Six million car accidents occur every year in the United States, leaving over 3 million people injured. Car accidents permanently injure about 2 million drivers each year, and more than 90 people die from car accidents every day. Many people injured in a car crash will experience long-lasting physical, emotional, and financial consequences.
Texas is the most accident-prone state in the U.S. and one of the top states for pedestrian deaths from car accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported fatal car crash statistics showing that Texas had the most traffic fatalities than any U.S. state in one recent year, with 3,407 fatal crash counts and 3,776 deaths.
Some of the leading causes of car accidents include:
- Distracted driving
- Failure to yield
- Unsafe lane changes
- Disregard for stop signs or lights
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
A car accident is a scary and shocking experience. Some car accidents only result in property damages, but other car accidents can cause minor to severe injuries or death. If you were in a car accident, take the following steps to receive the compensation you deserve:
1. Call the Police or File a Crash Report
Under Texas Transportation Code section 550.026, if a driver of any vehicle is in an accident that resulted in either: 1) the injury or death of a person or 2) vehicle damage making the vehicle undrivable from the scene, they must immediately report the accident to the local police department or, if the crash occurred outside a municipality, the local sheriff’s office.
When contacting the police, let the dispatcher know your location, what injuries you sustained from the car accident, and about any hazards around the accident scene.
When the police arrive, you may speak with the investigating officer to give your perspective about the accident’s cause and events. When asked, you must provide the officer with your full name, address, proof of registration, and insurance.
At the accident scene, police officers:
- Coordinate care and transportation of the injured party to receive immediate medical care;
- Make arrangements to have disabled cars towed;
- Verify the driver’s insurance information; and
- Issue traffic citations.
Officers also collect evidence at the accident scene and determine the cause of the accident. You will need a copy of the crash report, which you can purchase online from the Texas Department of Transportation. This document is vital when seeking compensation from the negligent driver. A car accident lawyer can get this for you.
If the police do not investigate the scene and the car accident results in death, injury, or more than $1,000 worth of property damages, you must file a Crash Report, Form CR-2, within 10 days of the accident.
2. Collect Information and Gather Evidence at the Accident Scene
Property damage and personal injuries are usually the responsibility of the at-fault driver.
Texas requires drivers to share:
- Their names and addresses;
- Driver’s license information;
- Registration number of each car; and
- Name and contact details of each driver’s insurance company.
If a negligent or reckless driver caused the car accident leading to your subsequent property damage and injuries, you must collect this information and gather evidence for future settlement or litigation.
Helpful information for you to gather includes:
- Identifying information of the vehicle(s) in the accident, including model, make, year, license plate number, and vehicle identification number;
- Passengers’ information, including contact and behavior;
- Photographs and videos of the crash scene, if you can safely take them. This is compelling evidence that accurately captures what occurred at the accident scene, including weather and road conditions. This evidence makes it difficult for the at-fault party to deny liability in the future; and
- Witness statements may help you identify the at-fault driver and provide other useful information for your future insurance claim. Get the names and contact information of witnesses if they will offer it. Witnesses must sign and date each page of any written statement.
3. Go to the Hospital to Check for Injuries
People usually experience shock when accidents happen, and they don’t think about seeking medical attention immediately. After a car accident, emergency services will come to your aid and bring you to the closest hospital if you sustained serious injuries.
Unlike obvious injuries, such as broken bones or bleeding, some health conditions resulting from the car accident might not show immediate symptoms. In response to pain and stress, your body produces endorphins and adrenaline, which temporarily mask the pain until your body and mind recover from the initial stress of the accident. The lack of immediate physical symptoms doesn’t mean a lack of injuries.
Seek medical attention for potential unseen injuries immediately after a car accident to get a proper diagnosis and a basis for a future insurance claim. Maintain all records and receipts for medical expenses, as you can recover these costs when seeking compensation from the at-fault driver.
Texas law requires the at-fault driver to render proper assistance to any person injured in the accident, including making arrangements for the injured to receive medical attention as soon as possible. Doctors at the hospital will diagnose you, check for injuries, treat your injuries, and record the diagnosis. Seeking medical attention right away helps support your claim that your injuries resulted from the car accident and not from a pre-existing condition.
When a doctor prescribes a course of treatment for your injuries, follow through with the treatment plan until your doctor releases you from it. A vigilant patient prevents insurance companies from alleging that a refusal to follow the treatment plan has exacerbated the injuries or slowed down the healing process, thus reducing a settlement or refusing to pay any costs associated with treatment.
Finally, remember to ask your doctor for a copy of your medical records. Review the records carefully and make sure that the car accident description and your symptoms are accurate. If not, ask your doctor to correct the errors. Medical records can also help support your claims when negotiating with the at-fault driver and their insurance company to compensate you for your injuries. Your car accident lawyer can help you obtain, confirm, and correct all of this information.
4. Call Your Insurance Company and the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company
Texas is a fault car insurance state, which means that an injured party in a car accident can seek compensation from the at-fault driver and their insurance company. The available compensation includes costs of damaged property, medical bills, and any related expenses or damages sustained due to the at-fault driver’s negligent actions. You can file a claim with your own insurance company, file a claim with the other party’s insurance company, or sue the at-fault driver in court.
Most auto insurance policies contain clauses that require you to notify the insurance company when you’re in a car accident. Notifying the insurance company immediately after the accident allows an earlier investigation to begin and start protecting your interests right away. Failure to do so can give the other party the advantage of contacting your insurance company first and falsely claiming that you caused the accident.
Remember, symptoms resulting from minor injuries might not appear immediately after a car accident. Contact your insurance company even if no injuries immediately appear after the accident.
If you believe that the other party caused the car accident, you can contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company to seek compensation. They’ll likely refer you to a claims adjuster, who determines how much the insurance company should pay based on your property damages and injuries.
Assessing your damages and calculating your potential compensation is a complicated and daunting task. An experienced car accident attorney can help you evaluate your expenses from the car crash, demonstrate liability, and get you the compensation you deserve.
5. Retain an Attorney
An experienced car accident attorney representing you provides advantages when going through the complex legal processes to receive compensation.
After the car accident, working with insurance companies and trying to get a fair settlement for your injuries can be an uphill battle. Insurance adjusters usually try to mitigate their losses and financial responsibilities by paying out as little as possible. They might attempt to reduce the accident claim value by offering a low settlement.
Adjusters also try to downplay the severity of your injuries by disputing the medical treatment costs and future aftercare and medical costs. Lastly, they strive to convince you that you’re getting a fair deal and pressure you into accepting an unsatisfactory amount of compensation.
More likely than not, the insurance adjusters or the at-fault driver and their attorney will scrutinize the evidence to find any fault on your part for the car accident and justify the reduced insurance claim or settlement payout—or to avoid paying at all.
Car accident attorneys have the training to negotiate and defend their clients’ rights. They often know and can handle tactics employed by insurance companies. They can also help guide you through the settlement or litigation processes with the other driver and their counsel. Even if the other driver caused the accident and your injuries, they might dread the financial repercussions and try to avoid a fair settlement.
An experienced personal injury attorney can properly assess your claim and inform you objectively whether you received an adequate settlement that will save you time. If efforts to settle don’t lead to a successful resolution, litigation is usually the next step.
Litigation involves complicated legal procedures and a plethora of paperwork. Your lawyer can gather necessary evidence, such as police reports, accident reports, eyewitness statements, photos and videos, and expert opinions. They can also work through the paperwork to resolve the claim and expedite recovering damages from the other party.
Most importantly, personal injury lawyers work for a contingency fee, which means you don’t have to pay any attorney’s fees unless they win your case. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about incurring extra legal expenses before you get compensated for your injuries.
Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501