Texas is a fault state for car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents.
The person who caused the crash can be held financially liable for damages caused by the wreck. In most cases, car accident cases are settled between the at-fault driver’s insurance company and the victim. However, there are cases in which a victim may file a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
If someone sues you after a car accident in Texas, there are things that you should know and steps you should take to protect your rights and best interests.
Car Insurance Requirements in Texas
Because Texas is an at-fault state for automobile accidents, all Texas drivers must carry a minimum amount of liability car insurance. Liability car insurance compensates the victims of a car accident that is your fault.
The minimum car insurance requirements for Texas are:
- Bodily injury to one person in an accident $30,000
- Bodily injury to multiple people in a single accident $60,000
- Property damage $25,000
Your insurance provider is only liable for payment up to your policy limits. If a car accident victim sues you and receives a judgment for more than your car insurance policy limits, you are personally liable for the amount above your policy limits.
Individuals who can afford to purchase higher amounts of liability car insurance should consider doing so to protect themselves in case they cause an accident. High-net-worth individuals might want to consider additional insurance to protect their assets, such as an umbrella liability policy.
Why am I Being Sued for a Car Accident if I Have Car Insurance?
There are several reasons why a victim might sue you for a car accident, even though you have car insurance.
Your insurance provider may deny liability for the car accident. If so, the victim might sue you to seek compensation for damages caused by the car crash.
The insurance company might refuse to negotiate a fair settlement for the injury claim. You cannot force your insurance provider to pay a specific amount to settle a claim. Therefore, you could be sued if your insurance provider attempts to undervalue the claim and refuses to negotiate a fair settlement.
Your insurance provider might believe that the victim shares responsibility for the cause of the accident. If so, the comparative negligence laws in Texas allow the court to reduce the amount of money paid to the victim for damages. However, a jury must find that the victim contributed to the cause of the crash and assign a percentage of fault before the amount of compensation can be reduced.
Therefore, you could be sued for a car accident if your insurance provider wants to take the matter to court to allege comparative negligence claims. Your insurance provider may also take the matter to court if it believes that it has a valid defense to the claim, such as the expiration of the statute of limitations for a car accident claim.
What Should I Do if I’m Served With a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
If you receive a lawsuit for a car accident in which you were a party, notify your insurance provider immediately. Your insurance company should provide instructions for submitting a copy of the complaint to the company. You must act quickly because you only have a specific amount of time to respond to the lawsuit.
The court could hold you in default and enter a default judgment if you fail to respond to the lawsuit before the deadline expires.
Your car insurance company should provide a lawyer to defend the lawsuit. However, the lawyer might protect the insurance company’s best interest instead of your best interest.
It might be wise to consult a car accident lawyer to discuss your legal rights if you are sued for causing a car accident. You want to ensure that you are protected throughout the lawsuit.
What Damages Can a Victim Receive for a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Victims of car accidents are generally entitled to recover compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Texas does not cap the amount of compensation for these damages in a car accident claim unless the lawsuit involves a government entity.
Therefore, a jury could award a victim millions of dollars in damages if the case warrants such an award.
Economic damages are the victim’s financial losses incurred because of the car accident and the victim’s injuries. Non-economic damages represent the pain and suffering the victim experienced after the car accident.
Examples of damages included in a car accident case are:
- Damage to the vehicle and other personal property
- Cost of medical treatment and care, including surgeries, emergency room visits, doctor’s bills, hospital stays, medications, therapy, etc.
- The loss of income and benefits, including decreases in earning capacity because of a permanent impairment
- Mental, physical, and emotional pain and suffering
- Scarring, disabilities, permanent impairments, and disfigurement, including amputations, paralysis, brain damage, and other catastrophic injuries
- Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life
- Psychological injuries, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD
Depending on the severity of the injuries and other factors, the award for damages in a car accident lawsuit could be substantial.
Texas also allows juries to award punitive damages in car accident cases. Punitive damages “punish” the defendant for gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing.
Punitive damages are capped in personal injury cases, so your liability could be limited. Also, punitive damages are rarely awarded in car accident lawsuits. An example of a car accident lawsuit that might include punitive damages would be a drunk driving accident.
How Can I Prevent a Car Accident Lawsuit?
You cannot prevent a victim of a car accident from suing you. However, you can reduce the chance of being sued for a car crash by practicing good driving behaviors. Avoid speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, and other poor driving behaviors that increase your risk of being involved in a traffic accident.
Purchase higher amounts of car insurance to protect yourself if you are sued for a car accident. If you are sued because of a car accident that was your fault, you might not face personal liability if your car insurance covers the victim’s damages in full.
Consult a car accident lawyer whenever you are involved in a car crash. Get the facts about car accident claims and your legal rights from an attorney. Your insurance company is not a trusted source of legal advice about car accidents.