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IN SETTLEMENTS & VERDICTS
YEARS OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
IN SETTLEMENTS & VERDICTS
Car accident victims are often surprised that, even if liability for the accident seems clear-cut, the settlement from the negligent party’s insurance company can be anything but straightforward.
It helps to know what to expect from a car accident settlement in Texas — from the time of the accident until you receive payment. That way, you will understand more about the process and be able to adjust your expectations accordingly.
Generally speaking, car accident settlements that cause serious personal injury are best left to experienced personal injury lawyers to follow up while you recover from your injuries. Even with minor injuries, medical bills and other expenses can mount up quickly.
Don’t be tempted into a quick settlement, which is what you may be offered by the insurance company. By hiring a personal injury lawyer, you can rest assured that nothing important is missed, and you will receive the full compensation you’re entitled to.
But how much are you entitled to, and how will your claim proceed?
Determining fault in a Texas car accident
Drivers have a duty of care to other road users. All road users — car, truck and motorcycle drivers as well as cyclists and pedestrians — need to obey the road laws and ensure that their actions are safe.
When drivers fail to live up to their duty of care, they may act negligently, which can make them liable for accidents and any losses that result.
Accidents in Texas most commonly result from one of the following:
- Drunk or impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Manufacturer defects (faulty auto parts)
If you’re involved in a car accident in Houston, it’s important to take steps to help you determine liability, protect your rights and make a successful claim.
- Calling the police to visit the scene of the accident: even if the parties can drive away, a police report will usually be key supporting evidence to advance a claim.
- Taking photos/video at the scene: including photos of the vehicles (highlighting damage), license plates, markings on the road, road signs and any other notable features at the scene.
- Noting witness details: take the contact details of anyone who saw the accident.
After the accident and you have attended to your injuries, your next move should be to contact an experienced car accident attorney, who can help you collate evidence for your claim. If necessary, an accident reconstruction specialist can be hired to assist.
A valid claim with a third-party insurance company will likely result in an out-of-court settlement but it’s important to prepare for litigation. The insurance company is likely to play hardball and use strategies to downplay a claim.
Receiving a fair settlement for the full amount of your claim can be an enormous challenge if you attempt the process alone.
What can a car accident settlement include in Texas?
Settlements for car accidents in Texas may include three types of damages: economic damages, non-economic damages and punitive damages.
Learn More → How Much Can You Expect From a Car Accident Settlement in Houston?
These are usually the easiest damages to calculate as the evidence required is contained in bills, receipts, salary dockets, etc.
Typical economic damages include:
- Current and future medical bills: these are the costs of emergency care, hospitalization, surgery (if applicable), medication, follow-up care, therapy, etc.
- Property damage: to your vehicle or personal belongings (the costs of repair or replacement if necessary)
- Current and future lost earnings: if you need time off work and lose earnings because of your injuries. If your role needs to be modified because of your injuries, you can also claim lost future earning potential.
These damages have no bills or receipts because they refer to the pain and suffering caused by the emotional trauma and distress of the accident. This makes them more difficult to put a dollar figure on and they are generally more likely to be contested by insurance companies.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Loss of consortium (physical affection from a spouse/partner)
- Loss of enjoyment of life
If a driver has acted recklessly or committed a crime during the accident (such as DUI or impaired driving) — and the justice system wants to set an example to other drivers — punitive damages may be awarded in addition to the economic and non-economic damages.
These damages are not intended to directly compensate victims and are only rarely awarded by judges in Texas.
What factors influence the settlement amount?
In Texas, there are no designated settlement amounts for different types of injuries. Everything depends on the individual circumstances of a claim.
Even two victims with similar injuries can receive vastly different settlement amounts. Settlements are usually based on a wide variety of factors, such as:
- The amount of treatment received is a significant factor to insurance adjusters.
- The severity of the injuries is another significant factor.
- The number of at-fault parties in the accident (how many compensation channels are there available?)
- The limits on the insurance policies you claim from
- The promptness with which you sought medical assistance
- The seriousness of the injuries (from minor injuries to catastrophic injuries)
- The length of time spent in the hospital/the length of treatment
- The time needed for recovery
- Any cognitive, physical or behavioral impairments resulting from the accident
- Whether rehabilitative therapy is required
- Whether you followed all medical advice
- Whether the ability to work is affected
- The impact on the enjoyment/quality of daily life
- Whether any permanent disability or scarring resulted
- Whether any punitive damages are appropriate
- The statute of limitations (usually two years from the date of the accident in Texas)
- The legal fees you agreed with your personal injury attorney (usually contingency fees)
How do you calculate your settlement amount?
To understand the amount you may receive for your car accident settlement, it’s best to discuss your precise circumstances with a personal injury lawyer.
Because there are so many influencing factors and variables to consider in these cases, it is difficult for an untrained eye to be able to put a figure on it. There is no formula to use where you can simply punch a few numbers in.
An experienced car accident attorney will know from previous cases approximately what your settlement may be worth. He or she may be able to make a rough calculation of economic and non-economic damages (and also factor in the likelihood of punitive damages being awarded) before deciding to take the case.
What if the insurance company won’t offer a fair settlement?
The figure that your lawyer estimates and the first offer from the insurance company are often very different because non-economic damages are often downplayed by insurance adjusters.
Some adjusters may even try to lower the value of a claim based on the demographics of the parties involved (lower for lower-income areas, for instance).
This is where the skills and experience of your lawyer can guide you to the compensation level you deserve with proven strategies and advanced negotiation skills. With a good understanding of the average settlements for similar injuries from similar accidents in the same locations, no personal injury lawyer should settle for less than you deserve.
Because lawyers in such cases generally work on a contingency basis and get paid a percentage of the final settlement, a higher settlement is a “win-win”.
Contact the DeHoyos Law Firm, PLLC today for a free consultation to evaluate your car accident injury case.