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Understanding the Process of a Car Accident Settlement

Being involved in a car accident is an extremely stressful situation for anyone. If you’ve been involved in an accident numerous questions come into mind.

What should be expected? Should the police be contacted? Does the injured party need to work directly with an insurance company, or should he or she hire an attorney? Here are a few tips that may be helpful when facing the unfortunate situation of being injured in a car accident.


Should the Accident Be Reported?

Texas law requires drivers to file out a Crash Report, Form CR-2 within ten days after an accident occurs that has not been investigated by the police but resulted in either property damage greater $1,000, injury or death. If the police investigate the crash, they are normally the entity responsible for filing the report.

Additionally, once the accident has occurred, the parties need to exchange contact information, as well as insurance information with all drivers involved. Take notes of any road conditions or weather conditions that were involved at the time of the accident. Also, take pictures of the vehicles and the damage sustained.


Statute of Limitations

It is imperative to know what the state’s statute of limitations is for how long an individual has to file a legal claim. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations, and it is two years from the date of the accident. If the individual waits past that two-year period, they will be barred from pursuing compensation for his or her damages or injuries.  


Insurance Claim

Since Texas operates under a fault system, the injured driver may file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver through that driver’s liability insurance policy. Under fault insurance, the at-fault driver is liable for any damages or injuries caused by them in an accident.

The insurance company must make a decision, whether to accept or reject the claim, within 15 days of receiving necessary information for making a determination. If the insurance company denies the claim, this denial must come with an explanation. If the insurance company accepts any part of the claim, the company must pay within five business days.


Settlement Negotiations

The settlement negotiations will hinge largely on how willing the parties are to settle and whether the other party is willing to admit fault for the accident. The insurance company will first want the parties to sign a release that states that the parties will not file more claims related to the same accident. This waiver should not be signed unless the parties are satisfied that the total settlement amount will cover all damages sustained.

If negotiating with an insurance company, it is almost always recommended that the unrepresented party have legal representation to protect his or her rights in the negotiation process. An attorney will also be able to work with the client on an accurate and fair settlement figure.

Most insurance companies will do their best to try to low-ball the client on the first offer, so it is important to have an advocate on the side of the injured party to make sure the settlement is actually just and fair. However, the Texas Insurance Code does prevent insurance companies from engaging in “bad faith practices,” such as knowingly giving an unfair or extremely low offer or denying or undervaluing claims.


Legal Process

The first step is to file a complaint in state court. The claimant is the named plaintiff, and the at-fault party is named as the defendant.

The defendant must then be served with a summons for a court date, which is normally a preliminary or pre-trial hearing. The longest process of the personal injury legal claim is the pre-trial motions and gathering of discovery or evidence to help prove the claim. Throughout this process, the parties are normally still negotiating a potential settlement, if at all possible. Many times, a settlement may even occur up to the day of trial, although this is not preferable.  However, if the parties are not able to settle on a damage amount or settlement, the case will either go to a jury trial or bench trial in front of a judge who will make the determination of fault and damages.

After a verdict is issued, appeals are often common, which can take up to months if not years to finally resolve. It is often for this reason that many parties prefer to settle outside of court. The process is much shorter, and damages are paid much quicker than what would happen if the case goes all the way to trial.


Contact Us Today

The attorneys at Herrman & Herrman have over 100 years of combined legal experience representing injured Texas residents. Contact our office today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation. Call Herrman and Herrman today at (361) 792-3669.