Dealing with Insurance in a Car Accident Insurance Claim
When you are in a car accident in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston or any other area in Texas, it will involve dealing with one or more auto insurance companies. As you will quickly learn, they can be extremely tight-fisted.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They make those profits by collecting premiums and paying as little as possible in car accident insurance claims. As a result, insurance companies typically engage in a number of tactics that are aimed at delaying, minimizing or denying claims.
This is why our legal team at Tate Law Offices urges Texas car accident victims to be very cautious when dealing with insurance companies. In fact, we believe the best thing to do is to simply leave the insurance companies to us.
The insurance companies are out to protect their interests. Our only goal will be to protect you.
With that in mind, you should know the following about working with auto insurance companies in our state.
How Does Auto Insurance Work in Texas?
All drivers who register a car in Texas must have liability insurance. This insurance covers the injuries and property damage that a driver causes others to suffer in an accident, including medical bills, car repair and replacement and other accident-related expenses.
Currently, under Texas law, drivers must have “30/60/25” liability insurance. In other words, they must have the following minimum amounts of coverage:
- $30,000 for injury to one person
- $60,000 for injury to two or more persons
- $25,000 for property damage per accident.
Unless they reject it in writing, drivers should also have the following types of auto insurance coverage:
Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Regardless of who was at fault in an accident, this insurance will cover your medical expenses and 80 percent of your lost wages. The insurer must offer you a minimum of $2,500 in coverage, but you can elect to purchase a higher amount.
Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist (UM / UIM)
This coverage kicks in when you are in a crash that is caused by a hit-and-run driver, a driver who lacks insurance or a driver who has insurance that doesn’t fully cover your losses. Although you can elect a higher amount, an insurer must offer you UM / UIM in the following minimum amounts:
- $20,000 for injury to one person
- $40,000 for injury to two or more persons
- $15,000 for property damage per accident.
Many people in Texas buy additional coverage, including:
- Medical payments – Covers medical and funeral bills, regardless of who is at fault
- Collision – Pays the cost of repair or replacement of your car if it is damaged in a crash (if you are financing your vehicle, the lender typically requires this coverage)
- Comprehensive – Pays for vehicle damage caused by something besides a collision such as a fire, theft or vandalism
- Towing and labor – Pays for towing and, perhaps, minor labor charges such as a jump start or tire change
- Rental reimbursement – Covers the daily costs of renting a car while your vehicle is being repaired or replaced.
So, when you are involved in an auto accident that another driver causes, you may end up dealing with both the at-fault driver’s insurance company and your own. However, as we stated above, Tate Law Offices believes the best practice is let us deal with the insurer for you.
Are You Really ‘In Good Hands’ with Insurance Companies?
Ad agencies have come up with clever slogans for insurance companies that are aimed at making you feel safe, secure and protected such as:
- “You’re in good hands” (Allstate)
- “Like a good neighbor” (State Farm)
- “Gets you back where you belong” (Farmers).
However, these slogans don’t always reflect insurance company practices. In fact, several recent investigations have shed light on these practices. Some examples are:
- An 18-month CNN investigation revealed in 2007 that insurance companies such as All-State and State Farm adopted a “take it or leave it” strategy with soft-tissue injury claims, forcing auto accident victims to either accept a low settlement offer or go to court. One expert told CNN that the practice was “institutionalized bad faith.”
- An 18-month investigation by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) revealed major problems with Allstate’s use of a software program, Colossus, to guide its settlement offers for bodily injury claims. The investigation led to Allstate paying a $10 million settlement to state insurance regulators in 2010.
- More recently, in 2015, another CNN investigation revealed an industry-wide practice of insurance companies forcing repair shops “to use cheap parts and sometimes dangerous practices to fix vehicles” that were damaged in crashes.
Frequently, our law firm sees insurance companies contact accident victims shortly after a crash – when a victim is still in shock – and ask for recorded statements. Whatever is said in this statement, the insurance company will use against the victim to try to minimize or deny a claim.
Also, insurance companies may delay making a decision on a car accident insurance claim and drag out the process. Meanwhile, a victim may be dealing with extreme pain, mounting medical bills, loss of a car and the inability to work because of their injuries.
The goal is to put a person in a position of weakness so he or she will accept a settlement offer that is far less than the actual value of a claim.
Should You Speak with the Insurance Company About Your Car Accident Insurance Claim?
If a representative from the at-fault driver’s insurance company contacts you after a crash, you have no duty to speak with him or her. In fact, we believe the best thing to do is to simply say nothing and refer the insurance company to your lawyer.
However, your own insurer may require you to report your accident, or else the insurer may use your failure to report it as a reason to deny your claim. Still, you should ask your lawyer to make the report for you instead of talking with the insurance company on your own.
Here are four reasons why you should not speak with an insurance company:
- Everything you say matters. Your claim hangs in the balance. The wrong choice of words about how your wreck occurred or the nature and extent of your injuries could create huge problems for you later on. This is even more important if your statement is recorded by the insurance company (and it usually is recorded).
- What you say about how your wreck happened matters. If you say anything that gives the insurance company an opening to argue that you were partially or totally to blame for your accident, you can expect the insurer to take it. As a result, your claim could be denied or reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault attributed to you.
- What you say about your injuries matters. At the beginning of your claim, the insurance company has a duty to set aside money reserves to pay your claim based on its initial analysis of its value. The information that is given to the insurance company at the beginning of your case about your injuries – including your own statements – can make a big difference in your case value. This is because it can be difficult to increase the reserve amount after it has been set.
- What you say about your past health matters. The insurance adjuster will ask about all of your past injuries, car accidents, job-related injuries and health problems in an attempt to argue that your injuries were pre-existing and not caused by your car accident. You should never give the insurance company an opportunity to do this.
Additionally, you should look for the following “red flags” when dealing with an insurance company:
- The insurance company asks you to sign a medical release document. A medical release document allows your personal medical records to be released to your insurance company. Not all insurance agents ask for the document with poor intentions in mind. However, sometimes, an insurer will use your medical history to argue that you were at fault for an accident and use it to try to reduce your claim. For instance, if your medical documents show that you suffer from any ailment that could potentially affect your driving ability, ranging from poor vision to anxiety, you may be at risk.
- You are told that your accident and injuries are not fully covered. Each individual may have a totally unique car insurance policy. For instance, you may have purchased UM / UIM coverage that is well above the minimum amounts, or you may have purchased several different types of coverage, including medical payments, collision and comprehensive. Unfortunately, an insurance company may argue that certain damages are not covered by your policy – even though they may very well be covered.
- The insurer offers you a quick settlement that is much less than you expected. If the insurance company comes back with a quick settlement offer, and one that you think is lower than it should be, there is a good chance that the company is trying to get away with giving you an amount that is far less than your claim’s actual value.
For all of these reasons, you should never speak with the insurance company and never accept any settlement offer unless it has been reviewed first by an attorney from Tate Law Offices.
Remember: Once you accept a settlement offer and release an insured party from liability, you cannot bring a claim against that party in the future. This is why you should be careful about accepting a settlement that fails to fully compensate you.
Can a Lawyer Help Your Car Accident Insurance Claims?
At Tate Law Offices, we believe you will benefit tremendously from getting help from our attorneys instead of trying to handle your auto insurance claim on your own.
When you work with us, we can take a number of steps that will be aimed at maximizing the value of your claim. You can expect us to:
- Investigate your case. We can examine the accident scene, analyze photos, interview witnesses and review other evidence in order to determine why your crash happened and should be held legally responsible for it. We can also consult with accident reconstruction specialists. Our goal will be to prepare your case as thoroughly as possible.
- Determine the full extent of your damages. We can review your medical records and get input from doctors, life care planners and others to determine the full extent of your losses and what it will cost to ensure you receive proper medical care in the future.
- Review all relevant insurance policies. We can review the amount of liability coverage available through the at-fault driver’s insurance policy and examine your own policy to determine what coverage it can provide to you. We won’t let the insurance company get away with arguing that your damages are not covered.
- Seek a full and fair settlement. If the insurance company has made you a settlement offer, we can review it. If the offer does not fully cover the losses you have suffered, we can negotiate with the insurance company to seek a settlement that does.
- If necessary, file a lawsuit and go to court on your behalf. Most cases can be resolved without the need to file a lawsuit. However, if the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer, we can file a lawsuit in the proper court and continue with settlement negotiations. Keep in mind: If you file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you must do so within two years from the date of your accident.
- Make sure you get paid in a timely manner. Under Texas law, you have the right to receive payment of your settlement from an insurance company in a timely manner. We can take steps to collect your settlement or a judgment entered in your favor in court.
- Explore all other options available to you. If you file an auto insurance claim with your own insurance company, and the company acts unreasonably when dealing with you, then you may have grounds for filing a bad-faith insurance claim. If necessary, we can explore this option in your case.
Get Help From Our Texas Car Accident Lawyers
Don’t try to pursue a car accident insurance claim on your own in Texas. Insurance company adjusters are trained professionals who will try to delay, minimize or deny your claim. You will need a skilled and experienced advocate on your side to ensure your rights are protected and who will aggressively seek the compensation you deserve.
Contact Tate Law Offices. We can provide a free, immediate consultation and get to work on your case today.
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