Texas state law makes negligent drivers legally liable for the injuries and damage they cause. This includes those who drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs and drivers who act recklessly by texting or violating safety laws (speeding, failure to yield, etc.). When you are injured in an automobile accident caused by a negligent driver, there are two general types of damages you may recover through an insurance claim or civil lawsuit: bodily injury damages and property damages.
Bodily Injury Damages
Injured auto accident victims may seek compensation from the negligent driver for the following bodily injury damages:
- Ambulance services and emergency room treatment
- Hospital stay
- All doctor bills
- Transportation expenses surrounding ambulatory medical treatment
- Ambulatory medical (and psychological) bills
- Lost income, including any lost benefits
- Physical therapy
- Pain and suffering
- Payment for services normally performed before the accident but are no longer able to manage
- Permanent injury or disability
This list is relatively complete, though depending on your situation, there could be other costs. The at-fault driver’s insurance company is principally responsible to pay for these expenses through liability coverage. However, the current minimum liability auto insurance limits are $30,000 for each injured person and a total of $60,000 per accident. This basic coverage is referred to as 30/60 coverage.
Considering the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, 30/60 coverage for bodily injury doesn’t go very far today. So many drivers do not have enough insurance coverage to pay for bodily injury damages caused by their negligence. It then falls to the victim’s insurance coverage to make up the difference – to the limits of the victim’s policy.
If you find yourself as the victim of another driver’s negligence, but there isn’t enough liability coverage, you can use your own underinsured motorist and no-fault coverage. Underinsured motorist insurance covers bodily injury damages in excess of the negligent driver’s limits of liability coverage. No-fault benefits, including Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Medical Payments (MedPay), can be used right away to cover your unexpected expenses from the collision. PIP coverage is virtually limitless (depending on how much you wish to pay), with minimum coverage starting at $2,500.
If you are a passenger in an accident, your options for compensation may be different. If your driver isn’t at fault, your options for compensation are (1) the negligent driver, (2) your driver’s underinsured motorist and no-fault benefits, and (3) your own underinsured motorist and no-fault benefits. If your driver is at fault, your options for compensation are (1) your driver and (2) your own underinsured motorist and no-fault benefits.
In any of these scenarios, if additional compensation is still necessary, you may have to seek a judgment against the at-fault driver to attempt to recover the difference in court.
When you are hit by another driver and the accident is their fault, the following are the property damages you may demand from that driver’s:
- Repair/replacement of your vehicle
- Damage to personal property
- Towing costs and vehicle storage fees
- Vehicle rental
- Loss of use of your vehicle, if you don’t rent a vehicle
- Diminished value of your vehicle, if it’s repaired
Texas drivers must carry property damage liability coverage that pays for property damage they cause in an accident. But remember, the minimum in Texas is $25,000. What happens if the driver who hit you carries the minimum property damage liability limits of $25,000, but your vehicle is worth more? A new tricked-out pickup can be worth $35,000 or more. And what if you’re taking a brand new giant TV and laptop computer home when you’re hit? The coverage sequence is the same: first the negligent driver’s insurance up to the limits of their policy coverage, then your policy if you have underinsured motorist property damage coverage. If necessary, any unpaid balances must be sought in civil court.
Needless to say, if you can afford the premiums for higher levels of coverage and you’re ever in an accident with significant injuries and damages, you’ll be glad increased your coverage.
Unfortunately, some insurance companies can drag their feet in compensating you for damages. Many companies feel it is in their best interest to delay payment, simply because insurance companies hate to pay out claims (but love taking in those premiums). Your own insurance company might even come around slowly, hoping that the negligent driver’s insurer will finally come through and they won’t have to pay. It is under those circumstances that a seasoned accident lawyer protects your compensation rights by aggressively negotiating with all insurers to get the justice you deserve.
There’s a general rule of thumb that the higher the damage and greater the injury from an accident – the total compensation amount – the more resistance you will get from any insurance company. So, if your total bill is a few thousand dollars, chances are better that rightful damages will be paid in a somewhat timely fashion. But when you get close to or over the coverage limits of any policy, your chances of fair compensation – either through negotiation or at trial – are better with the help of a seasoned personal injury law firm.
Get help from someone who knows the law and who knows Texas. Terry Bryant Accident and Injury Law is here to help. Call us today at 1 (800) 444-5000 or fill out a FREE initial consultation form.