How Car Accident Settlements Work in Texas
Fight for more compensation with an experienced attorney on your side
The cost of a car accident can easily stretch into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The crash itself may have been over in seconds, but the consequences – your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other costs – can affect your life for a long time. That’s why Texas motorists are required to carry auto insurance, and the insurance company for the at-fault driver is supposed to pay for your costs.
However, actually getting an insurance company to pay full value for a car wreck is another matter entirely. Here’s the first thing you should know: never accept their first settlement offer without talking to a car accident attorney first. They may imply it’s the best they can do, but that is rarely the case. You can – and should – negotiate for more, with a lawyer on your side.
Remember, you only get one shot at full compensation for your accident. The best way to get more money from a settlement is to hire an experienced Fort Worth car accident attorney.
Car accident settlement amounts can vary widely
According to the insurance industry’s data, the average settlement for a car accident that causes a nonfatal injury is about $20,000. However, that’s an average, not a guarantee, and actual settlement amounts can vary widely. It all depends on the severity of your injuries and the effects they have had on your life.
A typical car accident settlement should take into account all your accident-related costs, including:
- Medical expenses, including ambulance bills, hospital bills, medical procedures such as surgery, physical therapy, medications, and medical devices.
- Lost wages and lost future income if your injuries affected your ability to work.
- Replacement services, such as childcare and housework.
- Modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate a disability.
- Pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
- Damage to your vehicle and other personal property.
The amount of your settlement is also affected by the amount of available insurance coverage (which is why it’s so important for you to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist protection) and any comparative fault. Texas is a “modified” comparative negligence state, which means if you are partially at fault for the accident but no more than 50 percent at fault, your recovery will be reduced by your percentage of fault. If you are 51 percent or more at fault, you cannot recover.
One reason to hire an experienced car accident lawyer is that we can investigate and determine the full value of your claim. We can also reconstruct what happened and make the case that your injuries were the other driver’s fault. This is sometimes a long process, but with the right lawyer on your side, you can rest assured that your interests are protected every step of the way.
How long does a car accident settlement take?
Some car accident claims settle within weeks, but it’s more common to take several months or even a year or more. One key factor is your medical treatment. It often takes time for the full extent of your injuries – and thus the full cost of your present and future medical expenses – to become known. For instance, your doctor needs time to ascertain if your injury will require future surgery, and that should be taken into account in your settlement. (This is one of the reasons insurance companies try to “lowball” victims early in the process before the full cost becomes known.)
The second key factor is simply how difficult the insurance company decides to be, which is a factor outside your and your attorney’s control. Our job is to keep up the pressure on the insurance company to push back against their delaying tactics and fight for the compensation you deserve.
An important benchmark is the statute of limitations: the legal deadline to file a lawsuit. In Texas, the statute of limitations for most car accident claims is two years from the date of the accident. However, keep in mind that even if a lawsuit has been filed, we can still negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. In other words, filing a lawsuit doesn’t mean your case won’t settle; it means we’re keeping up the pressure and keeping your legal options open.
Remember, you get one shot at compensation
As soon as you accept a settlement offer from the insurance company, that’s it. You can’t go back for more compensation for your car accident, even if your costs turn out to be much higher. Again, that’s why you always need an attorney on your side in settlement negotiations. The final decision whether to accept or reject a settlement offer is yours, but your attorney’s job is to review the offer with you and advise whether it’s in your interests to accept it.
Getting a fair settlement for a car accident in Texas can be a long and difficult process, but we’re in it with you every step of the way. If you’ve been hurt in a car wreck, contact Coby L. Wooten, Attorney at Law, P.C. today for a free consultation with an experienced Fort Worth car accident lawyer.