If you’ve been involved in a Texas auto accident, chances are you may be confused about the next steps in process. After all, you are often left with little direction or guidance after an accident, with no clear place to turn for help. To learn more about what to do following a Texas auto accident, keep reading.
First step in the claims process
The first thing you should do after a Texas car accident is call the police. Calling the cops is not only legally required, but it helps increase the strength of any future claim. When the police arrive, they will write a report about the accident, detailing facts that may be crucially important later on. The cops may also cite someone as being at fault, something that can make it much easier to prove liability.
After calling the place, you need to ensure you are safe and healthy. If you’ve been involved in a collision, make sure that you go to a doctor if you have any suspicion that you have sustained physical injury. This guarantees that your injuries receive treatment immediately and hopefully recover more quickly. Seeking medical attention right away also means that your injuries are documented and can make it easier to prove the connection between the accident and the injuries down the road.
If you are uninjured, you should also gather as much evidence as possible on your own. If you have a camera or a smartphone, take some pictures. It’s really true that pictures are worth a thousand words, with visual evidence serving as compelling proof of the damage done. Record details of what happened, your whereabouts and contact information for the other driver and any witnesses.
Second step in the accident claims process
After the accident itself has been dealt with and you have received treatment for any injuries you sustained, it is time to get the ball rolling with the insurance company. Some people believe that if the other party was at fault the victim is not required to take any action. Though it might appear to make sense to let the responsible party handle the insurance claim, the reality is you need to inform your insurance company right away. It’s crucial to do this as soon as possible after the accident occurs. Even if someone else is responsible for the accident, your insurance company needs to be informed so they can begin their part in handling the claim. Additionally, you may need to rely on your insurer for coverage if, for example, the other driver is uninsured or underinsured.
Providing a statement after an accident?
Many insurance companies will try to force you into providing a written or recorded statement regarding the facts of the accident. This can be a costly mistake in some cases. Even if you aren’t the person responsible for the accident you might end up saying something that puts your claim in jeopardy. This is true whether the insurance company is your own or the other party’s. In either case, a simple slip of the tongue could cost you thousands of dollars. Insurance agents have handled these cases many times before while chances are you never have. Asking detailed questions can lead to confusion and uncertainty and you may find yourself saying something that harms your case. When your statement is on the record, it can be used against you later on. Given this, it is very important that you avoid giving a written or recorded statement until you have had a chance to speak with and get advice from an experienced Texas car accident attorney. A skilled auto accident lawyer will understand what questions the insurance company is likely to ask and help you frame your answers in a way that is most advantageous for your case.
Step three in the car wreck claims process
After the insurance companies have been notified they will likely begin work on processing the claim. It’s at this point that your attorney can advise on the best possible way of moving your case forward. Often, the best way is to move forward with filing suit against the responsible driver. Assuming the driver has insurance coverage, the insurance company will also be on the hook, thanks to something known as subrogation, which requires the insurance company to stand in the shoes of the other driver.
Though it may feel like quick to file suit, the reality is that time is crucially important. For one thing, you likely need the money to pay to repair your vehicle or pay medical expenses or compensate you for time off work. The sooner the suit is filed the sooner the matter can be resolved. For another thing, the statute of limitations is an important consideration and the clock begins to tick the moment the accident occurs. In Texas, most plaintiffs have two years from the date of the accident to file suit. If you wait longer than two years your case can be barred from court. There’s no easy way around the statute of limitations; once the time has run out, your chance of winning evaporates.
Another reason why filing suit early can be beneficial is that it forces the insurance company to get serious. Often, insurance companies will offer relatively small amounts of money if they believe there is little chance of a lawsuit. Once filed, the lawsuit may serve as important leverage to having the insurance company take your case much more seriously.
Step four in your accident claim
Once the lawsuit is filed, it is critically important to get serious about gathering evidence. This is known as the discovery stage and it is key to fully understanding the nature of the case. Both sides will develop a theory of the case, what happened and who is responsible. Evidence such as police reports, doctor reports, physical evidence, photographs, witness statements, etc. can be collected and analyzed. You can also request information from the other party and interview others with information about the case to further understand what went on. A good lawyer makes sure to understand a case backwards and forwards so that there is little room for a surprise down the road.
Step five for your Texas Car Accident Claim
Though you may have already filed a lawsuit, the next step in many accident claim cases is to negotiate. Negotiations actually take place off and on during the course of the accident claims process, though they can take on special importance as a case gets closer to trial. The reason for this is simple: trial is risky, especially for an insurance company. No one knows how the case will turn out once the evidence has been laid out and this represents a real risk. Rather than face the risk of an unknown verdict, companies may try hard to settle your claim in advance.
Settling ahead of trial can be very beneficial for the plaintiff as well, sparing you a long drawn out legal process and also avoiding uncertainty. The trick for the plaintiff is to avoid settling too soon. Oftentimes an insurance company’s first offer is just that, a starting point. Rather than jumping at the first number, it is important to understand the facts of your case and what those facts mean your case is worth. An experienced auto accident attorney will understand this and can help guide you to a fair negotiated settlement. Before agreeing to anything, be sure that you fully understand the extent of the harm you’ve suffered. Too often people who have been injured agree to settlements and then undergo additional medical treatment. The problem is that once the issue has been settled, it cannot be reopened to account for these subsequent medical problems. Given this reality, it is crucial that if you have continuing problems that you are sure they are properly accounted for in any settlement proposal.
Step six in the auto accident claims process
If the negotiations are fruitless, you will eventually take your case to trial. At this point, the attorney will put together the best case possible to convince the judge or jury that the defendant’s negligent or reckless conduct was responsible for the harm you suffered. If the defendant is found liable, the next step will be deciding what compensation the plaintiff should receive. This is very case-specific and will depend on the nature of the accident, the extent of your injuries and many other factors.
Finally, if for some reason the verdict did not go your way, there is also the possibility of filing an appeal. Not all cases are appealed, as the chance of success is relatively slim. Only if there was a clear legal error in your original trial will an appeals court toss out the verdict.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, it is important to consult with an experience Car Accident Lawyer. Contact us today for a free consultation.