When it comes to car accidents, all states have rules regarding who pays for damages following a collision. Some states follow traditional fault-based systems, while others follow no-fault systems where each driver is responsible for his or her own damages. Texas, like most states, follows a fault-based system, which dictates your legal options following an accident.
Texas’s Fault-Based Insurance System
Under Texas law, all drivers who cause a car accident are responsible for paying for the damages of the other people involved in the crash. This includes other motorists, as well as passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.
To uphold this financial responsibility, all drivers must carry minimum amounts of liability coverage.
- $30,000 in bodily injury liability per person per accident
- $60,000 in total bodily injury liability per accident involving two or more injured people
- $25,000 in property damage coverage per accident
You can purchase higher amounts of liability insurance, if you wish. You may also purchase additional forms of coverage if you wish, such as uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage or personal injury protection coverage. Penalties for failure to carry the minimum amount of insurance include fines and driving privilege suspension.
What Are Your Legal Options After a Texas Car Accident?
Under the fault-based system, Texas provides you with three main options to collect compensation after a car accident:
- You can file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- You can file an insurance claim with your own insurance company, if you have the appropriate coverage.
- You can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in Texas civil court.
In most car accident claims, your case will begin in the insurance stage and progress to a lawsuit if necessary. If the at-fault driver has the required insurance, you will usually file a claim with his or her company. If the driver does not have insurance and you have additional coverage, such as personal injury protection or collision coverage, you may want to file a claim with your own company.
You may enter the lawsuit process if the insurance company denies your claim or offers you an insufficient settlement. However, your case may benefit from beginning in the lawsuit process, especially if you suffer high amounts of damages that may exceed the insurance company’s policy limits. Speak to a Houston car accident attorney as soon as possible to determine which option is best for you.
Comparative Negligence in Texas Car Accident Lawsuits
Since all Texas car accident lawsuits rely on the presence of negligence, you will need to prove that the at-fault driver in your case acted in negligence at the time of the collision. Once you establish negligence, the court will decide whether to award you a settlement for your damages.
One factor that may reduce your overall settlement is Texas’s comparative negligence rule. If the court determines you share a percentage of the fault in your accident, the court will reduce your award by that percentage. If you share 51% or more of the liability, you will not receive any compensation.
For example, say you are in an accident with a driver who ran through a stop sign. The court discovers you were texting and driving at the time of the accident, and assigns you 45% of the fault. If you ask for a $40,000 settlement, you will only receive $22,000.
To protect your best interests throughout the car accident claims process in Texas, hire a personal injury lawyer in Houston. Your lawyer will provide several advantages to your case, such as protecting you from comparative negligence claims to advising your case’s progression from insurance claim to lawsuit.