A Guide to the Statute of Limitations in Car Accidents
A car accident can leave a person feeling shaken, angry, and worried about meeting their life and financial obligations. If you were recently involved in an accident in Texas, there is some important information you need to know about filing your claim. This guide will help ensure that your car accident lawyer has the best chance of getting you the compensation you deserve.
Texas: An “At Fault” State
In terms of car accident insurance, Texas is an “at fault” state. This means that before coverage and damages are determined, your insurance company will first determine who is at fault. In “no fault” states like Michigan, a driver deals with their own insurance company, who compensates them for medical expenses, loss of wages, and other expenses, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
In addition to its “at fault” status, Texas also abides by comparative fault laws. These laws determine what percentage a driver is considered to be at fault for an accident. The law states that you must be less than 50% at fault for the accident in order to recover damages. If you’re found to be more than 50% at fault, no damages can be collected.
Statute of Limitations
The amount of time a person has to bring personal injury claims against other drivers, for property damage, or for wrongful death in Texas is two years from the date on which the vehicle accident or the person’s death occurred. Vehicles include bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, and cars, as well as accidents between a pedestrian and a vehicle.
If the accident occurred between your vehicle and one considered to be a government vehicle, such as a city bus, you have between 60 and 90 days to file your claim.
If injuries become apparent at some point in time after the accident, the start of the two years may be moved to the day the symptoms began appearing. However, this is at the court’s discretion and occurs only under special circumstances.
Police, Medical Attention, and Insurance
The first thing to do following a car accident is to call the police and notify them of the accident. If they come to the scene of the accident, they are bound by law to complete Form CR-2, which is a crash report. If the police don’t come to the accident location, you will need to complete this form yourself at the nearest police station.
Next, you’ll want to make sure you and anyone else who may have sustained physical injuries receive medical attention. This is not only extremely important to your physical health but will also be very important to your legal claim. Ensure that you see a physician in Texas and that they document your injuries.
Finally, your insurance company should be called either while you’re still at the scene of the accident or as soon as possible after the accident. This will give you and your insurance company proof of the date and time when you began the claims process. These pieces of information will be very important when you and your car accident lawyer go to court.
You are never under any obligation to speak to the other driver’s insurance company. If you do, you should refuse to provide any statements, verbal or written, regarding the accident to your own and their insurance company. Instead, speak to a car injury lawyer.
Next, it’s important to be aware of minimum coverage amounts and state insurance.
Minimum Insurance Coverage Requirements in Texas
All drivers in Texas are required to carry particular amounts of auto insurance. They must carry a minimum of:
- $25,000 for any property damage
- $60,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $30,000 for bodily injury per person
Drivers who carry the above minimum coverage will be able to pay for any property damage and/or medical bills if they are found to be at fault for a car accident. However, these minimums may not adequately cover the property or physical damage sustained, depending on the severity of the accident.
If the other driver in the accident had no insurance or an insufficient amount of coverage, state law comes into effect. Insurance companies in the state of Texas are legally obligated to offer personal injury protection, also known as PIP coverage, to their policyholders.
Depending on the insurance company, PIP may be automatically included on a driver’s policy. This coverage pays for any injury to yourself, as well as to anyone else who may have been in your vehicle at the time the accident occurred. However, policyholders also have the option to decline PIP coverage.
What Types of Damages Can You Sue For?
If you decide to sue the other driver for damages, it’s important to be aware of the different types of damages for which a personal injury law firm can file a lawsuit.
If the other driver’s recklessness caused the accident, you may be able to sue for exemplary or punitive damages up to $200,000. However, it’s very likely that this will not succeed unless the level of recklessness was extreme.
Non-economic damages are those not considered to be financial by the court. Specific damages can include mental anguish, emotional pain, and physical pain and suffering. The amount you receive will be based on many variables, as well as on your individual situation.
Economic damages are the financial losses you incurred as a result of the accident. Lost wages are an example of economic damages. In the case of an injury due to a car accident, earning capacity in the past and future is calculated, as well as any financial losses since you became injured. Economic losses are commonly the largest portion of damages awarded in court.
Representing Yourself In Court
Some have chosen to represent themselves in court, many times for the purpose of saving on costs. However, unless you have an expert understanding of the law, you may be putting your case in jeopardy by going to court without a lawyer that handles personal injury cases..
In order to begin the process, you first need to let the other driver know that you are making a claim against them. This is done by service of process, whereby notice is served or delivered personally to the other driver.
Following the service of process, the other driver has two choices: they or their insurance company will either reply to the lawsuit by filing an answer document with the court, or they will not respond at all. If the other driver does not respond, you automatically win your case.
Should the other driver wish to settle, you will need to be able to know how to negotiate with their attorney to get the most money for the damages you sustained. In many cases, it will be the other driver’s insurance company who presents you with an offer. Unfortunately, many times these offers don’t come close to the money you’ll need for your medical and other expenses.
If you don’t settle, you’ll need to go to trial, which requires you to invest your time in being in court, as well as understanding all of the ins and outs of the legal process.
Get Experience on Your Side
When you’ve been injured in a car accident, the pain and financial loss you are experiencing can be challenging enough without having to face the prospect of defending yourself in court.
The motor vehicle accident lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. have been defending accident cases like yours for over 50 years. We know that your expenses go far beyond your medical bills—you also need compensation that covers any physical therapy or counseling you may need.
If you’ve been in a car accident, we can help you put your life back together; call Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. today for your free consultation: (713) 893-0971.