If you’ve been in a car accident in Texas, we’re here to help you navigate the property damage claims process. Dealing with the aftermath of a collision can be overwhelming, but understanding the key steps to maximize property damage claims can simplify things and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your damaged property. The most important steps to take when filing property damage claims are listed below.
Your legal obligations under Texas traffic laws vary based on the accident circumstances. Minor fender-benders, major collisions, or hit-and-runs all require different actions. However, all drivers have common responsibilities to fulfill. Understanding these obligations is crucial for compliance with Texas law and smooth processing of property damage claims.
In Texas, if an accident only involves property damage, you’re still legally obligated to stop. Failure to stop, especially if you’re the driver, can lead to a misdemeanor charge. The severity of the charge depends on the extent of the damage.
If the damage is less than $200, you could face a Class C misdemeanor. However, if the damage is $200 or more, the charge elevates to a Class B misdemeanor. Furthermore, each driver must move their vehicle to a safe location outside the active lanes of traffic when: 1) the vehicle does not require towing and 2) can be moved without additional damage or hazard to the vehicle. Failing to move your vehicle when it’s possible to do so could also result in a Class C misdemeanor (Tex. Transp. Code § 550.022).
If you collide with a parked car in Texas, you’re required to stop, make an effort to locate the owner, and give them with your contact information. If the owner cannot be found, leave a note in a visible spot on or attached to the vehicle. The note should include your contact details and a brief explanation of the collision.
Failure to adhere to these steps can result in legal consequences. If the vehicle sustains damage under $200, you may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. However, if the damage exceeds $200, you may face a Class B misdemeanor.
Under Texas law, if an accident “causes or is reasonably likely to cause injury or death to a person,” you must stop and remain at the scene. Additionally, you are obligated to provide the following information to either the other vehicle’s operator or a person attending to the scene: 1) name and address of the vehicle operator, 2) insurance carrier details, 3) vehicle registration number, and 4) driver’s license information.
Further, it is required by law to offer reasonable assistance to injured parties to an accident. This includes providing or helping arrange transportation to a hospital or other medical facility, if necessary.
If you’re involved in a hit-and-run in Texas, follow these steps:
If you file an Uninsured Motorist (UM) bodily injury claim, you typically will not have to pay a deductible. The deductible on UM property damage claims for a hit-and-run is $250 in Texas, though the deductible for collision coverage can be much higher.
No matter the extent of the accident, it is vital to immediately reach out to the police and file an accident report. Unfortunately, some drivers may engage in fraudulent practices when there is no police report, such as offering fake insurance information or distorting the sequence of events after the incident. By ensuring that the police thoroughly document the details of the accident, you can safeguard yourself against these deceitful tactics.
Upon arrival, the police will inspect the accident scene, carefully noting significant details and composing an objective report. This report often serves as valuable evidence when dealing with insurance companies and legal proceedings. Therefore, it is essential to fully cooperate with the police at the scene, providing accurate and detailed information to the best of your ability.
The quickest way to get your police crash report is through the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Crash Report Online Purchase System. To use the system, you’ll need to provide the crash ID, or you can search using the date of the crash, along with other details such as the county where the crash occurred or the name of any person involved in the crash. Once you have located your report, you can download it for a small fee ($6.00 for an uncertified electronic version, or $8.00 for a certified electronic copy).
Alternatively, you can request a copy of the report by mail. Simply send a completed request form (CR-91) along with the required $8.00 fee to the TxDOT Crash Data and Analysis Department.
In Texas, officers are required to file police reports not later than the 10th day after the date of a crash (Tex. Transp. Code § 550.062). Obtaining a crash report typically takes approximately 7 to 10 business days from the date of the accident. However, this can vary depending on the specific police department that handled the incident.
It’s essential to keep in mind that processing times can be longer if the accident was complicated or involved serious injuries. For the most accurate estimation, contact the specific police department that responded to your wreck, as each department has different protocols and timelines.
Once you obtain your report, review your crash report carefully. If you notice any errors or discrepancies, you should contact the law enforcement agency that completed the report and ask about their procedure for making corrections.
As long as it’s safe, try to take as many pictures as possible at the accident scene, including pictures of:
While taking photos, jot down the accident details. This information should be shared with the police officer, and having a personal record can help when filing property damage claims. Don’t rely on memory; details can be lost or distorted.
Contacting your insurance company at the scene of the accident allows you to provide the most accurate and complete information while details are still fresh in your mind. Your insurer can guide you through the necessary steps for filing property damage claims, enabling a smoother process. Additionally, they can advise on any immediate actions you should take to ensure your claim’s validity and success.
Early contact with your insurer also accelerates the claim process, potentially leading to quicker resolutions and reimbursements. Remember, being proactive and keeping an open line of communication with your insurance company can significantly assist with property damage claims following a car accident.
Before filing a property damage claim, document the market value of your vehicle. If your car has been declared a total loss, the insurance company will determine its value by comparing prices from a variety of sources, such as: local dealers, NADA, Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or Autotrader.
Insurance companies are not required to use a specific market value guide, so using multiple sources can help prove value. Further, since both NADA and Kelley Blue Book provide a value range, employing these strategies can help validate that your car’s worth is on the high end of the range.
The information above can serve as potent evidence when negotiating with your insurance company about the worth of your vehicle.
The choice of valuation method for determining the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle is often made by the insurance company. While insurance companies typically use NADA guidelines and Kelley Blue Book to estimate your car’s value, you have the right to challenge their assessment if it doesn’t meet your expectations.
By presenting your own evidence, such as maintenance records, pre-accident vehicle photos, and mileage documentation, you can influence the method used to determine the ACV and ensure a fair evaluation. Don’t hesitate to seek independent appraisals from used car dealers if you disagree with the insurer’s valuation. It’s your right to negotiate the payout for your vehicle.
The “Blue Book” is a guide that provides the average price for used vehicles, and it’s usually referenced by insurance companies to determine a vehicle’s value. However, it’s important to note that there are different “Blue Book” values available: retail, private party, and trade-in.
In most cases, insurance companies use the “private party” value. This value is used because it represents a realistic selling price between two individual consumers in the open market, rather than a dealer or a trade-in scenario. However, the ‘Blue Book’ value is just a guide, and the actual value of your car could be higher or lower depending on factors like its condition, mileage, and demand in your specific area.
It’s ideal to obtain at least three different repair estimates before settling property damage claims. This allows you to have a clear understanding of the true cost of the auto repairs and provides you with leverage when negotiating with the insurance company.
By law, you have the right to to select where your motor vehicle is repaired and the parts used for repairs (Texas Administrative Code Rule §5.501). However, the insurer is only required to pay reasonable repair costs, which they may base on the lowest estimate. Getting multiple estimates ensures that you can make an informed decision and helps prevent the insurer from undervaluing your property damage claim.
When your vehicle is damaged in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you’re entitled to recover certain damages under Texas law. This includes:
Remember, each car accident case is unique, and the actual recovery may vary based on the specifics of your situation.
In Texas, laws regulate the interaction between you, the claimant, and the insurance company, dictating what rights and responsibilities each party has in the property damage claims process.
Yes, insurance companies are legally permitted to record phone conversations without your consent in Texas. This is due to the state’s one-party consent law, which allows any part of a conversation to record it without notifying the other parties involved. These recorded calls can also serve as evidence in your claim process.
Thus, it’s vital to remain calm, collected, and consistent in these conversations, as the statements you make can significantly impact the outcome of your claim. Be cautious to avoid making definitive statements about the accident or admitting any form of guilt, especially if you’re in the initial stages of understanding the implications of the incident.
No, insurance companies are not legally required to disclose policy limits in Texas without a formal lawsuit being filed. As a policyholder, you may find this frustrating when trying to determine whether the at-fault party’s insurance coverage will adequately cover your damages.
While you can request this information from the insurer, but they could decline to provide it. This is one reason why seeking legal counsel after a car accident can be beneficial. A knowledgeable accident attorney can help navigate these complexities and ensure you’re fully informed during each phase of your claim.
Yes, under Texas law, oral agreements made with insurance companies can be legally binding. This means that any verbal commitment you make during negotiations with your insurance adjuster could potentially be used to hold you to certain terms, even without written documentation.
It’s crucial to be mindful of this when interacting with insurers, as a casual comment could inadvertently limit your claim or affect your settlement negotiation. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional before engaging in any substantive discussions with your insurance company. It’s okay to defer questions to your attorney or suggest that the adjuster put their request in writing, giving you time to review the information and consult with your legal advisor.
In Texas, policyholders are protected against certain unfair practices by insurance companies under the bad faith insurance laws (Texas Insurance Code Chapter 541). These laws prohibit insurance adjusters from taking bad faith actions, such as:
If you feel you are a victim of such practices, you may be able to file a Texas Department of Insurance complaint against the auto insurer for bad faith. Successfully proving bad faith could result in the insurance company being required to pay not only your claim but also any additional damages caused by their unfair actions.
In an attempt to streamline the process and potentially minimize the payout, insurance companies often try to combine rental car, bodily injury, and property damage claims releases into a single agreement. This strategy involves settling all claims related to the accident at once, which might seem convenient at first.
However, once a release is signed, any additional claims or costs discovered later cannot be covered. For example, if you discover additional property damage or medical issues after the release has been signed, you won’t be able to seek further compensation. Also, insurance claims are not a one-size-fits-all process, and each category – rental car, property damage, and bodily injury -deserves individual attention and negotiation.
Thompson Lawyers always offers FREE CONSULTATIONS, so there is no risk to you in reaching out to discuss your questions and concerns about your accident. Our attorneys can help you understand what to do after an accident. If your claim does benefit from our services, and you choose to hire us, we will use all the evidence possible and build a compelling case to fight for the compensation you deserve.
At Thompson Law, our dedicated team of lawyers is ready to provide legal aid if you’ve been involved in an auto accident in Texas. We urge you to reach out to us toll-free from any Texas city at 1-800-LION-LAW (1-800-546-6529).
We work tirelessly to ensure that the best interests of our clients are served, fighting for the justice and compensation you rightly deserve. Discover how we can aid you by giving us a call for a FREE CASE EVALUATION. Our staff is available 24/7, ready to help you get started on your injury and property damage claims.
Saying a vehicle “totaled” or a “total loss” means that the cost of repairing the accident damages is near or exceeds the car’s actual cash value (ACV), or the market value of your vehicle prior to the accident. If repair costs are close to or higher than the ACV, the insurance company will likely consider it a total loss.
Different insurers may have varying thresholds for determining this. Some may declare a total loss even if repair costs are slightly below the ACV. It’s important to inquire about the source used to establish your car’s ACV, as a third-party appraisal might yield a higher value than the insurer’s estimate.
If the insurance company declares your car a total loss and you owe more on your auto loan than the assessed market value of your car, you’ll find yourself in a situation known as being “underwater” or “upside down” on your car loan. In such scenarios, the insurance payout will cover the current market value of the car, but not the remaining balance on your loan.
The difference between the loan balance and the insurance payout is called a “loan gap”, which you are typically responsible for paying to your lender. You may have protection against this scenario if you had purchased gap insurance. Gap insurance covers the difference between your car’s current market value and the amount you still owe on your car loan, potentially saving you from having to pay out-of-pocket for a car you no longer have. If you don’t have gap insurance, you’ll need to continue making car loan payments, even though you no longer have the car.
Yes, you have the option to keep and repair your car even if it’s deemed a total loss by the insurance company. However, be sure to notify the insurance company about your intentions as soon as possible. If you choose to keep your car, the insurance company will subtract its salvage value from the amount it was intending to pay you.
Understand that a “total loss” vehicle may be issued a salvage title. After you’ve completed the necessary repairs, you’ll need to apply for a new title from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles using Form VTR-441 before you can legally drive the vehicle. Owning a vehicle with a past salvage title could present challenges when attempting to sell or insure the car due to the perceived risk associated with vehicles that have previously been designated as a total loss.
If the other driver’s insurer refuses to pay for your property damage, you have several options. The most immediate is to file a claim with your own insurance company, who will then seek reimbursement from the other insurer—this process is known as “subrogation“. However, this option may only be available if you have collision coverage.
If successful, you should be reimbursed for your deductible. Another option is to take the other driver to small claims court, if the damage amount is within the court’s limit. Legal action can compel the at-fault party to pay for the damages they caused. It’s advisable to consult with a legal professional to understand the best course of action based on your circumstances.
If you find yourself in an accident with an uninsured driver, your options are somewhat limited, but you are not without recourse. The simplest course of action is to file a property damage claim with your own insurance company under your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. This coverage is optional in Texas, but if you have it, it will cover your damages up to the limits of your policy.
If you don’t have UM/UIM coverage, you can sue the at-fault driver directly. However, this can be a lengthy and potentially costly process, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to recover your damages, especially if the driver lacks the financial resources to pay a judgment.
If the driver responsible for your accident in Texas is underinsured — meaning their insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the total cost of your damages — you could still recover your losses. You might be able to file a property damage claim under your own underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, if you have it as part of your insurance policy. UIM insurance covers the shortfall between the at-fault driver’s insurance limit and the actual cost of your damages.
If you do not have UIM coverage and the at-fault driver’s insurance is inadequate, you can consider filing a lawsuit against the driver directly. Again, the viability and outcome of such legal action can depend on the driver’s financial resources. Always consult with a legal professional to better understand your options and to navigate the complexities of the legal system effectively.
Policy limits refer to the maximum amount an insurance company will pay out for a single incident or accident under your policy. In Texas, the law mandates specific minimum policy limits for auto insurance, which is often referred to as “30/60/25 coverage“. This means:
These are the minimum coverage amounts, but policyholders can choose to purchase insurance with higher limits. It’s important to be aware that if the cost of an accident exceeds these limits, the at-fault driver may be personally responsible for covering the remaining expenses.
Note that these policy limits pertain to liability coverage, which covers damages caused to others in an accident. Other types of coverage can have different policy limits. Always consult with your insurance agent or a legal professional to better understand how your policy limits may affect property damage claims.
Liability insurance plays a significant role in car accident claims as it is designed to cover the costs associated with the damage caused by the at-fault driver in an accident. This includes both property damage and bodily injury that the other party may suffer.
In Texas, as in most states, drivers are required by law to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. If you are at fault in an accident, your liability insurance will pay towards the other party’s property damage and medical expenses up to your policy’s limits.
Liability insurance does not cover your own injuries or damage to your car. For that, you would need other types of coverage, such as collision and medical payments coverage. If damages exceed your liability coverage limits, you could be held personally responsible for the difference, which is why some drivers opt for liability coverage that exceeds the state’s minimum requirements.
Medical bills after a car accident in Texas can be covered in several ways.
Yes, it is generally advisable to seek legal advice from a car accident lawyer following an accident, especially if there are severe injuries, fatalities, or significant property damage involved. A competent car accident lawyer can provide invaluable assistance in several ways.
Remember, insurance companies have experienced attorneys working for them. Having your own legal representation can level the playing field and increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.
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State law limits the time you have to file a claim after an auto accident. If you have been injured in an accident, call now to get the help you need.