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When you are injured in a car crash, the at-fault party should pay for your medical care, lost wages, and other economic and non-economic damages. This is the general provision of personal injury law in Texas. However, when it comes to actually filing accident claims, many victims realize that things are not as simple as they seem. They will be questioned by the at-fault driver's insurance representative and pressured into accepting a low-ball amount or even dropping their claim. This is what happens if you try to win your fair compensation on your own. If you want to maximize your chances of recovering all your eligible losses, you need to hire an experienced Houston car crash attorney at Calhoun Meredith.

We understand that you are worried about having to go deeper into debt to hire an attorney. However, most law firms that handle personal injury claims work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not have to pay any upfront fee. When your case is over, the car crash attorney will retain a portion of the settlement as a fee. Since legal fees are included in the eligible economic damages you can recover, you will not effectively lose any money out of your settlement.

What Types of Damages Can You Claim After a Car Crash?

Personal injury lawyers know how to evaluate your case and identify all the types of losses you may include in a claim or a personal injury lawsuit. The liable party will have to repay you for three types of damages:

1. Economic Damages

Economic damages cover all the present and future financial losses caused by the motor vehicle accident you were involved in. Even if they suffer minor injuries, accident victims still need medical care, will miss days from work, and may have to take prescription pills and go to physical therapy sessions.

However, in our experience as auto crash lawyers, the great majority of car accident injuries are severe or catastrophic, such as:

  • bone fractures
  • loss of limb
  • traumatic brain injury
  • spinal cord injury
  • internal organ damage
  • head injury
  • extensive nerve damage

Each type of bodily injury in this category requires long hospitalization, specialized treatments and surgeries, as well as long-term rehabilitation and physical therapy. Even after more than one year of such treatments and therapies, the injured party may be left with permanent disabilities and impairments. Thus, the economic damages in the average settlement after a car crash generally include:

  • medical expenses
  • lost wages
  • compensation for loss of earning capacity
  • rehabilitation, physical therapy, and counseling
  • long term care costs
  • costs with assistive devices (wheelchair, walking frame, crutches)
  • costs with modifications to the home

2. Non-Economic Damages

A car accident does not cause only bodily injury and property damage. It also leaves the accident victim with emotional damages, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), recurring nightmares, loss of quality of life, loss of consortium, and other similar issues.

Many people our legal team represented in a car crash injury claim needed counseling for months to be able to put the traumatic moment behind them and look forward to the future with optimism. And personal injury law is clear on this point: any injured party deserves compensation for the emotional distress and mental anguish caused by the accident.

3. Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are also called exemplary damages. They can be awarded by the jury at the end of a personal injury lawsuit. This type of compensation is warranted when the at-fault party acted with gross negligence or willful intent in causing the car crash. For example, a DUI driver who was speeding and hit your car may be charged with gross negligence and you may collect punitive damages if you take them to court.

What Is the Average Settlement in Auto Accident Claims?

You may now be wondering: can't I prepare my own claim based on average amounts won by other people who suffered severe injuries in similar car accidents? What any reputable automobile accident lawyer will tell you is that each case is unique and has specific challenges. Over decades of experience in negotiating with an auto insurance company for fair settlement, we never encountered two similar cases, with the same type of negotiations and the same settlement amount.

The reason why no one will give you a number when you ask for average settlement amounts is that in each case the circumstances of the accident may change the adequate compensation you may receive. This is why crash victims should hire an experienced car crash attorney and rely on contingency fee agreements to win a fair settlement amount without making any supplementary expenses for legal representations.

Key Factors that Help a Car Crash Attorney Determine the Compensation Amount

Let us now explain in greater detail why it is so difficult for the average person to determine and successfully negotiate their fair compensation. These are just a few of the elements that influence the outcome of your case, whether you accept the negotiated settlement or take your claim to trial.

1. The Type of Car Accident

We speak of car accidents as a general term, but there are many specific cases:

  • was it a collision between two vehicles?
  • were several vehicles involved in the crash?
  • were you injured in a truck accident?

Why does it matter? When it comes to the number of vehicles involved, this aspect matters because the state of Texas uses the comparative negligence principle in personal injury law. This means that the accident victim (or victims) has to be less than 50% responsible than the at-fault driver (or drivers) for the crash in order to be eligible to seek compensation. When several vehicles are involved, each driver's percentage of fault must be clearly established.

As for the truck accident scenario, you may be entitled to receive compensation not only from the negligent driver, but also from their employer. Truck companies are responsible for the negligent actions committed by their drivers (the vicarious liability principle). However, they are usually represented by big insurance companies, whose adjusters will do everything they can (even step outside the boundaries of the law if they can get away with it) to limit the amount of money they pay in compensation to accident victims.

2. The Circumstances of the Accident

No car crash is ever simple to explain and very rarely do all parties tell the same story. Everyone tries to shift the blame to the other party. In some cases, even the police report prepared at the accident scene is not very specific and clear. Was the victim wearing the seat belt? Did they signal before making a left turn? How quickly did they apply the brakes?

A car crash lawyer will start by investigating the circumstances of the accident. This may involve:

  • searching for traffic camera footage
  • identifying and talking to eyewitnesses
  • hiring expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists

Nothing will be left to chance in order to have all the required elements for a personal injury case:

  1. the at-fault party owed you a duty of care
  2. they breached their duty through their negligent action
  3. the breach of duty caused the accident
  4. you suffered economic losses as a result of the accident

3. Hit and Run Accidents

In the case of a hit-and-run accident, it is even more difficult to talk about an average car accident settlement. In many cases, drivers who flee the scene of the accident are not insured. It may also take time to identify the responsible driver and file a car accident claim or personal injury lawsuit against them.

If the driver remains unidentified, you may still recover some of your damages if you have uninsured motorist coverage. This is an optional policy, which you can purchase together with the mandatory third-party liability coverage.

4. Uninsured or Underinsured Driver

Although all drivers in Texas are obliged to carry insurance, many of them are driving without a valid insurance policy. Statistical data show that nearly 1.5 million drivers (8.3% of all drivers) are uninsured drivers.

Even if the driver has the minimum insurance coverage mandatory by law, it may not be enough to cover your actual damages. At the present, drivers in Texas must carry:

  • up to $30,000 for bodily injury per person
  • up to $60,000 per accident
  • up to $25,000 for property damage

Since many settlement values can exceed the total value of these three types of covers, it is obvious that the mandatory insurance policy is not sufficient to cover the injured party's actual damages. In this case, experienced auto crash lawyers can advise you whether you should sue the at-fault party for the difference. However, in some cases, drivers carry the minimum coverage because it is all they can afford - they work for a minimum wage and do not own valuable assets you can pursue to recover your damages.

The decision to take a negligent driver to court or not will be given after a careful analysis of the situation.

5. Your Proportion of Fault in the Accident

As we explained above, the comparative negligence principle is applicable in the state of Texas. This means that you may not have a case if you were more than 50% at fault for your accident. At the same time, the final amount you will collect (economic damages, non-economic damages and special damages, if applicable), will be reduced from the jury award by your percentage of fault.

The damage formula is as follows: total value of damage - % of fault from the total value = actual settlement amount. For instance, a case worth $100,000 where the injured party was 25% at fault for their accident results in a $75,000 settlement amount.

6. The Maximum Medical Improvement

In any typical car accident case, the lawyer will discuss with health care providers and look at your medical records to determine whether you will make a full recovery. Unfortunately, many accident victims will need nursing care, life care and other types of assistance for the rest of their lives as a result of motor vehicle collisions.

Using previous experience and information from care providers, the car crash attorney will determine the average expenses for your long-term care and include them in your claim. This type of evaluation is not only made for permanent injuries, but also for situations where future damages may occur (for instance, you may develop chronic pain or other impairments which do not manifest themselves at the present).

7. The Car Crash Was Caused by a Defective Vehicle

In some cases, the accident is caused by a defective part in the at-fault driver's car. In this case, your car crash attorney will not rely on personal injury principles, but on the strict liability principles to win your case. This means that you do not have to prove that the responsible party owed you a duty of care. Manufacturers, dealers, and distributors must meet this basic prerequisite when they put a product on the market.

However, this does not mean that winning a fair compensation is easier. Distributors, sellers, and car repair shop staff will likely claim ignorance of the existence of the fault.

8. How Your Life Was Influenced by the Car Crash

Calculating economic damages may be quite precise. However, when it comes to non-economic damages, it is a different story. What price can you put on your pain and suffering? How do you put a dollar amount on the inability to go back to your hobbies, the natural interactions with your spouse, and every other activity that made your life fulfilling?

Yet, this has to be done. An experienced and compassionate car crash attorney will conduct interviews with your family and friends, discuss with your counselor and medical provider and use their previous experience to set an amount that is both fair for you and acceptable by the other party's insurance company.

9. Whether You Are Able to Work Again

Finally, an important aspect that determines the value of personal injury claims is whether the accident victim can return to their job or have to retrain for a new one. An experienced car crash attorney also knows many cases where people who suffered severe injuries are left unable to perform any kind of work.

The car crash attorney will hire medical experts to testify in this respect, because most assuredly the insurance company's representative will claim that you are trying to live off their client's money from now on. For this, and many reasons, it is always better to leave negotiations to experienced lawyers, not only to help you win fair compensation but to spare yourself from many hurtful claims and comments.

The Main Factors that Determine the Duration of Your Case

One of the first questions clients ask a car crash compensation lawyer is: "how long till I receive my settlement"? This aspect is also influenced by many aspects. Some of the most important are:

1. The Settlement Values

If you suffered a mild to average type of injury, you may not need a lot of medical care. Thus, your total personal injury settlement will not be very high. In this case, experienced auto crash lawyers will reach an agreement with the insurance company within a few weeks and you will not have to take your claim to trial.

However, if you suffered catastrophic or permanent injuries, such as brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, we are talking about a totally different range of settlement values. In this case, the insurance representative will try to lower your adequate compensation and delay the negotiations as much as possible. It takes patience to reach a reasonable agreement and get the fair settlement amount you deserve.

2. How Long Until You Reach Maximum Medical Improvement

An experienced car crash attorney will include all your present and future economic losses in your claim. However, this means waiting until your doctors determined that you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement. This is the point beyond which medical experts agree that your condition cannot further improve.

This is when the lawyer can determine whether:

  • you are left with permanent injuries and disabilities
  • you are able to return to work
  • you need to retrain for a new type of work
  • you need life care services (including assistance with activities of daily living)
  • you need assistive devices (wheelchair or walking frame)

Remember, once a settlement is reached and you get paid, you have no further legal options. For this reason, your lawyer will advise you to be patient if you want to receive the maximum compensation allowed by law.

3. Proving Liability

It usually takes longer to reach an agreement with regard to liability if multiple vehicles are involved. In this instance, each party will have a personal injury attorney trying to prove that the others were more at fault for the crash.

Your automobile accident lawyer will resort to all the means to establish accurate percentages of liability, including hiring experts to analyze the crash diagram and reconstruct the circumstances of the accident.

4. The Case Load in Your Jurisdiction

If your lawyer cannot reach an acceptable agreement with the insurance company within a reasonable period of time, you will be instructed to file a personal injury lawsuit. In this situation, the duration of the case depends on how soon your case is scheduled to be heard in court.

Some jurisdictions have a lighter caseload and may schedule your trial within the next week. In other jurisdictions, you may have to wait at least a month before the first hearing is scheduled. However, you do not have to worry about exceeding the statute of limitations. It stops running on the date when you filed your case, not when it is actually heard in court.

5. How the Insurance Company Chooses to Deal with Your Claim

Some auto insurance companies believe they will have greater success at trial, so they refuse to settle, or they propose a low-ball amount. Others are trying the delay tactic - postponing the moment when they make a decision until you no longer have time to file a personal injury claim.

An experienced car crash attorney will know how long it makes sense to conduct negotiations and when it is in your best interests to take your claim to court.

What Can You Do to Maximize Your Settlement Amount?

In many circumstances, the injured party's actions or omissions can hurt their case. It is very important to know that you must be careful what you say and do after a car accident. Here are the most important steps you must follow in this situation:

1. Ask for Medical Assistance and the Police

As soon as it is safe to do so, call 9-1-1 and report the accident. Ask for an ambulance and a law enforcement team to investigate the accident scene. They will note the position of the vehicles, create the crash diagram and determine a probable cause of the accident.

Depending on your type of injury, the medical crew may recommend you to be taken to the hospital for tests and treatments. Do not refuse them. The cost of the ambulance ride and other medical costs will be included in your economic losses.

Apart from your own safety, you must make sure that you can prove that you suffered your injuries in the car accident. An insurance adjuster may claim that you were injured at a later date, in a separate incident, if you seek medical attention several days after the accident.

2. Document the Crash Scene

Do not rely solely on the police report for evidence supporting your cause. You should use your mobile phone to take photos and videos of:

  • your injuries
  • the damages caused to your car
  • the position of both cars after the crash
  • any relevant aspects: skid marks, potholes, debris on the road

At the same time, note the other driver's information: license plate number, insurance coverage. Do not forget about eyewitnesses - ask them to give you their name and phone number. Your car crash attorney will contact them later to take their statement.

3. Do Not Negotiate with the Insurance Adjuster on Your Own

Insurance adjusters are not your friends. They are tried to appear friendly, but this is just it - an appearance. In reality, they have several tactics in mind:

  • to pressure you to accept a quick settlement
  • to persuade you that you do not have a case
  • to extract self-incriminatory statements from you (such as "I'm feeling fine" or "I'm getting better")

Even if you know your rights, you are not in the position to negotiate your settlement value. First of all, you do not know if you will make a full recovery. The insurance adjuster will most likely contact you while you are still in hospital, even before you have started physical therapy. Secondly, you do not have the evidence proving that the other driver was at fault (you don't know if it was a distracted driver or drunk driver) and you cannot determine your own proportion of fault accurately.

4. Contact a Car Crash Attorney As Soon as Possible

The best course of action is to tell the insurance adjuster that your car crash attorney will contact them in a short period of time. This leaves you time to recover from your injuries with peace of mind, knowing that an experienced car crash attorney is looking after your best interests.

Once you hire an attorney from our law offices, we become your legal representatives. We can perform legal procedures on your behalf and conduct investigations that will prove your case. We will leave nothing to chance and we will always keep you informed of the progress of your case.

5. Stay Away from the Social Media

You may feel that there is nothing wrong with posting a few updates and photos on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts telling your friends how you're doing. Of course, you would try to sound positive and optimistic about your recovery.

The fact is that as soon as you have filed a claim, the insurance company will look you up on social media and will start monitoring your accounts. Everything you post there can and will be used against you, both during settlement negotiations and in car accident lawsuits. Even posts made by your friends and family members detailing your condition may be used. Thus, you should also advise them from posting anything related to your car crash until your case is over.

Contact a Car Crash Attorney if You Need Help

At Calhoun Meredith, you will find a team of experienced and compassionate attorneys. We use innovative tactics and rely on our extensive knowledge of the law to help car accident victims obtain the fair compensation they deserve for their economic losses, pain and suffering.

We know that you are in pain and worried about making a full recovery. You are also worried about the financial future of your family - especially if you are the main breadwinner. This is why we strive to make sure you win fair compensation for your damages.

Please note that you do not have a lot of time available to make up your mind about taking legal action. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in the state of Texas is 2 (two) years after the date of your accident. However, you do not have to hesitate about reaching out to us - we will not charge any fees until we win your case.

Recover with peace of mind that an experienced car crash attorney is protecting your rights - schedule your initial consultation with us as soon as possible: 855-664-0273!

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