Thanks to advanced safety features and exceptional design, today’s cars are safer than ever. But despite this modern technology, there are still over 6 million car accidents in the United States every year.¹ In fact, the average driver will be involved in 3-4 car accidents in their lifetime.²
The State of Texas has it’s fair share of car accidents. Over 230,000 people are injured on Texas roadways each year.³ That’s over 600 people injured in a collision every day!
What You Need To Know if You’ve Been in a Texas Car Accident…
Car accidents happen in the blink of an eye. Once an accident happens, you’ll be faced with many legal questions and forced to make important decisions. Knowing what to do and say will help you get through the aftermath and put you on the right track to a strong property damage or personal injury claim.
Here are 12 steps to guide you through the aftermath of a car accident. There are also answers to many of the most frequently asked questions that arise after an accident.
You’ve just been in an accident. Now what? Keep your wits about you and remain focused. There are rules to follow, laws to observe, and people do deal with. Check for injuries and call 911 to report the accident.
Should I call 911 even if the accident was a minor “fender-bender” and no one was injured?
While Texas law does not require drivers involved in minor car accidents to call 911, it’s always a good idea to call anyway. Doing so creates a record of the event.
The location. Look for street signs, highway mile markers and landmarks. Be sure to tell the dispatcher which side of the road you’re on and what direction you were traveling. The more accurate your description, the sooner emergency services will arrive.
If there are injuries. If you aren’t hurt or your injuries are minor, check the other people involved in the accident. Tell the 911 dispatcher if anyone is unconscious, bleeding, complaining of nausea, pain or discomfort, or is asking for medical assistance.
The accident scene. Car accident scenes are inherently dangerous. Cars may be pointing in different directions, glass may be shattered, fluids leaking from cars, and metal and fiberglass torn and tattered. People may be walking around the accident scene in shock and oblivious to oncoming traffic. Tell the 911 dispatcher what you’re observing so that they can notify law enforcement.
Reporting the accident to law enforcement is important. Whether law enforcement responds or not, it’s always a good idea to report the accident.
When do I have to report the accident to local police?
If the accident results in injuries or damage to any vehicle causing it to be disabled, you must notify the local police or county sheriff’s department immediately.
Which police department will respond to the scene?
If the accident occurred within city limits, then local police have jurisdiction and will respond. If the accident occurred outside city limits, the county sheriff’s’ department will have jurisdiction. If the accident occurred on a Texas State Road, then the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Troopers have jurisdiction.
In some cases, there may be overlapping jurisdiction and more than one agency will respond.
- Check for injuries. If required, an officer may call for fire and rescue, or paramedics.
- Secure the scene by setting out flares and directing traffic
- Make arrangements to have disabled cars towed
- Verify each driver’s insurance information
- Issue traffic citations (where applicable)
- Make arrests when there are outstanding warrants, or when a driver is intoxicated
- Create a written accident report
In addition to contacting local law enforcement to report the accident, there are other things you’re required to do.
- Name and address
- Registration number of the cars each driver was operating
- Name and contact information for each driver’s insurance company
- If requested by anyone involved in the accident, you must show your driver’s license
Texas law also requires drivers to render “reasonable assistance” to any person injured in the accident. This includes driving or making arrangements to get the injured person to a hospital so that they can receive medical attention.
Can I be sued if I help someone who’s been injured?
No. Texas has what’s known as a “Good Samaritan law.” In the case of a car accident, if anyone tries to help someone who has been injured, they cannot be held liable for civil or criminal damages unless they were intentionally negligent.
What if I strike a parked car and no one was in it?
If you strike a parked car and no one is in or around it, you must stop immediately at the scene. Once stopped, attempt to locate the driver or owner of the car and report the accident. Give them your name and address and explain what happened.
If you’re unable to locate the owner, write down your name and address along with an explanation of what happened, and leave the note on the vehicle.
What if I’m injured?
Some injuries are obvious. They can include bone fractures, head trauma, bleeding, and other serious injuries. However, your injuries may not be so obvious. Adrenaline can run through your body after an accident, masking symptoms of injuries. As a result, symptoms may not appear for hours, or even days after the accident.
It’s not uncommon for people immediately after an accident to feel no more than shaken up. As a result, they don’t seek medical attention. However, the next morning upon waking they find themselves unable to move their neck or limbs without substantial pain and discomfort. That’s why it’s important to be checked by the paramedics at the accident scene, and to see your doctor as soon as possible after a car accident.
*NOTE: Failing to seek immediate medical treatment after an accident could spell big trouble for you later. Oftentimes an insurance company will take the position that your injuries weren’t from the accident, but instead from an entirely separate event. Once that happens, it’s more difficult to prove that your injuries are a result of the accident.
- The accident resulted in injuries or death to human beings
- The accident resulted in property damage worth $1,000 or more
After fully completing the form, mail it to the Texas Department of Transportation Crash Records Department at:
Texas Department of Transportation
PO Box 149349
Austin, TX 78714
Do I have to report the accident to the Texas Department of Transportation if the police respond to the accident?
No. If a law enforcement officer responds to the accident scene, you’re not required to file a Driver Crash Report. Instead, the responding law enforcement officer is required to complete a Texas Peace Officer’s Crash Report (Form CR-3). The officer must file the CR-3 with the Texas Department of Transportation no later than the 10th day after the accident.
Can I obtain a copy of the Driver (CR-2) and the Police (CR-3) Crash Report?
Yes. You may obtain a copy of the CR-2 and CR-3 Driver Crash Reports from the Texas Department of Transportation.
The costs of obtaining the reports are:
- $6 for a regular copy
- $8 for a certified copy (A certified copy may be required if there is a dispute over the accident that finds itself in court.)
The minutes following a car accident can be crucial in the development of your property damage and personal injury claim. Before long, the cars involved will be driven or towed away, and the other individuals and witnesses will be gone.
If you’ve sustained property damage or injuries in a Texas car accident due to the negligence of another driver, you need evidence to support your claim for compensation, or “damages.”
- Medical, dental and therapy bills
- Diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CT Scans, and MRIs
- Out of pocket expenses such as medications, slings, crutches, costs of travel to treatment, nursing care, etc.
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Where do I start?
Photographs and Video:
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but multiple images and video can be worth far more than that. Use your digital camera, cell phone or other electronic device to take multiple photos and videos of the crash scene. Be sure to include sound and get shots from many different angles.
Photographs and videos serve multiple purposes. They can:
- Identify the position of cars immediately after the collision
- Reflect weather conditions
- Identify potholes or other road obstructions
- Capture statements like admissions of fault and signs of intoxication
Moreover, by taking photographs and video, it makes it difficult for someone involved in the accident to later change what they said and did.
Witnesses statements can be quite helpful. Witnesses are under no legal obligation to speak with you or give a written statement. However, if you can find witnesses who are willing, ask them to write down what they saw and heard. This is especially helpful if they’re willing to state the other driver was at fault and why.
Don’t worry about the legal formalities of a witness statement, however be sure the witness(es) sign and date each page of their statement. Get their names, emails, and addresses as well.
- The make, model, year, license plate number, expiration date, and vehicle identification number (VIN) of the other vehicles involved. The VIN number can normally be found on the car’s dashboard (in the left corner where the dashboard and windshield meet). It can also be found on the driver’s insurance card or inside the door jam of the driver’s side door.
- Drivers’ and passengers’ full names and contact information, including home and business addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers. If the driver isn’t the owner of the car, you’ll need the owner’s name, home address, telephone number, and email address.
- Witnesses names, contact information and their statements.
- Draw a diagram of the accident scene. Note the location of the cars immediately before and after the collision.
- Be sure to note current weather conditions. Was it storming, snowing, or raining? Were the roads icy? Was it foggy, or cloudy?
- The time of day the accident occurred.
- Approximate speed of the cars immediately before the collision – note what direction each car was traveling in.
Your car insurance policy is a binding contract between you, the “insured” and your insurance company, the “insurer”.
Your car insurance policy has a Notice of Occurrence and/or Cooperation Clause. This clause represents a contractual obligation between you and the insurance company. The insured is required to notify the insurer after an accident, regardless of fault. They are also required to cooperate in the investigation of the accident. Failing to do so can result in non-renewal of the policy, a rise in premiums, or in some cases, cancellation of the policy.
The standard Cooperation and Notice of Occurrence clause will read like this:
“The Insured (you) agree to notify the underwriter (your insurance company) of any accidents and thereafter to provide all the information, assistance and cooperation which (the company) reasonably requests. The insured also agrees that in the event of a property damage or personal injury claim, the insured will fully cooperate with (the company) and do nothing that shall prejudice the company’s position in the claim….”
I didn’t cause the accident. Why do I have to notify my own insurance company?
By promptly notifying and then cooperating with your own insurance company, you’re giving them sufficient time to investigate the accident. Your insurance company needs to hear your side of the story as soon as possible after the accident. This is especially important if the other driver decides the accident was your fault and not theirs.
You may be convinced the other driver was at fault. The driver may have been texting, speeding, may have rolled through an intersection, struck your car from the rear, or some other form of negligence which resulted in the accident. Even when fault appears obvious, it’s always possible the at-fault driver may later decide you caused or in some way contributed to the accident.
Do I have to I report the accident to my insurance company if no one was injured and the damage to the cars was minimal?
Commonly referred to as “fender-benders,” these accidents involve very minor damage to bumpers, door dings, broken taillights, and other seemingly insignificant damage. You may be tempted not to report the accident to your insurance company.
The fender bender may appear to have been without injuries and no big deal. However, with a closer look you may find that not reporting the accident to your insurance company is a serious mistake.
Here are a few reasons why:
Delayed Symptoms: The other driver or passengers may believe they weren’t injured, but the onset of symptoms for some injuries can take hours, sometimes even days to appear. This makes injuries you didn’t think existed suddenly become very real.
No Insurance: The other driver may not have property damage or personal liability coverage. If so, that’s the last thing he or she wants you to know. Once you learn the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you might call the police. The other driver knows that if that happens. they will be ticketed, or worse, arrested.
Fraud: While at the scene, the driver and his passengers may say they weren’t injured. Later, they may decide to “cash-in” on the accident by filing fraudulent claims of whiplash and soft tissue injuries.
Are there mobile applications that can be used to report accidents to insurance companies?
Yes. There are many free mobile applications to help you report an accident to your insurance company. They can help you:
- Take and store pictures and videos
- Store and transmit personal information (including driver’s license info, insurance info, and more) to your insurance company
- Create and send crash reports to state authorities
- Help you draw a diagram of the accident scene
- Access GPS location of the scene
- Store witness statements and contact information
Check with your insurance company to see if they have a mobile application you can download. Here are some common apps presently available:
When do I contact the at-fault driver’s insurance company?
If the other driver caused the accident, you need to contact their insurance company to begin the process of seeking compensation. Using the insurance information obtained at the accident scene, call the driver’s insurance company and tell them you want to file a claim.
Once you have notified the other driver’s insurance company, you will be referred to a claims adjuster. In many cases, there are two adjusters assigned to your claim: one to handle the property damage and the other the personal injury aspect. Be sure to obtain both claim numbers. You’ll need them for future communication with the insurance company.
I know the accident was my fault. The damage to both cars was minor and the other driver said he was fine. He suggested I just pay him directly so we don’t have to notify our insurance companies. Should I agree?
No! First, you almost certainly have a contractual obligation to your insurance company to report the accident. Failing to do so places you in breach of contract.
Second, some symptoms of injuries aren’t apparent for hours or sometimes even days. It’s possible the other driver honestly believed he wasn’t injured at the scene. But you never know how he will feel later. He may begin to experience symptoms of pain and discomfort and later decide to pursue you for major damages.
Third, the driver may have retained an attorney. By failing to report a Texas car accident to your insurance company, they would have no knowledge of the accident. This would put your insurance company at a disadvantage in the claim. Witnesses and passengers need to be interviewed, statements taken, and a lawsuit filed in a timely manner.
Laurie and Howard were involved in a minor “fender-bender” in which Laurie hit the back of Howard’s car. They immediately pulled over, and exchanged insurance and contact information. The only damage was a scratch to the rear bumper of Howard’s car.
Howard appeared empathetic and told Laurie that he wouldn’t mind keeping the accident from the insurance company as long as Laurie paid him directly for the repairs to the bumper. He told her the repairs probably wouldn’t be more than $50 – $75. Laurie agreed and they both left the scene.
Because of her agreement with Howard, Laurie chose not to report the accident to her insurance company. She believed there was no practical reason to call them and thought if she did they would raise her premiums.
The next morning Howard experienced some pain in his shoulders and neck. After seeing a personal injury ad on television, he decided to make an appointment. The attorney suggested Howard seek immediate medical treatment because he might have suffered a whiplash injury in the accident. Howard did as the attorney suggested. After conducting an MRI and CT Scan, Howard was diagnosed with a soft tissue injury. He returned to the attorney and retained him to pursue a personal injury claim against Laurie.
Over the next month, Howard received ongoing treatment from a local chiropractor. The chiropractor confirmed in a written statement that Howard was being treated for whiplash. Howard’s wife also gave a statement to the attorney confirming she witnessed the pain and discomfort her husband was suffering, and that she had been assisting him with bathing and driving.
Sixty days after the accident, Laurie received a certified letter from Howard’s attorney. She was in shock to learn that Howard was seriously injured in the accident and was blaming Laurie. She hadn’t contacted her insurance company after the accident, believing that her agreement with Howard at the scene was sufficient. She was terrified to learn that Howard’s attorney was now demanding $25,000 in compensation for his client’s injuries and related damages.
Laurie didn’t know what to do. She thought if she contacted her insurance company at this point they would refuse to defend her. If they did help her, she feared they would decide not to renew her policy or cancel it altogether. By failing to promptly report the accident to her insurance company, Laurie not only violated the terms of her policy, she also gave Howard’s attorney a substantial head start on the claim.
By the time Laurie received the letter from Howard’s attorney, the attorney had already located witnesses to the accident, obtained copies of Howard’s medical and chiropractic records and bills, secured a medical narrative from Howard’s chiropractor confirming his injuries and treatment, and a statement from Howard’s wife.
If Laurie had contacted her insurance company right away, the company would have opened an investigation into the claim two months ago. Instead, they were now 60 days behind, scrambling to investigate the accident and determine how to handle Howard’s claim.
The State of Texas follows a 3rd Party Liability Rule. In no-fault insurance states, both parties in a car accident turn to their own insurance companies for compensation.
However, in a third party fault state (like Texas), a car accident victim has the right to pursue the at-fault driver for compensation. This can be for the cost of damaged property, and for medical bills and related damages sustained as a direct result of the accident.
- File a property damage or injury claim with your own insurance company (1st party claim)
- File a property damage or injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company (3rd party claim)
- File a lawsuit against the at-fault driver
Texas law requires drivers to be financially responsible for the accidents they cause. In Texas, drivers are required to carry sufficient insurance to cover the repair or replacement of another driver’s car and for damage to any property.
Drivers are also required to carry personal liability insurance to cover the medical bills and related damages sustained by another driver in the event the insured was at fault.
- $30,000 for injuries to one person in one accident
- $60,000 for injuries to two or more persons in one accident
- $25,000 for property damage arising out of one accident
Texas follows a system using the modified comparative negligence law, sometimes referred to as “the 51% rule”. In states following this rule, an injured party can only recover damages if they were less than 51% at fault.
Laurie was driving to work and stopped at a red light. Ritchie was texting and failed to see Laurie. He crashed into the rear of Laurie’s car, causing Laurie to be seriously injured. Laurie filed an insurance claim for $50,000 with Ritchie’s insurance company. This amount represented her medical bills and related damages, including her pain and suffering. In this case there was no evidence Laurie was at fault in any way. Since Ritchie was 100% at fault, Laurie would be entitled to 100% of her damages in the amount of $50,000.
Laurie was driving to work and stopped at a red light. Ritchie was texting and failed to see Laurie. He crashed into the rear of Laurie’s car, causing Laurie to be seriously injured. Laurie filed an insurance claim for $50,000 with Ritchie’s insurance company. This amount represented her medical bills and related damages, including her pain and suffering.
In this case there was no evidence Laurie was at fault in any way. Since Ritchie was 100% at fault, Laurie would be entitled to 100% of her damages in the amount of $50,000.
Laurie was driving home and stopped at a red light. Richie was driving behind her. He was looking away from the light and didn’t see that she had stopped. He collided with the rear of Laurie’s car, causing her to be seriously injured. When the police arrived they issued a traffic citation to Richie for following too closely under Section 545.062 (a) of the Texas Transportation Code. It reads in part: “…a driver shall, if following another vehicle, maintain an assured clear distance between the two vehicles so that, considering the speed of the vehicles, traffic, and the conditions of the highway, the operator can safely stop without colliding with the preceding vehicle…” Laurie filed an injury claim with Richie’s insurance company for $50,000. This amount represented her medical bills and related damages, including her pain and suffering. The claim could not be settled and went to trial. During the trial witnesses testified they saw the light turn green but Laurie didn’t move. They also testified that they saw her texting. The witnesses said the light had been green for several seconds, and Laurie was still stopped and texting when Richie collided with the rear of her car. Because Texas does not have a statewide ban on the use of cellphones while driving, Laurie was not issued a traffic citation. The jury determined Richie was at fault for colliding with the rear of Laurie’s car, but also found Laurie contributed to the accident by failing to accelerate when the light turned green. As a result, the jury apportioned Richie’s contribution to the accident at 70% and Laurie’s at 30%. Instead of awarding Laurie the $50,000 she sued for, they awarded her $35,000, representing her 30% fault for the accident.
Laurie was driving home and stopped at a red light. Richie was driving behind her. He was looking away from the light and didn’t see that she had stopped. He collided with the rear of Laurie’s car, causing her to be seriously injured. When the police arrived they issued a traffic citation to Richie for following too closely under Section 545.062 (a) of the Texas Transportation Code. It reads in part:
“…a driver shall, if following another vehicle, maintain an assured clear distance between the two vehicles so that, considering the speed of the vehicles, traffic, and the conditions of the highway, the operator can safely stop without colliding with the preceding vehicle…”
Laurie filed an injury claim with Richie’s insurance company for $50,000. This amount represented her medical bills and related damages, including her pain and suffering. The claim could not be settled and went to trial.
During the trial witnesses testified they saw the light turn green but Laurie didn’t move. They also testified that they saw her texting. The witnesses said the light had been green for several seconds, and Laurie was still stopped and texting when Richie collided with the rear of her car. Because Texas does not have a statewide ban on the use of cellphones while driving, Laurie was not issued a traffic citation.
The jury determined Richie was at fault for colliding with the rear of Laurie’s car, but also found Laurie contributed to the accident by failing to accelerate when the light turned green. As a result, the jury apportioned Richie’s contribution to the accident at 70% and Laurie’s at 30%. Instead of awarding Laurie the $50,000 she sued for, they awarded her $35,000, representing her 30% fault for the accident.
Laurie was driving in the right lane of a 4 lane highway and Richie was driving behind her. Thinking Laurie was driving too slowly, he decided to pass her to the left. Once he had passed her vehicle, Ritchie signaled his intention to move back into the right lane in front of Laurie. As he re-entered the right lane, he struck the front drivers side quarter panel of Laurie’s car causing a crash. When the police arrived they issued a traffic citation to Richie under Section 545.053 (2) which states in part: “…a driver… may not move back to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the passed vehicle.” However, a witness told the police they saw Laurie accelerate when Richie was trying to re-enter the lane in front of her, causing Richie to strike her car. The police issued a traffic citation to Laurie under Section 545.053 (b)(2) which reads in part: “…a driver… may not accelerate until completely passed by the passing vehicle.” Laurie was injured. She filed an an injury claim with Richie’s insurance company for $50,000, representing her medical bills and related damages. At trial, witnesses testified that instead of permitting Richie to re-enter the right lane, Laurie accelerated making it impossible for him to safely re-enter the lane without colliding with her car. The jury found both drivers to be at fault in the accident. They believed Richie should have made sure he was clear of Laurie’s car before re-entering the right lane. However, they also believed the accident might have been averted if Laurie had not accelerated. As a result, the jury apportioned Laurie’s fault at 60% and Richie’s at 40%. Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, because Laurie was found to be more than 51% at fault, she was barred from receiving any compensation at all.
Laurie was driving in the right lane of a 4 lane highway and Richie was driving behind her. Thinking Laurie was driving too slowly, he decided to pass her to the left. Once he had passed her vehicle, Ritchie signaled his intention to move back into the right lane in front of Laurie. As he re-entered the right lane, he struck the front drivers side quarter panel of Laurie’s car causing a crash.
When the police arrived they issued a traffic citation to Richie under Section 545.053 (2) which states in part:
“…a driver… may not move back to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the passed vehicle.”
However, a witness told the police they saw Laurie accelerate when Richie was trying to re-enter the lane in front of her, causing Richie to strike her car. The police issued a traffic citation to Laurie under Section 545.053 (b)(2) which reads in part:
“…a driver… may not accelerate until completely passed by the passing vehicle.”
Laurie was injured. She filed an an injury claim with Richie’s insurance company for $50,000, representing her medical bills and related damages. At trial, witnesses testified that instead of permitting Richie to re-enter the right lane, Laurie accelerated making it impossible for him to safely re-enter the lane without colliding with her car.
The jury found both drivers to be at fault in the accident. They believed Richie should have made sure he was clear of Laurie’s car before re-entering the right lane. However, they also believed the accident might have been averted if Laurie had not accelerated. As a result, the jury apportioned Laurie’s fault at 60% and Richie’s at 40%. Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, because Laurie was found to be more than 51% at fault, she was barred from receiving any compensation at all.
Some personal injury claims can be handled without an attorney. However, others should always have professional legal representation.
Soft tissue injuries include strains to ligaments, minor bruising and abrasions, first degree burns, whiplash, and other relatively minor injuries. These injuries don’t generally result in substantial medical or therapy bills. They also do not usually involve complex issues of law. Because of this, a victim can usually negotiate their own injury claim with the insurance company.
Due to their nature, soft tissue injuries usually do not have a very high claim value. If you were to hire an attorney, there may not be enough compensation to pay them and leave you with enough leftover to pay for all your medical bills.
Hard injuries are much more serious, and can include head trauma, fractures, third degree burns, deep gashes requiring stitches, and other injuries requiring substantial and extensive medical care.
Compensation for a serious injury claim can be substantial. As a result, there’s just too much to lose by representing yourself. By not hiring an attorney, you will likely end up settling for an amount substantially less than an attorney could have obtained for you, even after attorney’s fees are deducted.
Insurance companies know claimants who go it alone can only negotiate so far. An insurance claims adjuster may lead you to believe you’re an expert negotiator. But the truth is, that’s something they tell nearly everyone who goes up against them unrepresented. This is just their way of trying to get your guard down so they can offer you a low settlement amount.
At some point in the negotiations the claims adjuster will most likely say, “that’s our final offer.” Suddenly your keen negotiation skills no longer matter. At that point, it’s take it, or leave it.
Hard injury claims often require filing a lawsuit to get a fair amount. Insurance companies don’t like lawsuits. They know once a lawsuit is filed, they’ll have to pay substantial amounts in legal fees to defense attorneys. Lawsuits almost always require pretrial discovery, including depositions, interrogatories, subpoenas for production of documents, and more. These are actions only an attorney can take.
Trained personal injury attorneys can learn what the driver’s policy limits are, whether the driver has a past record of traffic accidents, traffic tickets, prior arrests, prior or pending lawsuits, and much more.
How much are attorney’s fees?
Most personal injury attorneys don’t charge for initial office consultations. When you find an attorney to accept your case, the attorney will likely agree to represent you on a contingency fee basis.
A contingency fee means you do not have to pay the attorney any legal fees until the attorney successfully settles your case or wins it at trial. If your attorney fails to settle your injury claim, or loses the case in trial, you’re not required to pay any attorneys fees or expenses. Those fees can be substantial and can include medical experts, court reporters, filing fees, private investigator fees, and much more.
Contingency fees can range from 25% to 40% depending on the time it will take to resolve the case, its complexity, and whether or not the case has to be tried in front of a jury.
How do I choose an attorney?
Today, most personal injury attorneys have informative websites setting out the types of cases they accept, the years of experience they possess, and in some cases their success rate.
Make copies of your medical records and associated bills, along with a copy the Texas car accident report, photographs, witness statements and other information related to the accident. Seek out several personal injury attorneys in your area.
These attorneys will review the evidence, discuss with you the underlying facts, and ask questions. After doing so, they should be able to give you their opinions of the viability of your claim, whether or not they believe the claim will settle, or if the claim may have to be tried in court.
Law enforcement officers are highly trained in accident scene investigation. When the police, sheriff, or Texas DPS officers arrive at an accident scene, they have multiple duties to perform. You’re required to obey their lawful direction at all times and cooperate with their investigation of the accident.
Are police officers required to listen to my version of the story?
No, not really. You may attempt to speak with the investigating officer to give your opinion of the cause of the accident. However, the officer is not required to listen to your version of events or to discuss the accident with you.
In most cases, law enforcement officers will ask basic questions. Based on those questions and a thorough investigation of the accident scene, the officer will create a CR-3 accident report as required by Section 550.062 of the Texas Transportation Code.
Remember that when the investigating officer tells you, “I’ll take your statement later,” or “Wait until I’m ready,” you must obey. Refrain from making snide comments or getting in the officer’s way. Doing so may not only impede their investigation, but could result in a citation for interfering with the police, or in an extreme case, your arrest.
Do I have to answer questions from the police?
It depends. If the officer asks you to identify yourself, including your full name and address, proof of registration, and proof of insurance, you must comply. However, if you’re being questioned by the police about possession of drugs, outstanding warrants, or other crimes, you have the right not to answer those questions.
What if the police issue a traffic citation?
A traffic citation is not an admission of guilt, even if you sign it at the scene. It’s simply an agreement that you will appear in court to face the charge. At that time, you may enter a plea of not guilty and contest the citation. You can also attempt to negotiate a “plea bargain” with the prosecutor. In return for paying a fine and attending a driver education course, the citation may be dismissed and won’t appear on your driving record.
There are times when filing a lawsuit against an at-fault driver may be your only option. When this occurs, you can consider suing the driver in one of Texas’s Small Claims Courts.
When would I consider filing a lawsuit in Small Claims Court?
You might consider a small claims lawsuit when:
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company denies your claim
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company offers a settlement well below what is fair
- The at-fault driver was uninsured or under-insured
- An attorney will not accept your case
Do I sue the driver or the driver’s insurance company?
If you decide to file a lawsuit in small claims court, you must sue the driver who caused the accident and not their insurance company. The insurance company did not cause the accident, and has no personal liability for it. They are an entirely separate entity which provided insurance to the driver who crashed into you.
Where can I get more information about filing my small claims lawsuit in Texas?
For more information on filing a small claims lawsuit in Texas, read “How to Sue in Small Claims Court”.
Where can I find the small claims court closest to me?
To locate the Small Claims Court in your county, scroll to the section “Filing Information for Select Texas Counties” here.
In property damage and personal injury claims, each state has a statutory period of time in which a victim has to either settle their claim or file a lawsuit. That period of time is called the “Statute of Limitations.”
If you’re the victim and you fail to settle your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company within the statute of limitations period, you lose your legal right to pursue that at-fault driver for compensation.
What if the insurance company won’t return my calls or won’t settle my claim and the statute of limitations period is about to expire?
The insurance company and the adjuster handling your claim have no legal obligation to settle within the statute of limitations period. You will not receive any sympathy from them if you miss the date. It’s also not a legal defense that they refused to return your calls, emails or letters. If you miss the statute of limitations, it’s entirely on you.
What can I do if the 2 year date is approaching and I haven’t settled my claim?
You can file a lawsuit, even if you do so in small claims court. Once a lawsuit is filed, the statute of limitations is “tolled” or put on hold. If the statute of limitations is about to expire you might consider seeking the advice and counsel of a local personal injury attorney. The attorney may agree to file the lawsuit for you.
How Much is Your Injury Claim Worth?
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Visitor Questions on Car Accidents
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I was driving a company vehicle in the oilfield here in Texas with three passengers. I stopped at a stop sign and slowly drove through after stopping. About 50 feet from the stop sign a snake was crossing the road. I slowed from about 10 miles per hour down to about 5 and started to... Read More >>
On a county road in Texas, I was traveling in an Altima while the other driver coming toward me decided to turn across my lane to go into a driveway. This caused a head-on collision. I received a fractured C5, C6, L1, L2, broken femur, herniated intestines, huge cut from my side to inside thigh... Read More >>
It was a bright evening. I was sitting at an intersection stop sign (facing south) of two lanes going west, a median area, and then two lanes going east. When traffic was cleared and gone, I proceeded my left turn (going east). I nearly completed my turn, crossing the westward lanes…almost into the clear median... Read More >>