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When Should I Accept a Settlement After a Texas Car Accident?

A car accident attorney can help maximize the value of your claim

Deciding when to accept a settlement after a car accident is a critical decision, especially when you're facing injuries, medical bills, and potential loss of income. In such challenging times, the initial settlement offer from an insurance company might seem appealing, but these offers are frequently less than what you're entitled to recover under Texas law.

Insurance adjusters often capitalize on the financial pressures faced by accident victims, offering settlements that inadequately reflect the true extent of the damages suffered. Resisting the urge to settle too quickly after a crash is crucial.

Consulting an experienced car accident attorney can make a significant difference. A lawyer can advocate on your behalf and work diligently to maximize the value of your claim, ensuring that the compensation covers all your expenses and losses.

What is a settlement offer, and what does it cover?

When you’re involved in a car accident in Texas, the negligent party’s insurance company is responsible for compensating you for your crash-related losses. This includes compensation for:

  • Medical Expenses: Your settlement should include the cost of immediate medical care following the accident, such as emergency room visits, hospitalization, surgeries, and any required medical treatments. It should also cover ongoing healthcare needs like medications, physical therapy, rehabilitation services, and any future medical expenses related to your injuries.
  • Lost Wages: If your injuries prevent you from working, the settlement should compensate for the wages you've lost during your recovery period. This also extends to any future earnings you might lose if your injuries result in long-term disability or require extended time off work. The calculation of lost wages takes into account your current earnings and potential future income.
  • Pain and Suffering: Beyond the tangible losses, a settlement offer should also recognize the non-economic damages you've suffered. This includes compensation for physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the psychological impact of the accident, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These damages acknowledge the personal impact of the accident on your life and well-being.
  • Other Damages: Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the extent of the victim's injuries, the settlement offer may also cover other damages, such as mental anguish and physical impairment. Mental anguish refers to the emotional distress and psychological trauma experienced by the victim as a result of the accident, while physical impairment compensates for any permanent disabilities or limitations resulting from the injuries sustained.

Negotiating a settlement that adequately covers all these areas requires a thorough understanding of both the immediate and long-term effects of your accident.

How do I get a settlement from an insurance company?

To get a settlement offer after a car accident, you’ll need to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Your claim's success hinges on establishing four fundamental elements:

  • Duty of Care: This principle mandates that the other driver had a responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner that ensures the safety of others. This responsibility involves adherence to traffic laws and driving sensibly to prevent harm.
  • Breach of Duty of Care: The at-fault driver must have failed in their responsibility to uphold safety, leading to the accident. Instances of such failure include driving while distracted, operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, exceeding speed limits, reckless driving, or not following traffic regulations.
  • Causation: Demonstrating causation involves proving that the other driver's specific actions or inactions were the direct cause of your injuries. For example, suppose a driver was texting and not paying attention to the road when they ran a red light and collided with your vehicle, resulting in your injuries. In this case, the direct link between their distracted driving (breach of duty of care) and your injuries (damages) establishes causation.
  • Damages: Lastly, you must show that you suffered actual damages due to the other driver's negligence. Damages can include medical bills, lost wages, vehicle repair costs, and pain and suffering.

How do I maximize my settlement amount?

The actions you take after a car accident can have an impact on the outcome of your case. If you were already involved in a car accident, make sure you get prompt medical attention, even if you’re not experiencing any injury symptoms. Some injuries can take several days to produce symptoms. Getting a medical evaluation allows you to:

  • Identify hidden injuries.
  • Treat seemingly minor injuries before they worsen.
  • Shorten the duration of your recovery.
  • Establish a clear link between your car accident and your injury.

You should also gather and retain evidence that supports your claim. This includes:

  • A detailed police report from the responding law enforcement agency.
  • Pictures and/or videos of the crash scene.
  • Contact information and statements from witnesses.
  • Medical records, bills and receipts, prescriptions, and appointment logs.
  • Proof of wage and future earning loss, such as tax documents and pay stubs.
  • Vehicle repair bills or estimates.
  • A personal journal documenting pain and suffering.

Obtaining a settlement from an insurance company is often more challenging than it appears. Insurance providers frequently attempt to minimize their financial obligations by extending lowball offers, hoping claimants will accept them out of desperation.

Moreover, once an offer is accepted, you relinquish the right to pursue further compensation, which can be particularly problematic if future damages arise.

That’s why it’s best to be patient and speak to an experienced car accident lawyer who can deal with the insurance company and negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. Also, avoid speaking to the other driver’s insurance company. Anything you say to them can be misinterpreted as admitting fault. Since statements are usually recorded, there’s no taking it back. Let your attorney do the talking for you.

How are settlement amounts determined after a car accident?

To determine the full amount of money you’re eligible for, let an experienced attorney calculate your damages. They can factor in the current damages you have already accrued, as well as estimated future economic damages (e.g., physical therapy and future wage loss) and non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering and emotional distress).

It’s important to note that Texas follows the modified comparative negligence rule and sets the bar for seeking compensation at 51%. Under this rule, if you are found to be 51% or more at fault for an accident, you are ineligible to receive compensation from the other driver's insurance company. Conversely, if you are deemed less than 51% at fault, you can still recover damages, albeit reduced by your percentage of fault.

For instance, if the total value of your damages is assessed at $50,000 and you are determined to be 10% at fault for the accident, your compensation would be adjusted to $45,000, reflecting a 10% reduction based on your share of the fault.

What should I do if an insurance company offers me a settlement?

Despite the insurance provider's claims or suggestions that their offer is final, negotiation is always an option. If the settlement offer doesn’t cover the full extent of your damages, you don’t have to accept it. Your attorney can negotiate a higher amount to cover all your eligible damages.

What if the insurance company won’t settle?

The majority of car accident claims are resolved through settlement, avoiding the need for courtroom litigation. However, should an insurance company refuse to offer a fair settlement, your attorney has several strategies to pursue the compensation you deserve:

  • Negotiation and Mediation: Initially, attempts to settle include direct negotiations with the insurance company or mediation involving a neutral third party to help reach an agreement.
  • Filing a Lawsuit: If early negotiations do not result in a satisfactory settlement, your attorney can file a lawsuit. They will present evidence, construct a persuasive argument, and work toward securing a just verdict in court. This process may involve calling witnesses, medical experts, and accident reconstruction specialists to support your case.
  • Claiming for Bad Faith: If the insurance company has unfairly denied your claim or failed to conduct a thorough investigation, there might be grounds for a bad faith claim. Successfully proving bad faith could result in compensation beyond what was initially claimed.

These steps ensure that even when an insurance company is unwilling to settle, you can seek the full compensation owed for the damages suffered in the accident.

How long does it take to get a settlement offer after a car accident?

After filing your claim, your attorney will investigate your car accident. This may include examining the police report, speaking to witnesses, obtaining video footage, taking pictures of the crash scene, and consulting a crash reconstruction expert.

At the same time, the other driver’s insurance company will conduct its own investigation. This process can take several weeks or longer, depending on the circumstances surrounding your car accident.

After both parties have investigated your car accident, negotiations will begin. This stage can vary depending on how much evidence is available to prove your injuries, the negligence of the other party, and the compensation you’re owed.

If a fair settlement is reached, the insurance company typically issues your payment within 30 days. However, this process can sometimes take longer. If negotiations fail, litigation can take months or years, depending on the amount of compensation you’re seeking and any disputes that arise in your case.

How do I accept a settlement offer from an insurance company?

Once you’re satisfied with the settlement amount, you’ll need to formally accept the offer. This typically involves signing a settlement agreement. Once you sign it, this document releases the insurance company and the at-fault driver from further claims related to the car accident. The check may be sent to your attorney’s office, where they will deduct any agreed-upon fees before disbursing the remainder to you.

Seeking legal help after a crash

Selecting the right law firm after a car accident can significantly impact the outcome of your case. The insurance industry’s own research indicates that individuals who enlist the help of car accident lawyers tend to secure significantly higher settlements than those who navigate the process alone.

If you were hurt in a collision due to someone else’s negligence, you deserve representation that passionately advocates on your behalf and has a deep understanding of Texas law. Look no further than the attorneys at the Herrera Law Firm in San Antonio.

We understand the challenges you may be facing as a result of your crash. That’s why we’re committed to offering our legal experience, knowledge, and support. We invite you to contact us online or call us for a no-cost initial consultation. If we’re not a good fit for you, then there’s no obligation to hire us.

It won’t cost you any money upfront. We work on a contingency fee basis so that you can get legal representation without any upfront out-of-pocket expenses.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, “When Should I Accept a Settlement After a Texas Car Accident?”

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