Visitor Question

Delayed filing an injury claim for one year after rear end accident with truck?

Submitted By: Suzanne (San Antonio, Texas)

We were in a car accident one year ago in Texas when we were merging onto one highway from another highway. The truck in front of us started to merge onto the highway and abruptly slammed on his brakes causing us to rear end his pickup truck. There was a small dent in the license plate of his truck and that was the only damage. My car was almost totaled, with $5000 worth of front end damage.

We pulled off the highway and exchanged information. I called 911 as I had my small kids in the car as well. My baby had bruises on his neck from the car seat and I had bruises on my arm from my seat belt as well. The driver of the other vehicle said he wasn’t injured and kept apologizing saying he had to slam on his brakes because he was afraid he was going to hit the trailer of another vehicle.

The cars behind me slammed on their brakes and went into the construction area to the right of the accident so no one rear ended us. The police arrived and assessed the situation and since no one said they had injuries or needed medical treatment he gave us a crash information sheet to fill out and left. The other driver was in a rental vehicle from enterprise.

I contacted my insurance company to see how everything was going with the accident and they informed me that the other driver is now claiming injury and has hired a lawyer. It’s been a year since the accident at this point and the lawyer is refusing to work with the insurance company. They won’t state what the driver’s so called injuries are or submit medical bills.

The lawyer is refusing to settle or even discuss settlement and is now suing me in civil court for minimum $200,000 and maximum $1 million. How is this even possible? Another piece of information is the other driver works in construction and was posting pictures of himself in his safety vest at a job site the day after the accident so it really seems like a scam to me. What can be done about this?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Suzanne,

Informally known as the “Following too Closely” law, Texas drivers are required to follow behind other drivers at a safe  distance. Texas, like other states, does not define how many feet a driver is required to stay behind another driver. Texas Revised Statutes Section 545.062 states:

“Following Distance

(a) An operator 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 or veering into another vehicle, object, or person on or near the highway.”

From the facts you present, it appears you violated the above traffic law. Let’s take a look at the insurance issues:

The minimum statutory car insurance requirements for Texas drivers are:

  • $30,000 for injuries to one (1) person in one (1) car accident
  • $60,000 for injuries to two (2) or more persons in one (1) car accident
  • $25,000 for property damage in one (10) car accident

Based on the facts as you describe them, injuries sustained by the driver or his passengers (if any) would appear to have been minimal, or even non-existent. However, in many cases symptoms of injuries can be latent, not manifesting themselves for hours, and even days after an accident.

Most of us at one time or another have twisted an ankle, stubbed a toe, or otherwise suffered a blow to the soft issue in our bodies. At first glance there may have been no swelling or pain, but the next morning we awoke to find the area swollen, stiff, and painful.

After a car accident adrenaline can be released into the body, which can have the effect of masking symptoms of pain. Once the adrenal gland stops releasing adrenaline in to the body, pain may arise. Broken blood vessels allow blood to slowly seep into the areas around the point of injury, producing swelling and pain.

While the facts don’t seem to support any serious injuries, it is possible the driver suffered whiplash, or struck his hand, arm, knee, or even his head against the inside of the car. Based on the facts, the amount of $200,000 – $1,000,000 seems extraordinarily high. Nevertheless, the process must take its natural course.

If, at the time of the accident  you carried the minimum amount of insurance as set out above, you may be liable for any excess court judgement above those limits. However, it is likely the injuries and related medical bills will be within your policy limits.

Speak with your insurance company claim adjuster. Make sure you tell the adjuster exactly what happened and what was said at the scene, before and after the police arrived. Also make sure s/he knows about any evidence you have of the other driver appearing uninjured in the days after the accident.

After that, it is up to your insurance company to decide whether to settle the claim or not, and if so, for what amount. You can be confident the claims adjuster will not offer any amount if it is determined the claim has no merit.

Learn more here: Texas Car Accident Guide

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck with your claim,

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