We hear it all the time – many of our clients’ car wreck stories follow a similar path:
“I was rear-ended. I was heading to work in heavy traffic and stopped at a light – out of nowhere, another car slammed into me. It didn’t seem so bad at first; the cops came and I went to the hospital for my neck and back. I did not have the chance to speak to the other driver or to anyone who saw the collision. When they sent me home from the hospital I was still in pain, and it never really went away. It hurts all the time; the medical bills keep piling up but I am not getting any better. To make things even worse, I missed a few days of work and I’m not sure when my car will be repaired or replaced.
- What to do after a car accident
- How to claim compensation for car accident injuries
- What to expect from the legal process for injury claims
- Common defenses insurance companies use in car accident lawsuits
- The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Texas
- Can you sue an insurance company without a lawyer?
- How Patterson Law Group can help
- Car accident FAQs
One vehicle accident can often have domino effects with devastating consequences for car accident victims:
- You get in a wreck and are injured.
- You end up with medical bills and perhaps even need long-term medical care.
- The insurance company does not respond in time or offers you a settlement for your insurance claim that doesn’t come close to covering your expenses.
- You’re stuck in limbo – and in pain – without transportation, and at the mercy of some claims adjuster who cares more about his bottom line than about your well-being.
After a wreck, your life will completely and abruptly change, which is particularly painful when you are not at fault for the collision in the first place. And the wreck itself is just the beginning. You’re then left to deal with treatment and deal with an insurance company (i.e. the classic David and Goliath scenario). That’s why it’s so important to get medical treatment, then contact an experienced, trustworthy car accident law firm.
Get Medical Treatment
A handful of Ibuprofen with your morning coffee likely won’t do it. You should seek out medical help from providers who understand the particular type of trauma you experienced in a car crash (contact us if you need help; we have a list of expert medical providers).
Did you know that 62% of people who sustained whiplash-like injuries experienced major residual effects for 10-15 years? Read more on our car accident injury statistics page.
Prompt medical attention keeps any injury you have from getting worse, helps to treat your pain and fully documents your injury if a claim or lawsuit is later necessary. You can say “my neck hurt” but it simply does not have the same impact as a physician or medical record pointing out the specific injuries you’ve sustained and detailing what it will take for you to recover.
Don’t skip medical treatment for serious injuries because of the cost – once you are represented by a personal injury lawyer, you can generally find providers who will work with you. A “letter of protection” means the doctors providing you with care will be paid out of the final settlement, not up front, so you won’t be racking up huge medical expenses that you have to pay immediately out of pocket. This can be critical to getting you the medical treatment you require.
Get Legal Representation
With literally millions of dollars and thousands of lawyers on their side, an insurance company is a daunting opponent, and if you try to go it alone, you’ll probably end up with a much smaller settlement than you deserve. Or worse, no settlement at all. The insurance company has one goal in mind, and it is not your improved health or financial state. They are in business to make money, and the more they pay you, the less they have left over for themselves and their Super Bowl ads.
An attorney helps to level the playing field and an attorney can initiate a personal injury lawsuit if needed to help recover the compensation you deserve.
How To Claim Compensation For Your Car Accident Injuries
There are several steps involved in the legal process for a personal injury claim. There are ultimately two main objectives that need to be accomplished in order for you to obtain compensation. When you file a claim, it will be the responsibility of you or your attorney to prove that:
- The injuries you sustained were directly caused by the accident
- The party you’re filing a lawsuit against is either partially or completely responsible for the accident
Compensation will vary depending on the severity of your injuries and the circumstances surrounding your accident. You may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical bills, emotional distress, property damage, rehabilitation costs, medication costs, and lost capacity to perform work activities. In addition to current expenses and losses, your attorney can also help you project future expenses and losses to factor into your claim.
What to Expect from the Legal Process After an Accident in Texas
You’ve been hit by someone else, so the first group you’re going to have to file a claim against is that driver’s insurance company. You may not have had the chance to get his information on the scene, but it will be in the police report. Texas requires all drivers to have car insurance – but about 20% of them don’t bother. If the person who hit you is uninsured, you’ll skip this step.
If the driver who hit you does have insurance, then we will negotiate with that insurance company to determine how much they need to pay you (which will likely be capped at their client’s insurance policy). They could also try to weasel out entirely and claim that you are responsible for the wreck itself or that you exaggerated your injuries. Once the other party’s insurer has paid, it’s time to move on – to your own insurance company.
You pay them each month, but that doesn’t mean they are “on your side” or going to behave “like a good neighbor”. The opposite is usually true – your insurance company needs money for the Super Bowl just like the other guy’s insurance company.
The conversation will sound about the same, with the insurer trying to get out of paying, or trying to pay a minimal amount. There are two bright spots though:
- As your insurer, the company is obligated to evaluate your claim in good faith; and
- Your insurer is obligated to help you if you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (UIM) – something that is within your control and we recommend you contacting your agent about before a problem arises.
Defenses Insurance Companies Use In Car Accident Lawsuits
Insurance companies will use several common defense tactics to avoid having to pay for your injuries and damages in a car accident case. There are ultimately four unique defenses the insurance company may utilize.
1) The Accident Was Unavoidable
The insurance company may try to prove that the accident was “unavoidable”. If an accident were unavoidable, then negligence would have played no role in the accident, leaving the other party unresponsible.
2) New & Independent Cause
While many defenses will attempt to direct the blame on you, the new and independent cause defense requires the insurance company to admit that their insured driver was at least partially responsible for the automobile accident. The insurance company will argue that while their driver was partially responsible, there was a third party that was ultimately liable for your injuries. In order for this defense to be successful, the insurance company has to prove that the other cause was unforeseeable and superseded their driver’s negligence.
3) Sudden Emergency
With this defense, the insurance company will have to prove that the accident occurred as a result of a sudden emergency that did not arise due to the negligence of the driver. If it can be proven that the driver’s actions did not create an emergency situation, the emergency was unexpected, and the driver acted with ordinary care, then the insurance company can avoid paying damages.
4) Act of God
The “act of God” defense is the least utilized defense. An act of God is defined as a natural occurrence, such as catastrophic weather, that took place without any human intervention. The idea behind the defense is that humans shouldn’t be held responsible for events beyond their control. An insurance company may try to utilize rain, fog, or smoke caused by wildfires as “acts of God”. However, a good car accident attorney can easily fight this defense.
How Long After An Accident Can I File A Case?
Every state in the country has a statute of limitations. These statutes define the period of time for which certain legal actions can be taken. In the state of Texas, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two years. This means that you have up to two years from the date of your car accident to file a claim.
Could You Sue An Insurance Company Without A Lawyer?
Technically, you can sue an insurance company without a personal injury attorney, but this would never be advised. Individuals with no legal training or education will not know the rules and procedures of court. The opposing party will take full advantage of your inexperience.
There are several pitfalls that may destroy your claim. You may not properly value what your claim is worth, you may fail to provide proper documentation, or you may give a recorded statement that could be used against you. It’s imperative to obtain legal representation in order to receive proper compensation.
Learn How We Can Help
If you retain an auto accident attorney right away to represent you, you can be sure that you will be treated fairly. The best possible thing you can do is get professional medical and legal help after your crash. The right legal team can prevent, or at least minimize, a crash from having a lasting, devastating impact on your life. Here’s a review from one of our recent clients, Janice:
Find a legal team that you can trust, that will work hard for you, that will be responsive to you, and that will only ask to be paid if they win for you. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car wreck, we can help. Our goal is to ensure you are treated fairly and to get your life back on track. Contact us today by calling (817) 784-2000 or filling out a contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Car Accidents FAQs
Can You Hire A Car Accident Lawyer If You’re At Fault?
Yes, you can hire an auto accident lawyer if you were at fault, but earning compensation will be dependent on to what degree you were at fault. If the other driver was partly to blame, that driver must be more than 50% responsible for you to receive any compensation. If you are more than 50% responsible, you will receive nothing.
If you are less than 50% responsible for the accident, you will ultimately receive a settlement proportionate to the other driver’s share of fault. For instance, if you were 35% responsible and the other driver was 65% responsible for the accident, you would receive 65% of your accident claim.
What kind of evidence should I collect at the scene of a car accident?
Evidence can go a long way in helping to speed up or build out a successful car accident claim. There are a number of things you can collect at the scene of the accident to help with your legal recovery.
- Information on any drivers involved: You’ll want to start by collecting the insurance policy number, driver’s license number, license plate number, and contact info for all of the drivers involved in the accident.
- Vehicle/property damages: Any damage to your vehicle or other related property should be documented with photos.
- Witness information: If there were any additional witnesses to the accident you should try to obtain their names and contact information.
- Road conditions: The road conditions can sometimes contribute to an accident. It’s worth also documenting the conditions of the road surrounding the accident with photos, especially if there are any large potholes, uneven surfaces, broken concrete, road debris, etc.
- Road signs: Any nearby road safety signs, such as stop signs and reduced speed zone signs should also be documented.
- Security cameras: Take note if the accident occurred within the vicinity of security cameras or red light cameras. The footage of those cameras could be acquired and used in your case.
Should I talk to the insurance company after the accident?
In short, this is never advised. Accident victims often make the mistake of talking to an insurance adjuster before obtaining legal representation. Insurance companies are for profit businesses that use unfair tactics to reduce or deny your claim. What you say to the other driver’s insurance company could be used against you. It’s important you speak with a qualified car accident attorney before talking to the other driver’s insurance company.
Should I accept a check from the other driver or the other driver’s insurance?
While it may be tempting to take a check offered by the other driver or their insurance, you should think twice before settling for any check offered. Once you accept a settlement offer from an insurance company, you cannot ask for more compensation and insurance companies are known for finding ways to reduce claim values.
Whatever you receive should be enough to cover your medical treatments, property damage, and lost wages. An attorney can help you determine the full value of your claim and will fight to earn the compensation you deserve. You should not accept a check without first consulting an attorney.
What are the most common causes of car accidents in Texas?
Fort Worth is home to some of the most trafficked roads in the United States. The traffic alone is enough to increase the risk of a crash, but there are a number of driver related activities that also reduce road safety. Driver activities that commonly cause accidents include:
- Distracted driving (especially using a cell phone to text while driving)
- Driver fatigue
- Driving under the influence
- Failure to yield
- Drunk driving
An experienced car accident lawyer will know how to collect evidence and construct a case to prove negligence for accidents that occurred due to any of the aforementioned causes.
What are the Most Dangerous Intersections in Fort Worth?
To find an answer to this question, we analyzed every reported accident from the Texas Department of Transportation over the last 5 years. With that data, we created an interactive Accident Map & compiled the 10 most dangerous intersections in the city.