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Who Pays for Damages After a Car Accident?

Offered by Weinstein Law

Know your legal options if you’ve been injured

There are thousands of car accidents in the state of Texas every year, occurring on highways, city streets, and back roads. These include many different types of crashes that can cause a wide range of injuries. Accident victims are then left to pick up the pieces and try to put their lives back together. Many aren’t sure where to begin.

A car accident can happen in seconds, but the impact of the crash can affect you for months or years. You’re hurt, your car is wrecked, and now you have medical expenses and other bills to pay. Who is going to pay those bills? The answer is that it depends on your situation. That’s why it’s important to know where you stand.

Common types of damages

A car accident can cause many types of damages. There’s damage to your health, to your vehicle, and to your life. You may be able to recover financial compensation for many of these damages under the law. These generally include economic, non-economic and in certain cases, punitive damages.

Economic damages are those that have an objectively determined dollar value. Examples include:

Medical expenses

The costs for treating your injuries can add up quickly and become overwhelming. There may be charges for:

  • Emergency room treatment
  • Imaging tests such as CT scans, X-rays and MRIs
  • Lab tests such as a glucose tests, potassium tests, urinalysis and a complete blood count
  • Operating room time, based on the amount of time your surgery takes
  • Anesthesia, including the costs of medication, supplies, equipment and hospital staff
  • Recovery room time as you are monitored just after surgery
  • Your hospital room, based on the length of your stay and whether your room is semi-private or private
  • IV therapy to provide you with fluids while you are in the hospital
  • Medical supplies including bandages, screws, plates and other materials
  • Medication both in the hospital and during your recovery
  • Medical equipment you may require, such as a wheelchair or crutches
  • Therapy to help you get better, such as physical or occupational therapy
  • Follow-up appointments with doctors

Lost wages

Injuries from a car accident can impact your ability to take part in your usual activities. This includes your ability to do your job. When you are forced to miss time from work because of your injuries, you may lose income.

Property damage

A crash can severely damage your vehicle. The cost of repairing it can be thousands of dollars. Plus, even after your car is repaired, its resale value is diminished, meaning you’ve lost some of your assets. If your car is totaled and can’t be repaired, your damages are the fair market value of the vehicle. Other property damage may include the loss of personal possessions that were inside the vehicle at the time of the accident.

Non-economic damages

Non-economic damages are losses you’ve suffered as a result of the accident that are more subjective in nature – but no less real – than economic damages. Some examples include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of companionship, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Punitive (exemplary) damages

Though it’s rare in Texas, in certain cases car accident victims may be able to recover punitive damages. However, they must be able to prove that a negligent party acted in malice, fraud or gross negligence.

All drivers in Texas are required to carry insurance

The purpose of insurance is to pay for medical expenses and property damage after a car accident. In Texas, every driver must have car insurance with minimum amounts of liability coverage:

  • $30,000 for each injured person, per accident
  • $60,000 total for all injuries in an accident
  • $25,000 for property damage, per accident.

However, damages from a car accident can easily exceed these amounts. That’s why it is advisable to buy policies that have higher amounts of liability. This makes insurance premiums higher. But it also provides much more protection if you are involved in a serious crash.

There are also additional insurance coverage options you can buy that provide even more protection. Collision coverage will pay the cost of repairing damage to your vehicle. Personal injury protection (PIP) can cover the cost of your medical bills and lost wages. Uninsured and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage provides protection if you are injured by a driver who either has no insurance or not enough to cover the damages you suffered.

If another driver was at fault for your accident

In many cases, another driver is responsible for causing an accident. For example, the driver in your case may have been speeding, texting or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You can file a claim for damages with that driver’s insurance company. But then things can get complicated.

The driver who caused your crash may deny doing anything wrong. That puts you in a position of having to prove negligence. The driver may also blame you for causing the accident. Texas uses a modified form of comparative negligence when determining damages after a car accident. This means that if you are found partially responsible for what happened, the amount of your damage could be reduced.

Another complication is the insurance company. Their goal is to protect their profit margins by paying you as little as possible. In order to justify paying you less, they may question the seriousness of your injuries or argue that they were pre-existing. Another common method of minimizing compensation is offering a settlement that falls far short of covering all of the damages suffered.

Having experienced legal representation can help you recover more compensation

An attorney can investigate your accident to determine who was at fault. This involves gathering evidence, including photographs and any traffic camera footage. An attorney can carefully review accident reports and interview witnesses. Accident reconstruction experts and other specialists are sometimes consulted to offer insights on how the crash happened.

From this investigation, an attorney can build a strong case for financial compensation and guide your claim through the legal process. A settlement that meets your needs can often be reached through negotiation with the insurance company. If a settlement can’t be reached, an attorney can pursue your case for damages in court.

If you have been hurt in an accident in East Texas, it is in your best interests to consult an experienced attorney who can review the details of your case and explain your legal options. Car accident lawyers work on a contingency fee, meaning you don’t pay out of pocket, and there is no cost for the initial consultation and no obligation to hire the lawyer. Contact an attorney in your area to schedule a free consultation.

Weinstein Law is a personal injury law firm in Athens, TX.

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