Common Auto Accident Questions
How much does it cost to hire a personal injury attorney?
Our firm handles all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that we only take a fee if our client wins in trial or if the case settles beforehand. We also cover all case expenses (such as filing fees, expert fees and deposition fees), and only seek repayment of these costs if we get a recovery for our clients. If our client loses in trial we will not take a fee and we do not seek reimbursement of case expenses.
What kind of timeline should I expect for my case?
It is impossible to know upfront how long it may take to resolve a personal injury case without knowing any details. Some cases are wrapped up in a matter of weeks, and some may take years before they are taken to Court.
A general timeline is as follows:
We generally handle cases directly with the insurance company(ies) prior to filing a lawsuit, in an effort to settle the case without incurring expensive court costs. Here we will gather your medical records and prepare a demand letter to the insurance company. Gathering medical records can be a lengthy process and can easily take up to 6 weeks or longer depending on how responsive the medical facilities are. Once we make a demand, there is often a negotiation process with the insurance company, wherein they issue a counter-offer to our demand. Both sides may go back and forth in an effort to settle, which can take another several weeks or even several months.
If it is clear that settlement is not an option, or if the statute of limitations on your case is approaching (the statute date is 2 years from the date of your accident), then the next step is to file a lawsuit. Once we enter this phase (often referred to as litigation), the timeline of your lawsuit may extend again. The insurance company will typically hire their own attorneys, who will have to start from scratch to get up to date on the medical records and other pertinent information. The Court will also set case deadlines and a trial date. The earliest that most Courts will set a case for trial is 1 year from the date the lawsuit is filed, though it is usually longer than that. Unfortunately, litigation is a long and slow process. However, don’t be discouraged, as a case can settle at any point in time, whether that is 1 week after filing a lawsuit or the day before all sides go to trial.
What should I do if I am involved in an auto accident?
The first thing to do is to report the accident to the police. You will also want to gather the other party’s name, address, and insurance information and notify your own insurance company of the accident. Be sure to gather the names and contact information for any witnesses. If possible, obtain a copy of the 911 calls and the police report.
Lastly, make sure to get medical attention if you were hurt. Often times it takes up to a 1-2 days for pain to set in as a result of a wreck. Don’t procrastinate on seeking medical attention. Opposing attorneys and insurance adjuster will always notice if you delay seeking medical treatment, and use this against you by stating that your injuries must not have been serious if you put off a doctor’s visit.
If I was rear ended, can the other driver or his insurance company blame me for the accident?
Yes, and they often try to do just that. The other driver may state that you stopped suddenly or unsafely, or made a sudden turn. A common defense against this is that drivers are required to stay back a reasonable distance from the vehicle in front of them. While the common belief that if you are rear ended it is always the other sides fault may not always be true, we have had great success representing clients in rear end collision because we know how to handle the anticipated excuses the other driver will make.
What if I was injured in a car accident but my car does not have a lot of damage, will this affect my claim?
The opposing insurance company and defense attorney will try to use this fact to their benefit, arguing that minor damage equals minor injury. However, scientific evidence disputes this, and has shown that serious injuries can occur no matter the level of property damage.
Should I get medical treatment after a car accident?
You should always seek treatment after an accident if you were injured. First, this will help to prevent a minor injury from snowballing into a more serious issue. Second, should you not seek treatment, the opposing insurance company and/or attorney will use it against you by arguing that the injury was either not serious, or that the injury was caused by something else.
What happens if I am injured by a “hit and run” driver or a driver who does not have insurance or low insurance limits?
Check to see if your own auto insurance policy contains an uninsured/underinsured provision. This type of insurance is specifically designed to protect against hit-and-run drivers.
If I assert a UM/UIM claim, will my insurance company automatically pay the claim?
Not necessarily. Remember that insurance companies (even your own) will try to avoid paying any nickel possible. They may argue their own defenses against the claim, just like an opposing insurance company would, and may even dispute your injuries or treatment.
Should this happen, it is especially important to consult an attorney to protect your own interests. One must remember that even though they may be extremely polite over the phone, insurance agents review accident claims as their profession, and it is their foremost job to save their employer money. Should an insurer not give you an acceptable offer, it can be greatly beneficial to hire an attorney so that you can also have someone well-versed in handling insurance claims on your side.
If my insurance company denies my claim, what can I do?
At this point you can file a lawsuit against the insurance company and the parties at fault.
How much UM/UIM insurance should I purchase?
It is always advisable to purchase the plan that offers the most coverage (as long as it is affordable) in the unfortunate chance that you are struck by a hit-and-run driver, or even someone who has no insurance or low amounts of insurance.
If I am injured in an auto accident, who will pay for my medical bills?
Often times the first place to look is Personal Injury Protection coverage (PIP) if you are covered for that under your policy. Most people have PIP without even knowing it – in Texas you must specifically deny PIP coverage in writing when you sign your policy, otherwise you will be covered for it. PIP coverage is generally available no matter who is faulted for the accident.
If you don’t have PIP coverage, you can pay for medical bills through your health insurance. One difference between paying for medical bills with PIP and with health insurance is that your health insurance may seek to be paid back from any potential settlement. A payout from your PIP coverage will not have to be paid back.
Lastly, if the person that hit you was driving negligently, that person is responsible for paying any damages you sustain as a result of the accident, including your medical bills. Again, their insurance company will not just hand that money over to you, however. You will need to fight to get every penny you deserve.
Can my health insurance pay for my medical bills?
Yes – just like it would pay for any medical bills. As stated earlier, unlike PIP, your health insurance company may seek reimbursement should you settle your claim.
What can I expect from an insurance adjuster?
Insurance adjusters may seem friendly when you speak to them over the phone, but you must not forget that they are employed by an insurance company and their chief duty is to save that company money and pay you as little as they can to reach a settlement. Also remember that insurance adjusters handle claims professionally and are much better-versed than the average person in negotiating claims. Because of this, it is very important to also have a professional attorney on your side who is equally well-versed in handling these types of claims.
If an insurance company pays for damage to my car, will they automatically pay for my medical bills and injuries?
No – always remember that insurance companies want to pay as little as possible on any claim. Often times in this case the insurance company will assign two different adjusters – one for the injury portion of the claim and another for the property damage portion. While the insurance company may agree that the car was damaged, they will often do everything they can to contest that you were injured.
Should I give a recorded statement if requested by claims adjuster?
Giving a recorded statement is not a requirement of submitting a claim. We will repeat our advice to always remember that the insurance adjuster in a third party claim does not represent you, and does not have your best interests in mind. If you are uneasy about this process, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney who can help walk you through the process. In fact, we recommend always consulting with an attorney before you give a recorded statement.
Should I give an insurance company access to my medical records?
In order to properly evaluate your injuries, the insurance company will need to review all medical records and bills relevant to your injury. Be advised, however, that the insurance company may try to obtain medical records and bills beyond the scope of the accident and may argue that the injuries you suffered were pre-existing or unrelated to the accident. Because of this, it is important to review the health information release to make sure that the dates and facilities on the release are restricted.
What is contributory negligence or comparative responsibility and how does it affect my injury claim?
This refers to legal terms in Texas that state that any reward you receive in court may be decreased by the comparative amount for which you are found responsible. For example, if a Jury determines that you have $10,000 in damages, but that you were also 20% at fault for the accident, then your court award will be decreased by that 20%, leaving you with a recovery of $8,000. Also, in Texas if the jury determines that you were more than 50% liable for the collision, you recover nothing.
What type of compensation can I recover from an auto accident?
The following types of damages are generally recoverable:
- Past medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Past lost income
- Future lost income
- Pain and suffering, mental anguish, and disfigurement
- Property damage
- Loss of use/rental car reimbursement
If a person dies from an auto accident, can a claim still be pursued?
A claim can be pursued under a wrongful death statute, and can be sought by the spouse, parents, or children of the deceased, or by the estate of the deceased person for the benefit of the spouse, children and parents of the deceased.