If you're looking to estimate how much your car accident claim will be worth, I'd suggest reading my helpful article - How Much Is My Case Worth? - which brakes down a case piece by piece.
If you're curious to know what kind of compensation is available after you've been in an accident, I cover that topic here.
Who Is At-Fault for the Wreck?
After an accident, determining "fault" is the first (and one of the most important) steps. The person who caused the wreck will be responsible for paying for the damages and injuries that resulted. Similarly, all dealings will be done using their insurance company.
So if the wreck was your fault, you'll need to contact your own insurance company. If the wreck was another driver's fault, you'll need to contact the other driver's insurance company.
In many cases, car accidents are partly the fault of both drivers. Texas is one of a handful of states that recognizes partial fault for an accident and is something you should keep in mind when making your insurance claim.
The rest of this article will work under the assumption that the wreck was NOT your fault and you're filing a claim against the other driver's insurance company.
(If you aren't sure who's at-fault, you should start by reading my article: How to Determine Fault After an Accident).
What Types of Compensation Can You Receive?
Naturally, after a car accident you'll need to get your car fixed. The at-fault driver's insurance company should pay for this. If you need a rental car, you can often get that covered too. I've written on the subject in more detail, and you can find that article here.
This is one of the basic types of compensation that many people may not be aware that exists in their favor!
Past and Future Medical Expenses
If you were hurt in a wreck that wasn't your fault, you went to the hospital or to your family doctor and you've incurred medical bills as a result. You can claim compensation for those bills, regardless of whether or not you have health insurance (the other driver's insurance company will pay for them). Some examples of past medical bills include your ride in the ambulance, ER visits, appointments with doctors, surgeries, physical therapy, prescriptions, injections, and so on.
You can also claim compensation for future medical expenses. In some cases, victims are hurt badly enough in a wreck that they will need ongoing care for years to come. You can get money for this in a car accident claim. A doctor can help estimate what your future medical bills will cost.
There are, of course, many stipulations before the insurance company will pay you. You must prove that the injuries were a direct result of the accident, and you must prove that the accident wasn't your fault. Sometimes this is easy (the at-fault driver admits they were at-fault). Sometimes it's not (the at-fault driver says the wreck was your fault and you don't have any evidence to prove him wrong). If you need help with this part of your claim, you can always consult your personal injury attorney.
Pain, Suffering and Mental Anguish
This category is more obscure but no less important. Depending on the severity of the injuries, car accident victims can undergo an enormous amount of pain, stress and anguish. Particularly in cases where victims are scarred or disfigured as a result of the wreck or have lifelong pain from there on after, the pain and suffering they experience should not go ignored.
Unfortunately, pain and suffering is hard to claim for since you must prove that the wreck caused your anguish. To learn more about recovering money to compensate you for your pain after an accident, read this helpful article I wrote on the subject.
Disfigurement and Impairment
As mentioned above, if the car wreck caused any kind of scarring or disfigurement to your body, you can be compensated for it. The more noticeable the scar, the more money you can get for it.
Past and Future Lost Wages
The auto and medical bills you wrack up aren't the only costs associated with accidents - lost wages play a big factor, too. If you missed work because of an accident, you have a right to compensation for your lost wages. Even more so, if the wreck caused you to lose earning capacity (for instance, a back injury that forced you to quit your job as a mechanic or a brain injury that took you out of the workforce permanently), you also deserve money to cover those costs.
Even if you used sick time or vacation time after the wreck, you can still recover the money you lost on those days.
Loss of Consortium
If a wreck has caused you to lose intimacy with your spouse, the law allows you to recover for that loss.
Protecting Your Legal Rights After an Accident
In Texas, any time that you have suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may have ground to make a claim for compensation to cover the cost of your accident-related medical care and other related expenses.
Making a claim for compensation after and accident is not an opportunity to get rich quick. It is an important legal right without which you would be left with a mountain of debt. If your misfortune was someone else’s fault, then their insurance company should be the ones to pay – not you.
Unfortunately, just because Texas law entitles accident victims to fair compensation, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it – at least not without a fight. Insurance companies are in business to make a profit, and they will do whatever they can to avoid paying innocent victims a reasonable settlement.
Here are just a few examples of how they attempt to cheat accident victims out of the fair compensation they deserve:
The Insurance Company Won't Pay for Your Medical Treatment
A lot of times the insurance adjustor assigned to your case will argue that the cost of your surgery or the ambulance ride to the hospital was too expensive and will refuse to pay the full amount. That is ridiculous. If you’ve been in a car wreck, you’re not going to barter with the paramedics. If the at-fault driver has insurance limits of $50,000 and your medical care costs were $40,000, then they should pay the full amount – not argue the price.
The Insurance Company Asks You to Sign a Release
Anytime that anyone tries to get you to sign something post-accident, whether it’s an individual, a business entity, or the insurance company, it is wise to be extremely suspicious. Most likely, they’re just trying to protect themselves by getting you to agree to waive your legal rights. Certainly, they are not acting in your best interest. Never sign anything without first consulting with a board certified personal injury and wrongful death lawyer who can make sure your legal rights are protected at all times.
The Insurance Company Lowballs Your Settlement
At the Anderson Law Firm, we offer completely free, no obligation consultations to accident victims. It doesn’t cost you anything to get a professional opinion, and it’s definitely worth getting if you’re considering accepting any kind of settlement offer. In Texas, once you accept a settlement, you can’t go back and ask for more money later. Once you take the check, your legal right to compensation is over. This is especially important to remember if you are still under doctor’s care or going through rehabilitation – never settle your case if you’re not done treating.