Personal Injury

How To Deal With Insurance Companies After A Car Accident In Texas

Car accident attorneys explain what to do

If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident caused by another driver in Texas, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your accident-related expenses. In most cases, that money will come from the insurance company representing the at-fault driver.

This might sound straightforward. But the reality is dealing with insurance companies after an accident in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio or another city in Texas can be very complicated for many different reasons. That’s why it’s critical that you know how the insurance system works and what your rights are in Texas. Otherwise, you might not get the money you rightfully deserve after your accident.

How does car insurance work in Texas?

As in most states, all drivers in Texas are required to have car insurance. The state requires drivers to have a certain minimum amount of liability insurance. This type of insurance covers medical bills, car repairs or the cost of replacing your car, and other accident-related expenses.

According to the Texas Department of Insurance, the state minimums for liability insurance are:

  • $30,000 per person for injury-related expenses.
  • $60,000 for two or more people for injury-related expenses.
  • $25,000 per accident for property damage.

Insurance companies in Texas are required by law to offer two other types of insurance to drivers – personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance. If you do not want PIP insurance or UM/UIM insurance, you must decline in writing. You can read more about both types of insurance as well as other types of insurance available to drivers in Texas below.

Texas drivers who do not have car insurance can be fined or face other penalties. The initial fine for not having car insurance is $175 to $350 if a police officer stops a driver and they cannot provide proof of insurance. Subsequent fines can be as high as $1,000 for drivers without proof of car insurance.

What types of insurance are available in Texas?

Along with liability coverage, Texas drivers can choose to have several other types of additional car insurance. The different types of insurance available to drivers include:

  • Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance – Financial compensation for your medical expenses and 80 percent of lost wages, regardless of who was at fault in the accident.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance – Compensation for accidents caused by drivers without insurance or who are underinsured. The minimum amount of UM/UIM insurance that must be offered to drivers in Texas is the same as the minimum liability insurance amounts:
    • $30,000 per person for injury-related expenses.
    • $60,000 for two or more people for injury-related expenses.
    • $25,000 per accident for property damage.
  • Collision insurance – Provides compensation to repair or replace a policy holder’s vehicle if the vehicle is damaged in the accident.
  • Comprehensive insurance – Pays to repair or replace a policy holder’s vehicle if it’s stolen or damaged by something other than a collision, including weather-related damage (sleet, hail, etc.), accidents involving animals, and vehicle fires.
  • Medical insurance – Money for accident-related medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault.
  • Towing and labor insurance – Compensation to tow vehicle or money for roadside maintenance, including jump-starting a vehicle with a dead battery or changing a flat tire.
  • Car rental insurance – Money to rent a car if the policy holder’s vehicle was stolen or is being repaired after an accident.

Texas is an ‘at-fault’ state – what does that mean?

Like many states, Texas has an “at-fault” insurance system when it comes to car accident claims. Under this system, the at-fault party is responsible for compensating injury victims for their accident-related expenses.

At-fault insurance systems are often referred to as tort-based systems. Tort is a legal term that refers to civil cases (rather than criminal ones) in which the at-fault party is liable (legally responsible) for paying for financial losses suffered by the claimant, which would be the injury victim in this case.

Often, the at-fault party is the driver who caused the collision, though it can sometimes be another party such as a vehicle manufacturer. The insurance company itself is not liable per se, but they are responsible for paying for the damage caused by their insured driver, up to the policy limit. As such, injury victims normally file an accident claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and get paid by that company.

Should I contact my insurance company after my accident?

Yes. You should promptly notify your insurance company that you have been in a car accident, even if you were not at fault. Otherwise, you could be in violation of your insurance contract. However, it’s best to be careful what you say to any insurance company, even your own. Keep your comments brief, stick to the facts of what happened, and refer any further questions to your attorney.

What else should I do after my accident?

The Texas Department of Insurance recommends taking the following steps if you have been in a crash caused by another driver:

  • Contact the police if anyone was injured in the accident and/or the property damage sustained in the crash is more than $1,000.
  • Get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, insurance information, driver’s license number, and license plate number.
  • Give the same information to the other driver.
  • Get the investigating police officer’s name, badge number, and phone number the officer can be reached at.
  • Notify your insurance company that you have been in an accident.
  • Contact the investigating police officer and obtain a copy of your official car accident report, officially known as a Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report.
  • Send your insurance company a copy of your official accident report.

Other steps you should also take include:

  • Seek immediate medical attention. Don’t try to diagnose yourself. Have a medical professional examine you right away.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice. Failure to do so could result in your injury claim being denied.
  • Make copies or keep the originals for all bills related to your accident, including medical bills and vehicle repair bills.
  • Contact an experienced lawyer who knows how to handle car accident claims in Texas.

What should I do if the other driver’s insurance company contacts me?

Many injury victims choose to file a claim and pursue financial compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If you choose to do so, Texas law requires the at-fault driver’s insurance company to notify you within 15 days of filing your claim that the company has received your claim.

The at-fault driver’s insurance company then normally investigates the accident. Don’t be surprised if the insurance company contacts you on the phone, in person or in writing seeking additional information.

If and when the other driver’s insurance company contacts you, don’t talk to them or respond in writing without first talking to a lawyer. Anything you say or write can be used by the insurance company to reduce or deny your accident claim.

Insurance company investigators and employees are skilled at gathering information from injury victims that they can use against them. Don’t feel intimidated by them. You have the right to seek legal counsel and talk to an attorney before talking to them.

Again, we strongly recommend taking the following steps if the other driver’s insurance company contacts you:

  • Don’t answer their questions verbally or in writing.
  • Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
  • If they contact you again, tell them to contact your lawyer if they have any questions.

Should I accept a settlement offer?

After you file an accident claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, the company has 15 days to accept or reject your claim, according to Texas law. Insurance companies can ask for more time (often up to 45 days) to decide whether to accept or reject your accident claim, but the company must notify you in writing why they need more time.

If the at-fault driver’s insurance company accepts your accident claim and makes a settlement offer, you might be tempted to accept their offer, especially if you owe a lot of money for medical care, vehicle repairs, and other accident expenses on top of your normal monthly bills.

But what might seem like a fair settlement offer at first often turns out to be far less than how much your injury claim is actually worth. What’s more, once you accept a settlement claim, you cannot ask for any additional money, even if your future accident-related expenses turn out to be significantly more than you expected. Insurance companies know this. That’s why they often make lowball settlement offers soon after an accident.

So what should you do if the other driver’s insurance company makes a settlement offer? First, don’t discuss it on the phone; just ask them to send it to you in writing. Second, review your settlement offer with your attorney. The offer is rarely the best they can do, and often you can negotiate for more – but once you accept their money, that’s it. Talk to a lawyer before you sign.

How much is my accident worth?

There’s no set dollar amount when it comes to motor vehicle accident settlements or claims. Insurance company studies estimate that the average car accident settlement is $19,000. But that’s just an average. Some claims are worth a few thousand dollars. Others are worth significantly more.

The bottom line is you should be financially compensated for all your accident-related expenses. What you might not realize is just how many expenses are covered by your accident claim. It’s not just short-term expenses like emergency medical care or repairing or replacing your vehicle. You should also receive money for long-term expenses related to your accident. Such expenses may include:

  • Follow-up doctor’s appointments to monitor your recovery.
  • Physical therapy, especially if you experience chronic pain or other long-lasting symptoms due to your accident injury.
  • Follow-up surgery if you have mobility issues or long-term medical issues due to your injury.
  • Replacement income if you cannot work while you’re recovering from your injury.
  • Lost future income if you cannot return to work due to a permanent disability sustained in your accident.
  • Pain and suffering in certain circumstances.

Again, insurance companies try to “lowball” accident victims as much as possible. Don’t take their word for it. And don’t try to debate with them either. Talk to an experienced attorney who can review your case and provide an accurate estimate on how much your case could potentially be worth.

What if the insurance company acts in bad faith?

Bad faith is a legal term used to describe the action (or inaction) of insurance companies to avoid honoring a legal agreement with a policyholder or someone the insurance company is required to pay. Acting in bad faith can take many forms, including:

  • Refusing to negotiate in good faith with an injury victim and their attorney.
  • Refusing to honor a legally binding contract.
  • Delaying handling a claim and not meeting legally defined deadlines.
  • Refusing to make a fair settlement offer.
  • Denying an insurance claim for no legitimate reason.

If you believe an insurance company is acting in bad faith in Texas, you have several options. You can file a formal complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance. You can – and should – also talk to an attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you deal with insurance companies and hold them accountable for acting in bad faith.

How can a lawyer help deal with insurance companies?

When you have an attorney on your side after your car accident, you can level the playing field when dealing with insurance companies. Instead of them telling you what to do, you can dictate what happens next. Your lawyer can help in many different ways, including:

  • Communicating with the insurance company on your behalf.
  • Reviewing any settlement offers you receive from them.
  • Negotiating a better settlement offer on your behalf.
  • Filing a lawsuit or taking other legal action if necessary.

The stakes are high in many car accident claims. Your injury claim could easily be worth thousands of dollars or much more. Don’t let the at-fault driver’s insurance company push you around. Take back control. Hire a lawyer who will fight for you.

Our experienced Texas car accident lawyers at Tracey Fox & Walters can help you every step of the way. We know how to handle complicated legal cases in Texas. That’s because we’ve successfully fought for the rights of injury victims in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and other communities throughout Texas. As a result, we understand the state and federal laws that apply to insurance companies and car accidents. We know how to hold them accountable and demand the money you deserve.

Learn more about your legal rights. Contact our law firm and schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Texas car accident attorney. We have offices conveniently located in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.