How To Get the Most Money for Your Car Accident Claim in Texas
Experienced Fort Worth lawyer explains how to maximize your injury claim
Car accident expenses can add up fast after a serious accident, especially if you or a loved one sustained a severe injury. Whether you’re dealing with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), whiplash, or a spinal cord injury, medical expenses can quickly spiral out of control, totaling tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s no wonder that medical debt has skyrocketed to more than $140 billion nationwide, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Medical debt has also become one of the most common reasons why people declare bankruptcy in the country, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health.
So what can you do to keep costs under control after a car accident caused by another driver? How can you maximize your car accident claim and make sure you get the maximum amount for your accident-related expenses? Here’s what you need to know.
Who pays for my accident?
First, it’s important to understand that car accident compensation varies from state to state. Where you live and where your accident took place will often determine who pays for your accident.
Many states, including Texas, are “at-fault” states when it comes to car accident compensation. This means the at-fault party (and their insurance company) is responsible for paying for your accident-related expenses.
But just because the other driver’s insurance company should pay for your accident does not mean they will automatically do so. Insurance companies will do everything they can to avoid paying accident claims. That’s why you need an experienced attorney on your side.
What can I be compensated for?
The bottom line is you should be financially compensated for all your accident-related expenses if another driver caused your crash. Some of the most common expenses people often think of include:
- Emergency medical care
- Vehicle repair or replacement costs
- Replacement income if you cannot work while you’re recovering from your injury
But that’s just the start. What you might not realize is accident expenses aren’t just the ones immediately after your crash. Many accident-related expenses occur years later. This is especially true if you or a loved one has long-term medical issues due to your accident-related injury. Such expenses can include:
- Follow-up doctor’s appointments to monitor your health
- Prescription medications for chronic pain due to your accident
- Physical therapy due to reduced range of motion
- Follow-up surgery, including hip or knee replacement surgery
- In-home medical care if you or a loved one cannot care for yourself due to your injury
In addition, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation for:
- Modifications to your home (installing a wheelchair ramp, for example) if you sustained a permanent disability in your accident
- Future income if you cannot return to work due to a severe injury
- Pain and suffering in certain circumstances
Again, you should be paid for all past, present, and future accident expenses related to your accident if another driver caused your crash.
How much is my claim worth?
There’s no set dollar amount when it comes to different types of accident claims. The value of each claim can vary depending on many different factors, including:
- Severity of your injury
- Length of your recovery
- When or if you can return to work
If you have a significant injury, your costs could easily be in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Each accident claim is different and needs to be carefully calculated on an individual basis.
How do I pursue compensation?
In an at-fault state, the primary way to get compensation for a car accident is to file a “third-party” claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. In theory, the insurance company should pay full value, but in practice, that’s usually not the case. They will deliberately downplay the extent of your losses in order to pay you as little as possible.
When this happens, you have the right to refuse an insurance company’s lowball settlement offer. Many times, with the assistance of an attorney, injury victims can negotiate a better settlement offer. If the insurance company refuses to cooperate, your lawyer can also file a lawsuit on your behalf against the at-fault party and take your case to court.
However, many rules apply when to comes to taking legal action after an accident. First, you need to make sure you file your lawsuit on time. In Texas, the deadline (known as the statute of limitations) for filing a lawsuit is two years from the date of your accident.
If you decide to take legal action, a judge and jury will decide how much your claim is worth if your case goes to trial. However, many times, many insurance companies agree to settle cases out of court rather than going to trial. You can reach a settlement at any point prior to the verdict.
Your attorney can help you decide which approach makes the most sense based on your particular circumstances. What matters is you should be fairly compensated for your accident expenses and not suffer financially due to another driver’s reckless or negligent behavior.
How can I maximize my accident claim?
Now that you understand how the accident claim process works in Texas, here are some of the ways you can maximize how much money you receive for your injury claim.
Preserve evidence from your accident – from pictures of your accident to statements from eyewitnesses and more. The more evidence you have in support of your claim, the better.
Seek medical attention right away – If you wait to get medical treatment, your injury could get worse and the at-fault driver’s insurance company might try to claim your injury is a pre-existing medical condition and has nothing to do with your accident. Protect your health and your rights. See a doctor right away.
Follow your doctor’s instructions – Whether it’s taking time off from work for several days to rest or performing certain exercises or attending physical rehabilitation sessions, do exactly what the doctor told you to do after your accident. This is the best option for your health, and it also protects your legal rights.
Get a copy of your accident report – Ask the investigating police officer for a copy of your official car accident report. Make sure your report reflects exactly what happened. If your version of what happened is different from anyone else’s story, you might not get as much money as you deserve or have your claim denied altogether.
Keep all receipts – Make sure you keep all receipts (or make copies of them) related to your accident. This can include medical bills, vehicle repair estimates, rental car receipts, prescription medication bills, and evidence of loss of income due to your accident. The more documentation you have of the financial impact of your accident, the better.
Make a list – Keep track of all the different ways your accident has affected your life. Are you in pain? Can you walk normally? Can you no longer do certain activities? Can you work? Keep a written record of exactly when and how your accident has changed your life. The more details, the better.
Carefully consider any settlement offer – If the at-fault driver’s insurance company makes a settlement offer, don’t accept it right away. Ask for a copy of the offer in writing and carefully review it with your lawyer. What might seem like a good offer at first could turn out to be a lowball offer that doesn’t even come close to covering all of your accident-related expenses.
Take future expenses into account – One of the biggest mistakes people make is not fully considering future accident-related expenses. Whether it’s future lost income or financial compensation for long-term medical care due to a medical condition related to your accident, you should be paid for such expenses.
Don’t discuss your case – Whether you’re at the crash site or hanging out with friends afterward, don’t discuss your accident with anyone other than your attorney. This includes posting anything on social media about your accident. Anything you say or write about your accident could be used by the at-fault party’s insurance company as evidence to reduce or deny your claim.
Hire a lawyer – The sooner you have an experienced attorney working with you after your accident, the better.
How can a lawyer help?
An experienced accident attorney can help in many different ways. From dealing directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company on your behalf to negotiating the best possible settlement offer, your lawyer can be your voice for justice and demand the money you rightfully deserve.
Coby L. Wooten, Attorney at Law, P.C. in Fort Worth knows how to handle such complex legal cases. That’s because our law firm has years of experience fighting for the rights of injury victims in Tarrant County and throughout Texas. As a result, we’re familiar with the state and federal laws that apply to car accidents. We understand how the legal process works and which strategies can be the most effective in particular cases. That’s why we have such a strong track record of success.