Do You Have to Go to Court for a Car Accident?

You’ve been in a car accident where someone else is mostly or entirely at fault. Your car was damaged, and you were injured. You are entitled to compensation under the laws of Texas. In most cases, an insurance company will be responsible for paying your damages. But will you need to go to court for your car accident?

If an acceptable settlement can be achieved directly with an insurance company, there is typically no reason a court must be involved. But when both sides are extremely far apart on the assessment of liability or damages, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit in order to get the matter resolved.

How the Claims Process Works

At the accident scene, you should have exchanged insurance information with the other drivers involved, which is required by law. In addition to notifying your own insurance company, you have the right to make claims against those insurers covering drivers you suspect are responsible for causing the accident.

When an insurance company gets your claim, it will conduct an investigation into what happened, making independent determinations about fault and what the damages are. This is where collecting information at the accident scene and keeping accurate and detailed records concerning injuries can prove very beneficial in persuading an insurance company of the legitimacy of your claim.

Write Down What You Remember About the Crash

court for car accidentBefore talking to any insurance company, take the time to organize your thoughts about what happened. The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) recommends writing a detailed account, including time of day, weather, and road conditions, as soon as possible following an accident.

Taking time to write everything out gives you an accurate version of events you can refer to each time you answer questions about the accident. This will help ensure the information you provide about the accident is consistent and make it harder for an insurance company to challenge your claim.

Keep All Your Medical and Other Bills

If you want compensation for medical bills and other financial losses from injuries, you need to seek medical treatment soon after the accident and keep thorough records of your expenses. You should also make sure to do exactly as advised by medical personnel and keep a journal that chronicles how the injuries are affecting you in day-to-day life.

You should not begin settlement negotiations until you know the full extent of your injuries. If you settle too soon and additional losses occur, you will have lost the opportunity for compensation. Insurance companies will press to settle claims as quickly as possible to minimize costs, so it is essential to know when and for how much to settle your claim.

What to Do if You’re Accused of Having Some Fault for Causing a Car Accident

The percentage of fault a driver is assigned corresponds to the amount of liability an insurance company has. Insurance companies know the less fault their driver has, the less money they have to pay. When there is some question about who was at fault or how much fault a driver had for an accident, insurance companies are quick to try and shift as much blame as possible to other drivers.

Injured drivers who are assigned some percentage of fault for an accident (as long as not greater than 50%) are still entitled to partial recovery of their damages. However, the award is reduced by the percentage of fault. This makes the determination of fault a key issue in settlement negotiations.

Why It’s Important to Know What Your Claim Is Worth to Effectively Negotiate a Settlement

Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, persons injured in car accidents can recover compensation for financial losses and personal suffering. Economic damages will include medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses, as well as lost opportunities to earn future income. The economic portion of damages is fairly easy to calculate because everything can be quantified.

Much harder to place a dollar value on are the non-economic damages that are allowed to compensate for a person’s pain and suffering, emotional anguish, disfigurement, loss of companionship, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life. There are no hard and fast rules concerning non-economic damage amounts, so it helps to have some idea of what is reasonable under the circumstances and will lead to meaningful settlement negotiations.

Assigning dollar values to each claimed element of economic and non-economic damages allows you to make a fair and appropriate settlement demand to the insurance company. Although it’s possible an insurance company might agree to an initial demand, it is more likely to be seen as an invitation to negotiate. The insurance company will typically respond with a lower counteroffer.

Assuming an insurance company’s settlement offer is not completely unreasonable, negotiations may continue back and forth, with each side giving a little until a middle ground is met and a settlement can be reached.

When It May Be Necessary to File a Lawsuit

Generally, the greater the potential amount of money on the line, the more likely an insurance claim will end up in litigation. The following circumstances are common reasons that car accident claims go to court:

  • Liability issues cannot be resolved. Nobody wants liability. If neither side can convince the other who did it, a court will have to decide.
  • Unacceptably low settlement offers. The sticking point in a settlement offer is often the amount of non-economic damages offered vs. the amount of non-economic damages requested.
  • Injuries are severe or fatal. Severe or fatal injuries tend to be expensive and involve complex issues often better suited to resolution in court.
  • Insurance company mishandles claim. Insurance companies have a legal duty to settle claims in good faith with fair dealings. When insurance companies employ tactics that delay the resolution of valid claims, they act in bad faith and can be sued.
  • Inadequate insurance to pay claim. Drivers in Texas are only required to carry $30,000 liability insurance per person to cover injuries. An insurance company is only liable up to the limit of insurance. If additional compensation is warranted, you will need to file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault party and appear in court.

How to Increase Your Chances of Settling Your Car Accident Claim Out of Court

Pearland car accidentIt’s usually preferable to try and settle a car accident claim without having to go to court. Litigation can be slow and expensive, and the outcome is never guaranteed. A settlement can save time and money, and you often have more control over the final outcome.

Successful settlement requires a strategy based on knowledge and preparation. You must anticipate how an insurance company is going to defend a claim and be ready with convincing evidence in support of your position. For most people, the best chance of achieving an equitable out-of-court settlement is by hiring an experienced car accident attorney.

We’ll Settle if We Can, and Litigate if We Can’t

At J.D. Silva & Associates, our experienced personal injury lawyers help people obtain compensation after being injured in car accidents. Our goal is always to get the best possible result for each client. No two accidents are ever the same, and different circumstances can require different legal strategies.

After a car accident in Pearland or McAllen, schedule a free consultation with J.D. Silva & Associates to find out whether it’s likely you can settle with the insurance company or if you may have to go to court.