Hopefully, you don’t get into enough accidents to become an expert on Texas personal injury law. It’s perfectly natural to have a lot of questions, like what do I do if I get in a crash, what if I was partly at fault, what if I can’t afford a lawyer, and more. We view our job as more than just getting great results for people who have been hurt by the negligence of others. We also strive to provide personal attention to our clients and counsel them as needed. We are here to answer your questions so you know what to expect with your personal injury claim.
Below are answers to some of the questions we hear most often as we help people in Houston, Corpus Christi, and throughout Texas injured in motor vehicle accidents and other instances of negligence. If you have other questions or need help with your claim, give us a call at 713-303-8543. There’s no charge for your consultation, and we never charge a fee until we are successful in winning compensation for you.
Q. What do I do if I get in a car accident?
A. Texas law is very clear on the duties of drivers involved in an accident. In any accident that results or is reasonably likely to result in injury or death, drivers must immediately stop at the scene or return to the scene and remain there to render aid and exchange information. Drivers should stop their vehicles in a way that doesn’t obstruct traffic more than necessary. If only vehicle damage is involved (no injuries), drivers should move their vehicles off the roadway or out of traffic and exchange information.
The duty to render aid involves providing reasonable assistance, including transporting or making arrangements for transporting the person to a doctor or hospital if it appears necessary or the person requests it. If you were the one injured, do not be shy about asking for help or a ride to the hospital or accepting such help if it is offered.
Information exchanged should include the driver’s name and address, vehicle registration number, and the name of the driver’s insurance company. This requirement includes showing one’s driver’s license to an injured person if requested and available.
If the accident involves injury or death or a damaged vehicle that is not drivable, the driver must immediately call the local police department or sheriff’s office.
While you are at the scene, it is a good idea to take photos of the damage to the vehicles and the scene of the accident and to get the contact information of any witnesses who saw the crash. It is not advisable to discuss the accident with the other driver, to admit fault, or to discuss details about car insurance other than the name of the insurer.
If you did not need emergency medical treatment, it is still a good idea to get checked out by a doctor soon after the accident. Describe the crash so the physician can conduct a thorough examination and order any tests that might be in order. Some injury symptoms aren’t immediately apparent or don’t show up right away, so keep an eye out for any discomfort or changes to your health and follow up promptly with your doctor if you have any concerns.
You might need to call your insurance company within a day or two of the accident to secure your rights to make a claim, but you should also contact an attorney as soon as possible to make sure you say and do the right things to get the best result with any claim or lawsuit that may be necessary to get the financial help you need and deserve when the accident wasn’t your fault.
Q. When should I hire an attorney?
A. If you or a family member were injured, or if the vehicle damage was severe enough that you might have been injured, it’s a good idea to speak with a personal injury attorney who can review your case for free and offer advice. The sooner you call an attorney, the sooner they can start securing evidence, building your case, taking on the role of dealing with insurers and other parties, and making sure you are positioned for a successful result on any claims you have.
Q. What if I don’t have a doctor or can’t afford one?
A. We can put you in touch with a doctor who can examine and treat you or refer you to a specialist as needed. As experienced personal injury attorneys, we work with physicians, osteopaths, physical therapists and others who will treat your injuries and delay any billing until after your case is settled.
Q. What if I can’t afford a lawyer to represent me?
A. We take all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. We only receive a fee if we are successful in recovering compensation for you. No recovery, no fee. Our fees and expenses come out of the settlement or verdict we obtain, and our fees are limited to a fixed percentage we discuss with you during your free initial consultation.
With a contingency fee, you don’t have to worry about being able to afford a lawyer and can have access to a top-quality attorney who will work hard to get the best result.
Q. I glanced down at my phone while going through an intersection on a green light when a car coming from another direction ran their red light and hit me. Now their insurance company says I’m to blame and they don’t owe me anything. Is that right?
A. In Texas, injury victims can recover compensation from a negligent party who caused an accident, even if the victim was also partly at fault. So long as the victim isn’t mostly (more than 50%) to blame, they can still recover a monetary award, although any monies they receive will be reduced in proportion to their fault (e.g., 20% at fault = 20% reduction in benefits).
Don’t give the insurance company the last word on who was at fault. Instead, let an experienced plaintiff’s personal injury attorney review your case for free. The insurance company might be misstating the facts to get out of paying what they owe. If we can’t reach a settlement that fairly compensates you, our seasoned litigators will be ready to take the case to court and let a jury decide who was at fault.
Q. What if the driver who hit me fled the scene? Is there anything I can do?
A. If you have uninsured motorist (UM) insurance, you can file a claim for UM benefits when injured by a hit-and-run driver, the same as if you were hit by a driver who was uninsured. UM coverage comes with your liability insurance unless you reject it in writing (we always recommend you opt for UM coverage; the additional premium is small, and over 8% of Texas are uninsured).
We can represent you on a UM claim and help you get top-dollar for your claim. We can also try to track down the hit-and-run driver and hold them accountable to you. A jury might even award exemplary damages to punish a hit-and-run driver by making them pay several times the actual damage they caused.
Q. What exactly are exemplary damages and when do they apply?
A. Exemplary damages are defined in Texas as “any damages awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment but not for compensatory purposes.” They are called “exemplary” damages because they are used to make an example out of somebody for their especially bad (grossly negligent) behavior or intentional misconduct. They are also called “punitive” damages since they are designed to punish the negligent party rather than compensate the injury victim for their actual damages.
Exemplary damages are available when the plaintiff can prove by “clear and convincing evidence” to a unanimous jury that the harm was caused by fraud, malice or gross negligence. Gross negligence means the person acted with an extreme degree of risk, was aware of that risk, and nevertheless proceeded with a conscious indifference to the safety of others.
Proving exemplary damages is more difficult than proving compensatory damages. However, if the case warrants exemplary damages, our team puts in the time and effort and expertise to seek exemplary damages to further the cause of justice and maximize the monetary award our clients receive.
Q. Can I sue for an accident that happened at work?
A. In general, employees who are injured on the job are limited to accepting workers’ compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury and cannot sue their employer or a co-worker for negligence. However, not all Texas employers subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance. If your company is a “non-subscriber,” you can sue them and recover significant compensation beyond what workers’ comp typically offers, provided you can prove they were negligent and their negligence caused your accident or injury.
Even if your employer subscribes to workers’ compensation insurance and you file for workers’ comp benefits, you might still have a negligence claim if a third party was responsible for the accident. Examples of third-party liability include getting into a car wreck while on duty, slipping and falling on dangerous premises while working off-site, getting injured by a defective product, or getting hurt on a construction site due to the negligence of a contractor who negligently set up a scaffold or crane or provided a defective ladder, for instance.
Workers’ comp only covers medical expenses and two-thirds of lost wages, and it doesn’t pay anything for pain and suffering. If you get hurt in a workplace accident, it might be worthwhile to talk over what happened with a personal injury attorney to see if a third party is responsible or to find out if your employer is a non-subscriber to workers’ comp. We’ll review your case for free, and we won’t charge any fee unless we are successful in recovering compensation for you.