For most people, a car accident settlement is their first time going through the claims process. Many do not know what it takes to achieve a car accident settlement, or whether they should file, when to file, or if they should settle at all. This is why it is important to hire a Houston accident attorney to guide you through the settlement process. With or without an attorney, however, you can benefit from at least knowing the basics on how car accident settlements work in Texas.
The Call to the Insurance Company
Most states abide by either fault or no-fault auto insurance laws, while a few use hybrid laws. Texas is a fault state, like most of the U.S. In fault-based insurance states, victims of auto accidents file damage claims with the at-fault party’s insurance company. If you get into an accident in Texas, you (or a lawyer) must identify the at-fault party, get that person’s insurance information, and call to file your claim as soon as possible.
Remain at the scene of the accident and call the police if it caused injuries, death, or more than $1,000 in property damages. The police will collect evidence and help you determine fault for the collision. Do not say you caused the crash. Instead, wait for investigators to identify who or what caused your injuries. If the other driver caused your accident, call his or her insurance company as soon as you can. If you caused the crash, or if it was a hit-and-run, call your own insurance company to file a claim.
The Insurance Company Investigation
Once you report the accident, you will have to deal with communications from insurance companies. If the other driver caused your crash, an insurance claims adjuster may call you as soon as the day of your collision to begin an investigation. The claims adjuster works for the company, not for you. Be wary of what you say to the adjuster, and keep conversation to a minimum.
The claims adjuster will ask you questions, review the facts of your case, and may request documentation of your damages. The adjuster’s job is to either deny or accept your claim, and to get you to settle for as little as possible. The adjuster may do this by convincing you that your case is worth less than it is. If you do not feel comfortable discussing your case with an adjuster alone, hire a lawyer to take over communications for you.
If the insurance company accepts your claim, settlement negotiations will ensue. During this part of the process, you, your attorney (if desired), and the defendant will negotiate a settlement agreement. Your lawyer will demand a high amount, and then the insurance company will counter with its own offer. You and your lawyer can choose to accept the offer, or counter it with one of your own. The majority of car accident cases reach satisfactory settlements without going to court.
A Car Accident Personal Injury Trial
If you and the insurance company cannot come to an agreement on a settlement amount, or if the insurance company denies your claim at the beginning of the process, you have the option to take the defendant to trial. During a trial, your lawyer will have to prove the defendant’s negligence in causing your car accident and related damages. If your lawyer can prove this, the courts may award you with judgment.
Whether you complete your case with a settlement or you have to go to trial, if you and your attorney are successful, you should receive a check for your damages within two weeks of closing the case. Some claims resolve quickly, while others may take months to complete. Working with a lawyer can help expedite your claim. It can also ensure you get the best possible outcome, and the compensation you and your family need to move forward.