe for disaster. 

Also, be very careful in discussing your case with the insurance adjuster.  Do not sign anything agreeing to settle your case, until you’ve consulted with a lawyer.  This includes settling your property damage claim when you have a pending bodily injury claim open.  They may have you sign a release with you assuming that it’s only for the property damage part of your case but is an all-inclusive release of claims for both your property damage and your bodily injury.  This includes checks that they send you.  Cashing a check that indicates it’s a settlement for all claims, will have the same effect of signing a release.  Additionally, verbal agreements are just as good as written ones in Texas.  According to a case, Windell Gilbert v. Cherish Fitz, the Dallas Court of Appeals held that where an accident victim agreed to a verbal settlement of his medical bills from the accident plus $500, he was bound to that agreement.  Be very careful discussing your case over the phone with an adjuster.

10. Get a Free Consultation with a Lawyer Before Making Any Decisions

Throughout the insurance claims process, there will be many decisions to be made about your case.  Don’t be hasty.  Even small decisions can greatly impact your case.  Most car accident lawyers will give you a free consultation to discuss your case with them.  Even if you decide not to hire them, you can at least get advice on how to properly handle your claim. 

What if I’m at Fault for an Accident?

If you were at-fault for the accident, your liability insurance coverage will cover the other driver’s or injured party’s medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage and other losses.  In Texas, the liability minimum coverage, if you injured the other driver or party is $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident.  The liability minimum coverage for property damage is $25,000.  The property damage limits include repair or replacement of the other driver’s vehicle, towing and storage fees, rental car coverage, and any other repair or replacement of property that was damaged in the accident (e.g., passenger compartment contents, fences, signs, trees, buildings, etc.). Of course, you can always buy more than the minimum coverage, such as $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident and $50,000 in property damage liability coverage, and that is highly recommended to protect your assets, if the other party chooses to sue you. If you were the at-fault party, your vehicle is damaged or totaled, and you have “full coverage” or collision coverage, you’ll want to file a claim with your insurance company to repair or replace your vehicle.  Remember, if you use this coverage, there is a deductible (usually $500 to $1,000) that needs to be paid, which will need to be paid after the repair shop finishes repairing your vehicle or will be deducted from the amount paid to you to replace your vehicle if it’s totaled. Collision coverage covers damage to your vehicle from a collision with another vehicle or other object while operating it.

If you weren’t the at-fault party, and especially if you’re injured, it is highly recommended that you hire a personal injury attorney to handle your case.  Filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company or your own insurance company, if the at-fault party doesn’t have insurance can be very tricky.  It is recommended that you do not talk to the responsible party’s insurance company at all.  They will attempt to call you and send you letters to get information from you that they’ll likely use against you.  Remember, the insurance adjusters are not your friend even as nice as they can be while talking to you.  They will do anything they can to avoid paying your claim.  Avoid talking to the other driver’s insurance company and DO NOT let them do a recorded statement with you.  If the other driver does not have insurance and you use your own uninsured motorist coverage to cover your bodily injury or property damage, they may require that you give a statement. 

Many times, insurance companies will take their time investigating a claim when the parties do not respond to their requests for statements on how the accident occurred.  This can be frustrating. If you feel that you can handle your own case, it’s important to be as brief as possible and only give the facts of the accident. Tell the truth. Try not to speculate as to what happened and be consistent in telling your side to the story (refer back to your notes, as mentioned above). Be very brief and general in discussing your injuries, if you do not hire a lawyer. Since we aren’t trained medical professionals, it’s difficult to properly express our treatment status or injuries. It’s best to let the insurance company evaluate records from healthcare professionals in order to evaluate your claim.  Remember it’s the insurance adjuster’s job to pay as little as possible in any bodily injury or property damage claim. Also, keep in mind that if you accept an offer verbally from the adjuster, it’s binding. 

When Should I Get an Attorney for a Car Accident?

You Are Injured

Usually, if there are no injuries and the damage to your car is minimal, you may be able to handle your case without the help of a car accident lawyer.  However, even in these situations, initially, you may not think you are injured but later symptoms of an injury begin to surface.  It’s always best to play it safe with your health and seek medical attention immediately.  The next step is to call an experienced car accident lawyer for a free consultation.  If you are injured, you should absolutely seek the advice of an attorney. 

Liability is in Dispute

Many times, determining the party or parties at fault in an accident aren’t so straightforward.  The insurance company has a duty to investigate liability when their insured is accused of being at fault for the accident.  The investigation may include interviewing their insured, interviewing the other parties involved in the accident, and other witnesses to the accident, as well as analyzing the police report, and reviewing the property damage for clues.  Intersection accidents where there is controversy surrounding who failed to yield the right of way is a classic example of how liability can get murky, especially when there aren’t any independent witnesses of the accident.  The insurance company may deny the claim altogether or assign a percentage of fault that places the innocent party in a position where they may not be able to recover 100% of their damages.  This is when hiring an attorney is crucial. 

Commercial Vehicle Accident

When accidents involving commercial vehicles, such as 18-wheelers, buses, trucks, or vans are involved, devastating injuries or deaths can be quite common.  Preservation of evidence techniques and litigation are almost always required and demand the legal expertise of an experienced commercial vehicle accident lawyer.  Handling these cases on your own is highly inadvisable.

Complex Accident Facts

The countless possibilities of how an accident can occur are as vast as you can imagine.  Several car pileups, chain reaction rear-end accidents, and single-vehicle accidents involving a phantom vehicle are just some of the examples of these types of complex accidents.  The complexities of many accidents require the expertise of a seasoned car accident lawyer to evaluate liability and the legal rights of all parties involved. 

Insurance Company Denied Your Claim

One of the most common of the “three D’s” strategies employed by insurance companies—Denials—are used against car crash victims to limit the number of paid claims.  A Denial is a reason to immediately hire a car accident lawyer.  The insurance company will usually send a letter highlighting the reason(s) for the denial.  There are a variety of reasons that an insurance company will deny a claim.  Some of the most common are:

  • Injured party was 51% or more at fault for the accident (Texas Modified Comparative Negligence applies)
  • “Word against word” where neither party can present objective evidence of the other’s fault
  • Police cited neither party or the wrong party for the accident
  • There was no mechanism for injury (e.g., nominal property damage)
  • Minor impact involving soft tissue injuries only (a.k.a. M.I.S.T.)
  • At-fault driver was an excluded driver on the policy
  • Policy lapsed, expired, or was cancelled
  • At-fault driver was not covered due to a Rideshare policy exclusion
  • Liable party was driving a stolen vehicle and the “permissive use” doctrine applies
  • Suspected fraud

Insurance Company Gave You a Low-Ball Offer

If you decided to handle your car accident injury claim on your own and have been receiving low-ball offers from the insurance company, the next step is to call a car accident lawyer and have them take over the negotiations for you.  Insurance adjusters know when they are dealing with an inexperienced injured party, they can take advantage of the emotional gravity of the situation and easily sway them into agreeing to an unreasonable settlement amount.  They’ll usually try to settle for a nominal cash amount and sometimes agree to pay for some of your past medical bills. 

You Were the Victim of a Hit-and-Run

If you were involved in a hit-and-run accident and you were not able to get any or only minor details of the at-fault party before they fled the scene, hiring a lawyer may be necessary to be properly compensated for the damage done to your car, any injuries you have suffered, and any other damages you may have.

The At-Fault Part Has No Insurance

Just like being the victim of a hit-and-run accident, being hit by a person with no insurance requires the expertise of a car accident lawyer.  An attorney will perform a thorough investigation, searching for any available insurance policies or responsible parties from which compensation can be sought. 

Government Entity At-Fault

When a government entity may be to blame for an accident such as the federal, state, or local government, there are many complexities involved that only a car accident attorney should handle.  Details such as time limitations in which you can bring a claim and other Texas Tort Claims Act provisions can create a precarious situation for the inexperienced injured party.  If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused by a government operated vehicle or poorly maintained public road conditions (e.g., potholes, cracks, etc.) or missing/malfunctioning road traffic warning signs and signals, your best option is to call an experienced car accident lawyer.

Crash Caused by Defective Vehicles

There are instances where injuries are the result of car manufacturer defects, such as airbag defects, defective tires, a defective seat belt restraint system, defective brakes, and other vehicle defects.  When an injury occurs that is the result of a defective vehicle component, the only option is to have a lawyer evaluate your case.  The details involved in these types of accidents are far too complex to handle your own.  A team of experts must be properly assembled to investigate whether a defective component existed, determine liable parties, evaluate causation, and calculate the legally recognizable damages involved.

How Common are Texas Car Accidents?

Although most of us are aware that car accidents occur far too often, many motorists are still surprised to learn just how common car accidents actually are in Texas. In fact, the Texas Department of Transportation estimates that around 14,282 serious injury crashes occurred in the state in 2017 alone. The statistics for non-serious injury crashes are even more alarming, with the Department of Transportation estimating that as many as 254,415 people were injured in car accidents in the same year, which breaks down to:

  • One reportable collision occurring every 59 seconds; and
  • One reportable car accident-related injury occurring every two minutes and four seconds.

Tragically, these accidents resulted in the untimely deaths of 3,727 motorists, passengers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.

Types of Car Accidents

At Milano Legal Group Accident Attorneys, our team has experience handling cases based on a wide range of different types of car accidents, including:

  • T-bone collisions, in which one vehicle strikes another broadside and usually occur in intersections;
  • Head-on collisions, which tend to be particularly dangerous, as they involve two vehicles striking each other head-on and almost always occur at high speeds;
  • Single-vehicle accidents, in which a driver collides with another object or runs off the road, either due to mechanical failure, driving while intoxicated, or falling asleep at the wheel;
  • Rear-end crashes, which occur when the front end of one vehicle strikes the rear portion of another vehicle and often result in head and neck-related injuries;
  • Rollover accidents, in which a vehicle flips over, usually as a result of mechanical failure, unsafe roads, or negligent driving;
  • Sideswipe crashes, which occur when one vehicle scrapes alongside another vehicle and tend to result in few injuries, but significant property damage; and
  • Hit and run accidents, in which a vehicle strikes another car or person and immediately leaves the scene of the crash.

Although all of these types of accident can end up causing serious injuries, head-on collisions, t-bone crashes, and rollover accidents tend to result in the most severe injuries, costing victims thousands of dollars in medical bills and property damage.

Hit and Run Accidents

Of the many types of accidents in which drivers and pedestrians can be involved, hit and run crashes tend to be some of the most frustrating, as recovering compensation in these kinds of cases is often more difficult.

Ultimately, how much and from whom an injured party can recover in hit and run accident cases depends in large part on whether:

  • The at-fault driver struck a parked car;
  • The at-fault driver collided with another vehicle; or
  • The at-fault motorist struck a cyclist or pedestrian.

In all of these situations, Texas law requires drivers to take certain steps, including:

  • Immediately stopping their vehicle at or returning to the scene of the accident;
  • Obtaining medical attention for any injured parties; and
  • Remaining at the scene of the accident until emergency personnel have arrived.

Drivers who fail to abide by these rules could face criminal penalties in addition to being required to compensate injured parties for their medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, disability, pain and suffering, and property damage.

Common Car Accident Injuries

The kinds of injuries that car accident victims often sustain depends on a number of factors, including the parties’ ages and general health, the type of collision in question, the number of vehicles involved in the crash, and the speed at which the cars were traveling prior to the accident.

There are, however, certain types of injuries that tend to crop up again and again in car accident cases, including: concussions, whiplash, broken bones, lacerations, nerve damage, and emotional distress.

If you sustained one of these, or another type of car accident injury, please call our legal team today to learn more about recovering compensation for your losses.

Contact Experienced Houston Car Accident Lawyers Today

To speak with an experienced Houston auto accident attorney about recovering compensation for your own collision-related injuries, please contact Milano Legal Group Accident Attorneys via phone or online message today.