What Happens if I am At Fault for a Car Accident in Texas?

Experiencing a car wreck can be an emotionally distressing situation, especially when you find yourself at fault in a car accident. This guide seeks to offer clarity and guidance by answering many of the questions that arise in the wake of an at-fault accident, and providing practical advice to navigate your way through this often complex and stressful situation.

What Should I Do After a Car Crash I Caused?

After causing a car accident, it’s essential to act responsibly and take appropriate actions. The following steps to take after a wreck will help you mitigate the situation:

  1. Ensure Safety:  Check yourself and other involved parties for injuries. If needed, dial emergency services immediately.
  2. Inform the Authorities:  Contact the police to report the accident. A police report plays a crucial role in insurance claims and legal matters, and is the foundation of determining who is at fault in most auto accidents.
  3. Document the Accident:  Take photos of the accident scene, including the cars involved, road conditions, and any visible injuries. This will serve as evidence.
  4. Exchange Information:  Share your insurance details with the other parties involved and get their information as well. Do not admit fault or apologize.
  5. Notify Your Insurance Company:  Report the accident to your insurance company at the earliest.

Remember, being at fault in a car accident can have legal and financial consequences. Therefore, it’s essential to handle the aftermath carefully. Keep your conversations factual, consult an attorney if necessary, and be prepared for a possible increase in your insurance premiums.

What Damages Are Covered if You Are At Fault in a Car Accident?

If you are at fault in a car accident, the type of damages covered largely depends on the specifics of your auto insurance policy. The following are the most common types of coverage:

  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP):  Also known as “no-fault” insurance, PIP covers your and your passengers’ medical expenses irrespective of who caused the accident. It may also cover lost wages and other non-medical damages.
  • Medical Payments (Med Pay):  Similar to PIP, Med Pay covers medical expenses for you and your passengers. However, it usually does not cover non-medical costs like lost wages.
  • Property Damage Liability:  Property damage claims coverage pays for damage caused to others’ property in a car accident. It could be their vehicle, home, or any other personal belongings damaged due to the accident.

Once your policy limits are exhausted, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for the remainder unless you have other forms of insurance. In such cases, private health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or other forms of insurance can help cover outstanding medical bills.

In instances where the at-fault driver’s insurance doesn’t cover the entirety of the damages, the injured party may also look into their own insurance policies, such as underinsured motorist coverage or collision coverage, for further assistance. Always consult with your insurance agent or a legal professional to understand how coverage applies to your specific situation.

Will My Car Insurance Rates Go Up?

If you are at fault in a car accident, it’s highly likely that your car insurance rates will go up. Insurance companies calculate premiums based on risk assessment, and causing an accident typically signals to your insurer that you may pose a higher risk.

According to one recent study, drivers who make a single at-fault auto insurance claim can expect their premiums to increase by an average of 50 percent. However, each insurance company has its own method for determining rate increases, and several factors can influence this, such as your driving history, your location, and the severity of the accident.

Remember, a rate increase isn’t permanent and will decrease over time, especially if you maintain a clean driving record post-accident.

Will My Car Insurance Rates Go Up If I Am Not at Fault in a Car Accident?

Even when you are not at fault in a car accident, your insurance rates may potentially increase. Insurance companies consider various factors when determining your premiums, and being involved in an accident (even when not at fault) can signal a higher risk profile to your insurer.

Some states (i.e., California, Oklahoma) have laws that prevent insurance companies from raising rates for accidents where their client wasn’t at fault. Additionally, many insurance companies have “accident forgiveness” policies, which essentially means they won’t raise your premium after a first accident, especially if it’s not your fault.

It’s important to consult with your insurance agent to understand the specifics of your policy and state regulations. Finally, if you believe your insurance company has unfairly increased your premium after an accident where you weren’t at fault, consider contacting the Texas Insurance Commissioner or the insurance commissioner for your state.

How Do I Check What My Insurance Covers?

To determine what your car insurance policy covers, you should start by reviewing your declarations page, which is often the first page of your policy. This page outlines key information about your policy, including your coverage types, limits, and deductibles.

If you’re unsure about any terms or need further clarification, contacting your insurance agent or company directly can be beneficial. You can also request a complete copy of your policy for a more detailed explanation of your coverages and exclusions.

If you are a resident of Texas, it’s important to note that the state mandates minimum limits for auto insurance. As outlined by the Texas Department of Insurance, the minimum liability limits are $30,000 for each injured person, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident. This basic coverage is known as 30/60/25 coverage.

However, these are just the minimums. Depending on your circumstances and the value of your assets, your insurance company may have suggested higher limits to protect yourself financially. Always consult with your insurance agent or a legal professional to understand what these minimum limits mean for you and whether your current policy is sufficient for your needs.

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What Should I Do if I Receive a Notice the Other Driver is Suing Me?

If you receive a notice that the other driver involved in the accident is suing you, the first step is to stay calm and not ignore the lawsuit. You should immediately inform your insurance company about the lawsuit. Most car insurance policies include a duty to defend – meaning your insurer will provide and pay for an attorney to represent you in the case.

If liability is in dispute, it’s also advisable to consult with a personal injury attorney to understand your rights and potential defenses, particularly if serious injuries or high damages are involved. Your attorney can guide you through the settlement and/or litigation processes, help you prepare for depositions, and represent you in court, if necessary.

While a lawsuit can be intimidating, remember that it’s just the start of a legal process that may result in a settlement rather than a court trial. Your legal counsel and insurance company will work together to achieve the best possible outcome for your situation.

What to Expect If You’re Being Sued in Small Claims Court

If you’re being sued in small claims court in Texas for not having auto insurance, it’s crucial to understand how the process works. Generally, small claims courts handle cases involving disputes over amounts not exceeding $10,000, excluding interest and court costs. Here’s what to expect:

  • Summons and Complaint: The plaintiff will file a complaint with the court and you’ll receive a summons or notice to appear in court. The complaint will lay out the plaintiff’s claims against you.
  • Preparing Your Defense: It’s important to prepare your defense. Gather any documents or evidence that can prove your case and consider whether you need a witness to testify on your behalf.
  • Court Appearance: On the day of the court hearing, arrive early. When your case is called, you’ll have the opportunity to present your defense. Be prepared to answer questions from the judge.
  • Judgment: After hearing both sides, the judge will make a decision. If the judgment is in the plaintiff’s favor, you’ll be required to pay the amount determined by the court.
  • Appeal: If you disagree with the court’s decision, you have the right to appeal the judgment. Be aware that an appeal must be filed within a specific time frame.

While the process may seem daunting, remember that small claims court is designed to be accessible to the general public. Still, it’s beneficial to consult with a legal professional to better understand your rights and potential defenses.

Who Will Pay My Medical Bills?

If you are at-fault in a car accident, your medical bills may be covered by your own car insurance policy, depending on the type of coverage you have. Most states require drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage (MedPay), which can help pay for your medical expenses regardless of who caused the accident.

PIP coverage typically includes medical expenses, lost wages and other damages, while MedPay only covers medical expenses. The exact coverage may vary depending on your state laws and insurance policy terms.

In case you do not have PIP or MedPay, or if these do not cover all your medical expenses, you may need to use your health insurance for the remaining balance. However, your health insurer may seek reimbursement from your auto insurance company if they believe the auto insurance company should have covered those costs.

It’s important to consult with your insurance agent or a legal professional to understand your coverage and the process of filing a claim. Managing medical bills after a car accident can be complex, and understanding your insurance policy is a crucial first step.

Who Will Pay for My Car to Be Repaired?

If you are at fault in a car accident, your car’s repair costs will typically be covered by the collision coverage part of your auto insurance, provided you have this type of coverage included in your policy. Collision coverage pays for damages to your vehicle caused by a collision with another vehicle or object, regardless of who is at fault.

After the deductible is met, your insurance will pay for the remaining repairs up to the car’s actual cash value. If you don’t have collision coverage, you will likely need to pay out of pocket for the repairs. It’s crucial to understand your insurance coverages and consult with your insurance agent to determine the best course of action following an at-fault accident.

What Happens if I Do Not Have Car Insurance and I Cause an Accident?

If you’re involved in a car accident in Texas and don’t have car insurance, you’re in violation of the state’s financial responsibility laws. Negligence laws vary by state in the United States, with Texas operating under a “fault” car insurance system, meaning the person who caused the accident is responsible for paying. Texas requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance to cover any damages or injuries they may cause in a car accident.

In Texas, driving without auto insurance is considered a serious violation under Texas Transportation Code Section 601.191. If you are found to be an uninsured driver at fault in a car accident, you will face immediate penalties. The state law stipulates that a first time offender may have to pay a fine ranging between $175 and $350.

Subsequent violations of this law can lead to higher fines – from $350 to $1,000, along with potential impoundment of your vehicle. In addition, an uninsured driver causing an accident can be held personally liable for all damages and medical bills related to the incident.

Furthermore, under Texas Transportation Code Section 601.233, failure to pay these fines and surcharges can lead to a license suspension, making it even more challenging to secure auto insurance in the future.

Do I Need an Attorney if I am At Fault in a Car Accident?

Hiring an attorney after causing a car accident is not mandatory, but may be beneficial depending upon the circumstances of your accident. In minor incidents where no one is injured and damages are minimal, you can often handle the situation with your insurance company directly.

However, if the accident involves serious injury, substantial property damage, or a dispute over who is at fault, it may be in your best interest to seek legal representation. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process, negotiate with insurance companies, and ensure your rights are protected.

If you are wholly or partially at fault in a car accident and think your case would benefit from the help of an accident attorney, contact Thompson Law today for a FREE CONSULTATION.

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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.