III. Texas Standard Auto Policy/Auto Accidents Articles

CAR ACCIDENTS AND AUTO PROPERTY SETTLEMENTS WITHOUT A LAWYER

What To Do If You Are In A Car Accident

If you are in an auto collision, you should try to settle your auto property damage without a lawyer, even if you need a lawyer for the personal injury damages. The value you will receive to fix or replace your car will be close to the same, whether you have a lawyer or not. Any personal injury damages may take weeks, months, or years to treat and fully evaluate, so it is normal to settle the property damage to your car separate from the personal injury damages.

You have the right to have your car repaired at any body shop that you choose. The best strategy is to take the car to the body shop of your choice and ask the body shop owner/manager to negotiate with the adjuster the cost to repair the car. If the car is new enough to still be under warranty, we recommend that you take the car to the car dealer's body shop so that any mechanical repairs performed with the body work will not void the manufacturer's warranty.

If the cost to repair the car is more than the fair market value (not what you paid for the car or what you owe on the car, but what amount it would sell for before the wreck), the car is totaled. When the car is totaled, the insurance company will buy the totaled car and will keep the car to sell as salvage. If your car is to be repaired, you are entitled to a rent car while your car cannot be driven. If your car is totaled, you are not entitled to a rent car, unless your own insurance policy has rent car coverage. Most adjusters will also pay for a rent car while they are deciding whether or not your car is totaled or repairable.

If the guilty driver's insurance company is being unreasonable or the collision is your fault, then the best strategy is to ask your insurance company to pay the property damages under the no fault collision coverage of your policy. Let your insurance company negotiate the property damage with the guilty driver's insurance company and/or the body shop for you.

If you have personal physical injury damages on top of your auto property damages, in most cases, a board certified personal injury lawyer can get you more money for your personal injury damages than you can get without a lawyer.

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS

When a car wreck occurs, certain procedures should be followed. Both drivers should stop at the scene of the wreck and exchange their names and addresses and the names and addresses of their liability insurance companies.

If there has been property damage or injury, the police may be called to investigate the accident. The police officer will write a report which includes the details of the accident and the damages and injuries. This report is very important because it may later be used in a lawsuit if there is a claim for the personal injuries. After a serious accident, you should obtain a copy of the report from the police station to verify its accuracy.

It is also important to get photographs of vehicle damage, skid marks, traffic control devices, or other physical evidence that may be repaired or changed later. If you are injured and cannot get the guilty party's insurance company to pay for all of your damages (especially future medical expenses!) your attorney will need this information to show how you were injured.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to report the accident immediately to your insurance company regardless of who was at fault. If you are later sued, your insurance company should provide a lawyer for your defense. If you should be contacted by someone representing the other party, all questions should be referred to your insurance company or your own attorney. If you have any questions regarding the accident, contact your insurance company or your own lawyer.

Remember, the stronger and more detailed your documentation, especially medical documentation, the stronger your case against the guilty party's insurance company.

SHOULD I CALL MY INSURANCE COMPANY?

You should report an automobile collision to your insurance company even if you feel the accident is minor or is not your fault. An automobile collision that is investigated and reported by a police officer is automatically placed on your driving record in Austin. This information will be available to your insurance company the next time your policy is renewed. The damage to your driving record and the possible bad affect on your insurance premiums will happen even if you do not report the collision.

If the collision is not your fault, you should obtain a copy of the police accident report and keep it plus copies of any settlement checks or releases. If your insurance company tries to increase your premium or drop your policy because of the collision, then you will have the proof you need to show your insurance agent the collision was not your fault.

If you do not give proper notice to your insurance company, it may later refuse to pay a claim against you or pay a lawyer to defend you if the other party claims the collision was your fault.

WHIPLASH FLEXION/EXTENSION INJURIES

The most common injury from an automobile collision is a hyperextension/hyperflexion injury to the soft tissues of the neck or lower back. This type of injury is generally caused when the soft tissues of the neck or back, such as muscles, nerves, ligaments, etc., are violently stretched first in one direction and then the opposite direction (whiplash!) by impact and rebound caused by the automobile collision. When these soft tissues are forcibly stretched or pulled beyond their normal limits, damage occurs that causes pain, limitation of motion, muscle spasms, recurring headaches, numbness or tingling in extremities, or other problems. Even after the damage heals, it is common for the injured person to have future flareups and problems with their neck or back that they will have to live with the rest of their life.

After mandatory seatbelt laws, there has been a dramatic increase in the frequency and severity of hyperflexion/extension injuries. This is because the seatbelt holds the lower body in place and the majority of the force of impact is transferred to the upper body. (Please wear your seatbelt. Although this type of injury has increased, head, facial, chest, abdominal, leg injuries, and death have dramatically decreased.)
Recent medical studies show that just raising the existing headrest to the up@ position would prevent nearly 30% of all whiplash injuries. A headrest that is too low or too far from the back of your head when you are sitting in a normal driving position is almost useless. A headrest is most effective if the vertical/flat part of the headrest is the same height as the back of your head and is within 2-4 inches of the back of your head.
The most important (and most overlooked) type of damage after whiplash is enough future medical expenses to cover pain or anti-inflammation medication, physical therapy, or chiropractic care needed to control the future flare-ups and problems with this type of injury. Remember, except in worker's comp, all of your damages, including future medical expense, must be recovered in one settlement or trial.