Car accidents happen in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re driving down the road and the next your vehicle is spinning out of control. If you are found at fault for causing the accident, your auto liability insurance should pay for the injuries of others in accordance with your policy. When you have responsibly paid your premiums, you have the right to expect to be covered.
However, what if your insurer won’t settle the claim against you and you are left exposed in a lawsuit? Can you force your insurance company to settle? Generally, most liability insurance policies have language that gives insurers control over the settlement process, so you can’t force your insurer to settle. Nevertheless, if their actions in not settling are unreasonable and you suffer damages because of it, you may be able to get compensation through a lawsuit against your insurance company.
What Happens if the Insurance Company Doesn’t Settle?
If You’re Harmed, You Might Be Able to Recover Damages in a Bad Faith Lawsuit.
If your accident case goes to trial because your insurance company refused to settle with the injured party, and the jury rules in their favor, the judgment against you could potentially be much more than you have in liability insurance protection. You could be left responsible for personally paying the difference between your policy limit and the judgment amount, which could be financially devastating. If this has happened to you, you may be able to recover your damages from your insurer through a bad faith lawsuit. In a successful insurance bad faith lawsuit, you could receive compensation for the losses you suffered as well as recover your attorney fees. However, it must be proven that your insurer acted unreasonably in denying the claim or delaying it.
Texas Law Protects Consumers from Unreasonable Insurance Practices
Chapter 541 and Chapter 542 of the Texas Insurance Code are the laws meant to protect consumers from bad faith insurance practices. Some of the actions that are considered unlawful include:
- Misrepresenting material facts or policy provisions relating to coverage
- Failing to make a good faith attempt to reach a prompt and equitable settlement in which liability is reasonably clear
- Denying a claim without reasonably investigating it
- Failing to tell a policyholder in a timely way why a claim is being denied.
These are just some of the ways in which insurers may act in bad faith. Every case is unique, and it can take the skill of an attorney familiar with the complexities of Texas insurance law to help determine whether denial or non-settlement of a claim is due to bad faith.
Can the Insurance Company Settle Without My Consent?
As noted earlier, liability policies usually give insurers decision-making authority over whether they settle or not. Therefore, while you cannot force an insurer to settle, you also can’t stop them from settling if they decide it is in their best interests to do so. For example, if you believe you are not at fault in causing the accident and want to go to court to argue your case before a jury, rather than settle with the other party, the insurance company can overrule you and settle anyway. However, as with not settling claims, if their decision to settle is unreasonable and causes you additional liability or other harm, you may have reason to file a bad faith lawsuit against them.
What If the Other Driver Caused the Accident? How Do I Get Their Insurer to Settle?
If you were injured in an accident and the other driver was found at fault, their insurance company is typically responsible for compensating you for your medical bills and other damages. If the other driver’s insurance company is using delay tactics to avoid making a settlement offer, or is offering a low-ball settlement, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced car accident attorney. Often when insurers realize that you have the help of an attorney who is prepared to go all the way to court, they will decide to provide a fair settlement offer rather than spend time and money in a trial. This is especially true when your attorney has gathered strong evidence that the insurance company’s policyholder was at fault.
Another thing to point out is that you don’t have to accept the first settlement offer from the insurer. If you don’t believe the offer fairly covers your damages, don’t sign on the dotted line – and you should consider speaking to an attorney as soon as possible. Many insurers offer low-ball settlements first, hoping that claimants will accept them so they can quickly close the books on claims while also saving themselves money. Depending on the situation, you can and should negotiate for a higher settlement amount if you don’t think the offer is fair.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can examine the damages you’ve suffered in the accident to help you determine a fair value for your claim. Moreover, if an adequate settlement offer isn’t forthcoming, they can advise you about taking your case to trial. Damages can include medical costs, lost time at work, and more.
Contact an Experienced Houston Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
Unfortunately, whether a crash was your fault or the other driver’s, it isn’t unusual to be at the mercy of insurance companies when it comes to effectively resolving claims. If you’re having difficulty with an insurer, it may be time to get a personal injury lawyer involved.
At Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, we know how insurance companies operate. We understand the tactics some insurers may use to try to save money for themselves and their shareholders. When you have done the right thing and paid insurance to protect yourself financially in the event of a crash, you are entitled to that coverage. We will stand up for you with big insurers who may not be operating in good faith. Call our law office today for a free, no-obligation consultation at (713) 973-8888 or toll-free at 1 (800) 444-5000. We are standing by to help you.