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Can someone sue you for a car accident in Texas?

Auto accidents are a fact of life, and most people will be involved in at least one at some point during their driving careers. It is why state governments require drivers to carry car insurance or prove they can pay for damages if they are at fault for an accident. In 2019, 15,855 people sustained serious injuries in 12,907 car accidents on Texas roads, which translates to one injured individual every two minutes and three seconds. The crash isn’t always the other driver’s fault, and often more than one operator contributes to the accident.

If you are involved in a car accident, you may think you have sufficient insurance to cover the damages for your role in causing the crash, but is it still possible for someone to sue you for more? Yes, another driver can file a lawsuit against you in Texas for an auto accident. Here’s everything you need to know about car crash legal claims in the Lone Star State.

Auto Insurance Requirements

When you own a vehicle, you have the legal responsibility to pay for the financial damages you cause if you are at fault in a car accident. Most car owners handle this responsibility through liability insurance coverage. If you contribute to a car accident, your liability coverage pays for the damage to the other driver’s vehicle and the driver’s and passenger’s medical costs when they sustain injuries.

State law requires drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000 in property damage coverage and $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident in bodily injury coverage. With these limits, you may not have enough coverage to compensate for the damages in an accident for which you are at fault. You can opt for higher limits, but that doesn’t necessarily protect you from someone filing a lawsuit. Other types of coverages you may obtain — such as collision and comprehensive — don’t apply to damages for the driver and passengers of the other vehicle.

Texas’s At-Fault Auto Insurance

The Lone Star State is an at-fault state for car insurance. When one individual is at fault in a car crash, that driver and the individual’s insurance company pay for the damages to the other vehicle and medical expenses for the other driver and passengers. If you are in an accident and the other driver thinks you are liable, that driver can file an insurance claim with your provider or file a lawsuit against you. While Texas is an at-fault state, more than one driver can be liable for an accident, in which case, the state’s modified comparative negligence rules come into play.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence laws establish compensation based on each person’s percentage of liability. While fault in some cases rests clearly with one person, often the case isn’t so clear cut. For instance, one driver may fail to yield at a stop sign and strike another car, making that individual responsible for the accident. However, if the claims adjuster (or the court) determines that the other driver was speeding, thus placing them in the car’s path that did not stop, the speeding driver may also bear some responsibility for the accident. If the speeding driver is 25% at fault for the accident, the driver who ran the stop sign can recover 25% of the damages from the speeding driver.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Texas follows a modified comparative negligence law. Under these guidelines, an individual who is more than 50% liable for a car crash cannot collect damages from the other driver. Insurance claims adjusters follow these guidelines when determining whether to accept or reject a claim. If the case goes to court, the jury examines the evidence and allocates liability to determine compensation eligibility.

Reasons for Car Accident Lawsuits

You may be surprised to find out that having sufficient car insurance doesn’t prevent another driver from suing you. There are several reasons you may end up facing a lawsuit after an accident. The other driver may file a lawsuit against you if:

  • Your insurance company denies that you were at fault for the accident.
  • Your insurer believes there is evidence to support shared liability, in which case your provider would be able to reduce how much they pay out to the victim for damages.
  • Your provider is unwilling to negotiate a settlement amount for the other driver, leaving the victim with little choice but to file a lawsuit attempting to collect fair compensation.
  • The limits of your coverage may not be high enough to pay for the damages the other driver sustained.
  • The other driver may seek out personal injury damages not provided for through insurance policies.

You have no control over what your insurance provider does when presented with an insurance claim from another driver. However, gathering all available evidence to support your defense can help if you are faced with a lawsuit.

Car Accident Lawsuit Compensation

Your car insurance only compensates a car accident victim for the cost to replace or repair their vehicle and for medical expenses up to the limits of your policy. When victims file a lawsuit, they stand to recover more damages than they can from your policy if they are successful. To be successful, they must prove that the other driver’s negligence led to the accident and caused their injuries. According to Texas law, lawsuit awards may include economic, non-economic and exemplary damages.

Economic Damages

If another driver sues you for a car accident, the driver can seek economic damages. This type of compensation includes any relevant expenses or financial losses. Medical bills, transportation costs to and from medical appointments, rehabilitation expenses, mental health services, lost earnings and reduced income potential all fall within this category. Liability insurance covers these types of damages, though the other driver may attempt to recover higher amounts than your insurance provides or your insurer agrees to pay for.

Non-Economic Damages

Liability insurance does not cover non-economic damages. In Texas, there are three categories of non-economic damages:

  1. Pain and suffering: Most people are familiar with this compensation category. The claimant often sues to recover a monetary award for the individual’s emotional and physical pain because of the car accident.
  2. Mental anguish: The courts may award compensation for mental anguish, emotional trauma that goes beyond emotional suffering and is likely to continue.
  3. Disfigurement: Car accident victims who are scarred or disfigured in the accident may receive financial compensation for permanent physical injuries.

Car accident victims who file a lawsuit often seek non-economic damages in addition to their attempts to recover economic expenses. These awards can be significant for serious accidents, leading to financial devastation for the defendant. If you are sued for a car accident, and the other driver shares liability, the court reduces the claimant’s award.

Exemplary Damages

The courts sometimes award this third type of compensation. Exemplary damages are essentially punitive fines that can be as high as twice the compensation the court awards in economic damages.

Trusted Car Accident Attorneys in Texas

When you get in a car accident in Texas, Fielding Law is here to help. Our attorneys understand how stressful car accidents can be, and we’re here to answer your questions and inform you of your options going forward. When you need representation, you can trust us to provide personal attention. We don’t get paid unless you win. Contact us for a free case consultation.