Every two minutes, another Texan is injured in a car crash. These injuries are often severe. They can cost victims scores or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of years to treat and recover from.
If you are injured in a crash, you expect that your costs will be covered by insurance or another liable party. But who really pays for your damages in a personal injury case? Here are the facts.
Fault and Liability in Texas
Texas is an “at-fault” liability state. This means that when a car accident occurs, the party found to be at fault for the crash is required by law to pay for the damages.
Thus, if you are at fault, your insurance must foot the bill. If another party is at fault, their insurance must pay for your damages.
Of course, not every crash will have a single at-fault party. Many times, both parties involved will be partially at fault. When that happens, who pays depends on the percentages of fault assigned to each party.
Drivers can demand compensation if they are 50 percent or less responsible for the crash. Their percentage of fault will be deducted from the amount they can claim, however.
For example, imagine that Susan and Mark are in a car accident. If they are both exactly 50 percent responsible for the crash, they can each demand damages from each other. Each must also rely on their own insurance to cover a portion of their costs.
If Susan is 51 percent responsible for the accident, she is over the threshold and does not qualify to demand damages from Mark. She must rely solely on her own insurance for compensation.
At only 49 percent responsible, Mark would qualify to demand damages from Susan. However, he could only recover 51 percent of his total costs since his 49 percent fault is deducted from his potential compensation.
In theory, Mark and Susan should be able to expect their insurance providers to pay whatever costs they cannot get reimbursed from each other’s coverage. Importantly, this may not be the case if they were acting in ways that voided their coverage when the accident occurred.
Interestingly, after the accident, they may qualify for some coverage under other insurance policies they hold, as well.
For instance, imagine that Mark had personal belongings in his car at the time of the accident. His own car insurance does not cover those items and the 51 percent liability limit means he cannot recoup the cost from Susan’s insurance. He may still be able to get some money for those items through his homeowner’s or renter’s insurance coverage.
Owners vs Drivers
Even when one party is solely responsible for an accident, questions of fault and liability may not be clear-cut. For example, what happens if the driver who hit you in an accident was driving a borrowed car?
Common wisdom has it that a driver’s insurance is responsible for anything that happens while they are operating a vehicle. In reality, insurance policies tend to cover vehicles rather than drivers. This means that if Megan is driving Tammy’s car when she collides with your truck, it is Tammy’s insurance that is first in line to pay for your damages.
With that said, Tammy is not the only one liable. If your injuries and damages exceed what Tammy’s coverage will pay out, Megan’s insurance becomes the secondary payee. Her policy will typically pay out any additional damages you qualify to receive.
Stolen Cars and Uninsured Motorists
What happens in situations where you are in an accident with a stolen vehicle? By law, the owners are not liable for anything that happens involving their stolen cars. This means that you will not be able to recover any damages from their insurance.
If apprehended, the driver of the stolen vehicle can be held responsible for your damages. If they have car insurance, you can file claims and receive damages against their policy. But often the drivers of stolen vehicles are not caught or do not have insurance.
In those cases, your own insurance policy is responsible for paying all of your costs.
Other Liable Parties
Austin, Texas injury law becomes truly complicated when third parties share liability for your car accident damages and injuries. This can happen when the accident or resulting injuries were at least partially caused by:
- Material defects in one or both vehicles involved in the crash
- A responsible party’s failure to maintain safe conditions or active negligence in causing unsafe conditions
- A medical provider’s failure to identify and correctly treat your injuries in the aftermath of a crash
Material defects might include safety features that fail to deploy when they should, leading to more serious injuries. Or they might include things like the rupture-prone fuel tanks on early Ford Pintos that leaked and led to devastating fires after vehicle accidents.
Failure to maintain safe conditions and active negligence in causing unsafe conditions can be hard to prove. This is particularly true since the parties in question tend to be municipalities with strong legal protections. As the cases of Philip Alvarez and Thomas Guilmette show, however, accident victims can win big settlements in the right conditions.
Finally, while medical providers cannot be held accountable for accident injuries, they can be liable for failing to treat them correctly. Misdiagnosis, negligence, and medical malpractice can all come into play if you are injured and mistreated while seeking care for your accident injuries.
Why Working With an Austin Personal Injury Lawyer Is Key
Regardless of who is liable in your case, one thing remains the same. Insurers for the responsible party will always do their best to pay out as little as possible. They will take every opportunity to try to put the blame at your feet and convince you to accept less than you deserve.
Therefore, the first thing every Texan injured in a car crash should do is seek the help of an experienced attorney to assist them in navigating the system and demanding the compensation they are due.
Let’s Talk About Your Case
If you’ve been injured in a crash, you should never have to pay for your expenses out of pocket. But as the examples above demonstrate, determining who is liable and holding them accountable can be tricky. We can help.
Schedule a free case evaluation today talk to our experienced attorneys about your personal injury case and how to get the compensation you deserve.