It is so incredibly frustrating to suffer from a car accident injury, all because someone else wasn’t paying attention. Throughout the following days and weeks, while you’re trying to put your life back together, it is normal for that frustration to grow and become anger. After all, you were just minding your own business, obeying traffic laws, and keeping everyone safe when the unexpected happened. You certainly didn’t ask for someone to crash into you!
Unfortunately, people are increasingly preoccupied with their phones and other distractions while driving, so much so that accidents are on the rise!
So, we need to talk about how things can be made right. When you’re injured because of someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to recover damages from them. That is, they’re obligated to make you whole or, in other words, put you in the condition you were in before they hit you. In Texas, there are many avenues for recovery after an auto accident. This is not a complete list, but it’s a good start.
This is the most obvious source of recovery because it makes sense. The person who caused your injuries should be the one to handle the expenses. That’s why it’s important to exchange information with them at the scene.
A side note: when anyone buys insurance, one of their obligations under the contract is to cooperate with their investigation if there’s an accident. Failing to do so – i.e. failure to return calls or make yourself available to the insurance company - means that they might be able to deny coverage which leaves you personally holding the bag! To prevent this from happening, it is important to cooperate with your insurance company after an accident if it is undisputed that you’re the one who caused it.
Another part of the contract with the insurance company is that the company agrees to pay out any damage that you cause in an accident, up to your policy limit. In Texas, the minimum policy limit that someone can have is $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. This means that if the person who caused the crash has a minimum policy, the most that one person can recover from them is $30,000, regardless of how injured you are. If more than one person suffers from a car accident injury, then collectively the injured parties cannot recover more than $60,000.
In cases of severe injuries, this is far from acceptable. Legally, the person who caused the accident can be liable for the excess amount of damages beyond the insurance policy limits. This means that if you spent weeks in the hospital, suffered from multiple fractures, and are facing over a million dollars in medical expenses, technically you can go after the other driver for money beyond the policy limits. The problem is that it makes more sense on paper than it does in real life.
In Texas, it’s possible – and very likely – that the defendant (the person who caused the accident) is “judgment proof.” This means that even if you get a verdict for everything you need and want, that verdict is simply a piece of paper. Texas protects people’s homes, vehicles, tools of the trade, etc. from being sold to fulfill a verdict. For most people, that means the best and only source of recovery from them is their insurance policy. Now, if the defendant has significant assets – multiple houses, vehicles, etc. -, then the court can force the sale of those assets to recover what you’re owed.
If the person who hit you was on the job and driving a company vehicle, you can go after their employer for negligence as well. Sometimes it’s obvious that the person who caused the accident was working. For example, if they’re in a marked company vehicle, or if they tell you. Other times, it’s not as obvious. In these instances, it’ll become clear when the police find out who the owner of the vehicle is. Typically, the business will own a vehicle.
In the event that the owner is not the person who hit you, you may be able to recover from the owner as well. This theory is called negligent entrustment. It’s certainly not an easy case to make, but if you can prove that the owner of the vehicle knew or should have known that the driver was not good and yet they lent them the vehicle anyway, then you may be able to recover from them. This is especially important in accidents where the other driver was under the influence.
When nothing works using their insurance companies, you can open a claim through your own insurance carrier. This type of insurance is called Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. If you carry full coverage on your own vehicle, you most likely have this included. This coverage exists specifically for instances like this. If your car accident injury is either greater than the defendant’s policy, or the defendant doesn’t have insurance, your coverage will step in. As with any insurance policy, there is a limit to what your carrier will payout.
In a similar vein as the Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage, if you were the passenger in a vehicle that was in an accident, you may be able to recover from the driver’s insurance, even if the driver wasn’t at fault. This is because the driver’s Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage can attach to you.
In short, there are multiple avenues for recovering for your damages after a car accident injury. If you have any doubts, questions, or think that you aren’t being treated fairly, it may be in your best interest to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Located in Austin, Texas, we invite you to call us for a free consultation.