Important Disclaimer: The information contained on this web page is
not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a licensed attorney. If
you have questions about your legal rights you should consult an attorney.

About this page: This page provides some basic guidance regarding automobile
accidents, auto accident personal injuries and some of the insurance coverage
issues involved. This page was compiled by Daragh Carter, attorney with the law firm
of Smith & Hassler in Houston, Texas. Daragh can be reached by
phone (713 739 1250) or email dcarter@smithhassler.com.

Frequently asked questions:

  1. I was in an auto accident and there were no witnesses. The accident was not my fault and the other driver thinks it wasn’t their fault either. Nobody got a citation. What do I do?
  2. I was in an auto accident with a driver who has no insurance. The other driver was at fault. I have liability only. My car is damaged and I have medical bills. How can I make them pay?
  3. I was hit by a hit-and-run driver who damaged my car and injured me. I didn’t get a license plate number or any information on the other driver. What can I do about my medical bills and damaged car?
  4. I have filed a claim with the other driver’s insurance company for my damaged vehicle. They say it is a total loss. I owe the finance company more than the insurance company say the car is worth. Don’t they have to pay off the car note for me?
  5. The insurance company thinks my vehicle is a total loss—what does that mean? Don’t they have to repair my car if I want to keep it, no matter how much it costs?
  6. I was in an accident and the other driver was at fault. My car is damaged and is not drivable and now I have no transportation. Doesn’t the other driver’s insurance company have to provide me with a rental car immediately?
  7. The other driver’s insurance company has completed their liability investigation and they agree their driver was at fault. Do they have to pay for a rental car for me until my car is fixed or they give me a check?
  8. I drive a nice car. Does the other driver’s insurance company have to reimburse me for renting a car the same as mine?
  9. The other driver’s insurance company keeps telling me they are waiting for the police report to be ready before making a decision on whether they will pay my claim. What is the police report and how long does it take to be ready?
  10. How can I get a copy of the police report for my car accident?
  11. Does the other driver’s insurance company have to give me money so I can go to the doctor and be treated for my injuries?
  12. Doesn’t the other driver’s insurance company have to pay ALL of my medical bills? After all, the accident wasn’t my fault. Can they refuse to pay some of my bills?
  13. What is my car accident injury claim worth?
  14. I missed time off work because of my car accident. Can I make a claim for lost wages with the other driver’s insurance company?
  15. I’ve been hearing talk about insurance "policy limits." What does that mean?
  16. The other driver caused my car accident and they have insurance but their insurance company hasn’t paid my claim because they said their insured is "not cooperating." It was the other driver’s fault…doesn’t their insurance have to pay?
  17. What should I do to be prepared in case an accident happens?
  18. What should I do at the scene if an accident happens?
  19. What should I do immediately after an accident?

1. I was in an auto accident and there were no witnesses. The accident was not my fault and the other driver thinks it wasn’t their fault either. Nobody got a citation. What do I do?

What usually happens in this situation is that both drivers will file claims with the other driver’s insurance company because each party feels it was the other guy’s fault. Because there are "conflicting statements" (i.e. both drivers are blaming each other), both insurance companies will most probably deny the claims and say that each driver should look to their own insurance company to take care of their vehicle damage and medical bills. These types of "swearing match" claims are very difficult for attorneys to help clients with: there are no independent witnesses to support what either driver is saying, and if there was a police report made, the officer did not put the blame on either party. The majority of attorneys do not take these types of cases because there is no way to independently prove the client’s version of events is correct.

If you are involved in a "swearing match" accident and you have full coverage insurance (not just liability only), it will probably be easier and quicker for you to file the claim with your own carrier. If your insurance company feels you were not at fault, they can always pursue the other driver’s insurance company to get their money back (this is called a subrogation claim). Your insurance company can also seek recovery of the deductible you paid from the other driver’s insurance company.

2. I was in an auto accident with a driver who has no insurance. The other driver was at fault. I have liability only. My car is damaged and I have medical bills. How can I make them pay?

Unfortunately the rule that "you can’t get blood from a turnip" is a big factor in whether you will ever be able to recover for your damages from the other driver. If the other driver truly does not have insurance, and you have liability only, there is no insurance coverage available to pay for your damages. Unless the other driver is willing to pay for your damages out of their pocket, your only remedy is to pursue a lawsuit against the other driver and sue them personally. While you may stand a good chance of succeeding in your lawsuit and having a judge or jury hold the other driver responsible for your damages, there are a number of problems with suing the other driver as an individual:

Under the Texas Constitution and the Texas Property Code, a person’s homestead is absolutely protected from a judgment for damages in an injury claim. Put another way, even if you sue the other driver and get a judgment against them, by law the Sheriff cannot throw the other driver out of their home and sell it to pay your judgment.

Under the Texas Property Code (Section 42.001 et seq.) a single person may keep up to $30,000 of personal property that is exempt from "garnishment, attachment, execution or other seizure." If the property is provided for a family, the amount of exempt property is $60,000. The type of property that is exempt includes furniture, food, tools and motor vehicles used for work, clothes, jewelry, guns and one automobile for each person.

It will probably be very difficult for you to find an attorney to represent you on a contingency fee basis (where the lawyer only gets paid if you recover money from the defendant) when you are suing someone as an individual. This is because most lawyers know from experience that the majority of people do not have the money to pay a judgment, so the lawyer would have to do a great deal of work and pay a lot of expenses working on your lawsuit, but because there is no insurance there is very little chance the lawyer will ever get paid for all of his or her work. You probably will not have any trouble finding a lawyer to sue the other driver for you if you pay the lawyer an hourly rate for their work, but that can get expensive quickly.

Usually people who do not have car insurance don’t have it because they can’t afford it. If they can’t afford to pay for car insurance, unfortunately that makes it very unlikely they will have the money to pay a judgment against them if you sue them personally and win.

As a general rule, the only time there is ever an upside to suing the other driver personally is when they are quite wealthy or own more than one piece of real estate. Sadly, while you are in the right and the accident was not your fault, filing suit against the other driver and getting a judgment against them will not do you much good unless you can collect on that judgment.

Important Note: if there is a police report for your accident and the police report says the other driver has no insurance that does not necessarily mean the other driver was uninsured. Sometimes a police officer will write "no insurance" on the police report if the other driver did not have an insurance card with them as proof of insurance. You should always verify that the other driver really does not have insurance, either by contacting the other driver or by consulting an attorney.

3. I was hit by a hit-and-run driver who damaged my car and injured me. I didn’t get a license plate number or any information on the other driver. What can I do about my medical bills and damaged car?

Property damage caused by a hit-and-run driver: For damage to your vehicle by a hit-and-run driver to be covered under your insurance policy, you must have collision coverage on your policy (sometimes also referred to as "full coverage"). If you have liability only, your insurance company does not have to pay for repairs to your vehicle.

Injuries and medical bills caused by a hit-and-run driver: Under Texas law, a hit-and-run driver who cannot be identified is treated as an "uninsured motorist." Because you do not know who the hit-and-run driver is and have no way of tracking them down to try and recover for your damages from their insurance company, your only recourse is to look to your own insurance company to cover your medical bills, however that will only work if you have Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") and/or "Uninsured Motorist" coverage ("UM").

PIP benefits usually provide at least $2,500 of coverage per person for medical bills, lost wages and other expenses associated with an accident. Sometimes that amount is larger, for example $5,000 or $10,000. PIP coverage however is a benefit that you have to choose when you sign up for your auto insurance and not everybody will have PIP on their policy. The easiest way to find out if you have PIP coverage is to either call your insurance company, insurance agent, or to read your auto insurance policy. Under Texas law, when you buy your insurance policy and are making choices about what coverage you want, you must sign your name stating that you have been offered PIP and uninsured motorist coverage, but have chosen to reject that coverage. At your request, your insurance company should provide you with a copy of your signed waiver of PIP and UM coverage. If your insurance company can not provide you with a copy of your signed waiver of that coverage, Texas law says you are entitled to those benefits. If you think you asked for PIP and UM coverage when you purchased your auto insurance but your insurance company is telling you that you do not have those benefits under your policy, you should ask them to send you a copy of your signed waiver just to be sure.

Uninsured Motorist (UM) Benefits typically provide at least $20,000 of insurance coverage for medical bills, lost wages and other expenses associated with an accident involving an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. UM coverage is something you must specifically select when you get your auto insurance policy and it costs you extra on your insurance premium. The easiest way to find out if you have UM coverage is to either call your insurance company, insurance agent, or to read your auto insurance policy.

If you have PIP coverage on your policy you will need to contact your insurance company to set up a PIP claim and have them send you a PIP claim form. You will need to complete the form and send it to your insurance company along with any medical bills, lost wages or other expenses associated with the accident that you wish to be reimbursed for.

If you have UM coverage on your policy you will need to contact your insurance company to set up a UM claim. To file a UM claim with your insurance company you will need to send your insurance company any medical bills, lost wages or other expenses associated with the accident that you wish to be reimbursed for. Your insurance company should help you with this process.

It is possible to file both a PIP claim and a UM claim under your own insurance policy (provided you have both types of coverage), however if your damages are less than your UM policy limits, your insurance company can take an offset for any money they pay you under your PIP coverage, for example:

John has medical bills and lost wages totaling $5,000.

John’s policy has $20,000 of Uninsured Motorist coverage and $2,500 of PIP benefits.

John files a PIP claim.

John’s insurance company will pay him $2,500 PIP benefits, but the amount they pay him under his Uninsured Motorist coverage will be reduced by $2,500 for the "PIP offset."

4. I have filed a claim with the other driver’s insurance company for my damaged vehicle. They say it is a total loss. I owe the finance company more than the insurance company say the car is worth. Don’t they have to pay off the car note for me?

Unfortunately not. If you owe more on your totaled vehicle than it is worth, this is sometimes referred to as being "upside down" on the car. For example, if you owe the finance company $10,000 on your car but the Blue Book value is $8,000 then you are "upside down" by $2,000. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of being in a car accident: moments before the accident your car was running fine and you were happy with it. Now you have a totaled vehicle and you are not even being offered enough to pay it off and start over. Sadly the law only requires the insurance company (whether it is your insurance or the other driver’s) to pay you the "fair market value" for your vehicle, not the amount you owe. The Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) is a useful guide for finding the fair market value of your car and it takes into account mileage, condition and extra equipment. Another car valuation web site is www.edmunds.com Most insurance adjusters however say they do not use the Kelley Blue Book valuation system, but use NADA or something else. Typically there is little difference no matter what valuation system is used.

If you had recent work done or new parts added to your vehicle before the accident and you have receipts to prove it, you should send copies to the insurance company and ask them to take those costs into consideration in valuing your total loss. The same goes for optional equipment you have added, such as custom rims, stereo equipment, etc.

5. The insurance company thinks my vehicle is a total loss—what does that mean? Don’t they have to repair my car if I want to keep it, no matter how much it costs?

A vehicle is declared a "total loss" when the cost to repair it reaches or exceeds a certain percentage of the vehicle’s market value, or when it would cost more to repair the vehicle than it would to just scrap it. As a general rule, older cars with lots of miles will be declared total losses more often than newer cars with less miles (because older cars are worth less money).

Even if you have had your vehicle for a very long time, it means a lot to you and you never had any intention of selling it before the accident, the insurance company does not have to fix it for you, no matter what the cost. The cost to repair the damages compared to the value of the car will determine whether your car will be repaired or scrapped altogether.

6. I was in an accident and the other driver was at fault. My car is damaged and is not drivable and now I have no transportation. Doesn’t the other driver’s insurance company have to provide me with a rental car immediately?

No. Before the other driver’s insurance company would be willing to provide you with a rental car they will need to do a liability investigation to make sure their driver was at fault and that they owe you for the claim. This investigation will almost certainly include getting a statement from their insured. They may also want to speak with any witnesses and get a look at the police report if one was made. This all takes time, so rarely will another driver’s insurance company agree to provide you with a rental car in the first 24 hours after an accident (even if it is very clear to you that the other driver was at fault). It is frustrating to have to wait when an accident was not your fault, but in fairness to the other driver’s insurance company, they should be given the opportunity to make sure they are paying on a claim that they really are liable for. If you got a bill in the mail telling you to send back a check for $100 but you didn’t know what the bill was for, you would do some investigating before sending payment—the insurance company’s liability investigation is the same thing, they are just making sure they owe on the claim.

If you have rental car reimbursement coverage on your own automobile insurance, you might consider getting a rental car under your own policy rather than waiting for the other driver’s insurance company to complete their investigation.

7. The other driver’s insurance company has completed their liability investigation and they agree their driver was at fault. Do they have to pay for a rental car for me until my car is fixed or they give me a check?

No. If your vehicle is not a total loss but is damaged and can be repaired, the other driver’s insurance company should reimburse you for rental car charges for a "reasonable repair period." What should happen is this: the other driver’s insurance company sends an adjuster to look at the damage to your vehicle, and they can tell you how long it should take the repair shop to fix the damage (this is the "reasonable repair period.") If you then rent a car while your vehicle is being repaired and submit the rental receipts to the other driver’s insurance company, they will pay you back.

Keep in mind that if the insurance company thinks the reasonable repair period for your vehicle is 5 days (for example) and you keep the rental car for 7 days, you run the risk that the insurance company will not reimburse you for the extra 2 days. That is why it is very important to clarify ahead of time with the adjuster how many days rental car they will reimburse you for.

If you cannot afford to pay for a rental car while your vehicle is being repaired, you can ask the insurance adjuster if they would be willing to arrange for a rental car that they pay for directly. There is no law that requires the insurance company to do this. It has been my experience that when it comes to getting a rental car that you don’t have to pay for out of pocket, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Insurance adjusters deal with frustrated people and frustrating situations every day; they are more inclined to use their discretion to help out people who are calm, polite and professional than people who yell and scream and them that they must provide them with a ******** rental car!

If your vehicle is totaled, you will be surprised to learn that the law says the other driver’s insurance company does not owe you any money for a rental care at all! It has been my experience that most professional insurance companies are willing to reimburse for rental car charges from the date they accept liability for the accident until the date they determine your vehicle is a total loss. Once your vehicle has been declared a total loss, if you keep a rental car beyond that date you run the risk the insurance company will not reimburse you for those extra days.

Before you rent a car, it is a good general rule to talk to the insurance adjuster beforehand and make sure everyone is on the same page about how many days rental car they will reimburse you for. That will greatly cut down on the possibility of nasty surprises.

8. I drive a nice car. Does the other driver’s insurance company have to reimburse me for renting a car the same as mine?

No. Unless a special exception applies (discussed below), the rental reimbursement will be for basic transportation only. Most insurance companies consider reasonable rental reimbursement for the Houston area to be around $27 per day. This means that even though you may drive a brand new S class Mercedes, you cannot go out and rent the same model Mercedes and expect the other driver’s insurance company to reimburse you for it…they won’t, they will reimburse you around $27/day and you will be stuck paying for the difference.

Under certain limited circumstances, the other driver’s insurance company should reimburse you for renting a vehicle similar to yours. This happens when you had a specific type of vehicle for a specific purpose, for example, if your only vehicle was a pickup truck and you must have a pickup for work, the other driver’s insurance company should reimburse you for renting a pickup, even if it costs more than the daily rental typical allowance of $27/day for Houston. Another example is if you have a large family and need a larger vehicle to transport everyone.

Again, before renting a particular type of vehicle, it is a very good idea to clarify with the insurance adjuster what the insurance company is willing to reimburse you for.

9. The other driver’s insurance company keeps telling me they are waiting for the police report to be ready before making a decision on whether they will pay my claim. What is the police report and how long does it take to be ready?

The police accident report is usually a 2-3 page document in which the investigating police officer records information on the drivers, passengers and vehicles involved, insurance information, witness information and the officer’s opinions as to who was at fault and the factors that contributed to the accident. The police report also says who received a citation, if anyone. It usually includes a diagram of the accident scene showing the streets, any traffic signals or road markings and the location of the vehicles involved. Usually the office will note what the drivers involved said about the cause of the accident and what happened.

The police report is an important part of the insurance company’s liability decision. Many times before making a liability decision the insurance company wants to see the police report and all the information it contains. Under Texas state law, an investigating police officer must prepare the accident report within 10 days of the date of the accident:

Texas Transportation Code 550.062. OFFICER'S ACCIDENT REPORT.
(a) A law enforcement officer who in the regular course of duty investigates a motor vehicle accident shall make a written report of the accident if the accident resulted in injury to or the death of a person or damage to the property of any one person to the apparent extent of $1,000 or more.
(b) The report required by Subsection (a) must be filed with the department not later than the 10th day after the date of the accident.
(c) This section applies without regard to whether the officer investigates the accident at the location of the accident and immediately after the accident or afterwards by interviewing those involved in the accident or witnesses to the accident.

In my experience, most police reports are ready within 10 days. Sometimes however it takes longer, and in some very rare circumstances for some reason the officer never completes the accident report. If the insurance company decides they will not make a liability decision about your accident until they see the police report, there is little to do but hurry up and wait. The investigating officer is responsible for preparing the police report and submitting it on time, so until the officer submits the report you (and the insurance company) just have to try and be patient.

10. How can I get a copy of the police report for my car accident?

A copy of a police accident report usually costs between $4.00 and $6.00 and can be ordered from the records department of the law enforcement agency that investigated your accident (e.g. HPD, Harris County Constables, etc.). To order the police report, you should use the incident report number that the officer should have given you on a slip of paper at the scene of your accident.

If you don’t have the incident report number (for example, because you were taken away by ambulance before the police arrived), you can still order the police report provided you have enough identifying information: the date and approximate time of the accident, the street where it happened and your name and driver’s license number. That should be enough information for the police records department to locate your accident report.

11. Does the other driver’s insurance company have to give me money so I can go to the doctor and be treated for my injuries?

Unfortunately people who are hurt in car accidents that were not their fault don’t always have health insurance and can’t always afford to pay cash for medical treatment. An MRI for example typically costs around $900…not many people have $900 in cash handy to cover an unexpected need for an MRI!

There is not a law that requires the other driver’s insurance company to give you money "up front" so you can go to the doctor. In the great majority of cases, the other driver’s insurance company will tell you that they will reimburse you for what they consider to be "reasonable and necessary" medical expenses associated with your car accident. Put another way, this means that you have to pay to get medical treatment, then when you send them the receipts for treatment you have already received, they will pay you back (provided they think the treatment was at a reasonable cost, and was necessary for your injuries).

This can really leave a lot of people who genuinely need medical attention but do not have the money to go and get it in a serious bind. For example, sometimes people who get in serious car accidents visit their primary care physician who tells them they should have a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon to properly assess their injuries. Many orthopedic surgeons charge hundreds of dollars for a single consultation…not everyone can afford that.

The need for medical treatment but the inability to pay for it is a big consideration in why people hire a personal injury attorney. It is common for personal injury attorneys to have a relationship with medical professionals whereby the person injured in the car accident can receive treatment, but the doctors will not expect payment until the injured person’s claim is resolved with the other driver’s insurance company and a settlement is reached. Many people are very suspicious of such an arrangement and think that the personal injury lawyer is sending people for treatment they don’t need, or that the lawyer and the doctors are in cahoots somehow. This has probably been a topic of hot debate since the first Model T Ford rolled off the production line and the first car accidents started happening! I could write page after page about this topic, but here is not the place.

12. Doesn’t the other driver’s insurance company have to pay ALL of my medical bills? After all, the accident wasn’t my fault. Can they refuse to pay some of my bills?

If you were to ask most insurance adjusters who handle personal injury claims what medical expenses should be covered by an insurance company under a personal injury claim, they will tell you that they will reimburse "reasonable and necessary" medical expenses. This answer is a big part of why personal injury attorneys like me are needed…insurance adjusters and injured people do not always see eye-to-eye on what of an injured person’s medical bills are reasonable and necessary.

So what do they mean by "reasonable and necessary?" While I cannot climb inside the head of all insurance adjusters, I believe that "reasonable and necessary" means expenses for medical treatments that are:

related only to injuries sustained in the car accident;

reasonable in cost;

the amount of treatment relative to the injuries is not excessive;

If my understanding of "reasonable and necessary" is correct, you can see why there is often so much disagreement between injured people and insurance companies about automobile accident injury claims…reasonable minds can and do differ on what is "reasonable and necessary." To give you a few extreme examples: if a car accident victim was charged $500 for a band aid by a hospital, I think we can all agree that the band aid is not "reasonable in cost." Or if a bald-headed man is injured in a car accident and decided to spend $2,000 on a hair implant procedure, I think we can also all agree the hair implant medical treatment is not related to injuries sustained in the accident.

Those examples are easy and real life is very seldom so clear cut. Where people injured in auto accidents and insurance companies frequently disagree (and personal injury attorneys tend to get involved) is on the closer calls where reasonable minds can differ. One way these disagreements often come up is related to "pre-existing injuries." Sometimes insurance adjusters do not want to pay a car accident victim’s medical bills because they believe the person’s injury pre-exists the car accident. Put another way, the adjuster thinks the person was already injured so the injury was not caused by the car accident and the insurance company should not have to pay for it.

Another way these disagreements come up has to do with what type and amount of treatment is appropriate for the injuries involved. If you have a lumbar strain from being rear-ended at a red light, how much physical therapy is reasonable and how much is excessive? The truth is that there is no single right answer that is true for everyone. For example, if a 95 year-old great grandmother is rear-ended at 30MPH and her 250lb college linebacker 21 year-old great grandson is sitting in the seat next to her, it is likely that the accident will have different effects on their bodies, and they will need different types of medical treatment for different lengths of time. But that is an easy example. What about the 20 year old previously healthy male who is rear-ended at a low speed and there is very little visible damage to his vehicle, but he had his head turned looking for a break in traffic when he was hit and he sustained a nasty neck injury that took many weeks of physical therapy and expensive diagnostic tests to diagnose and treat?

In summary, while an accident may not have been your fault, this is not a guarantee that the injured person and the other driver’s insurance company will see eye-to-eye about which medical costs are "reasonable and necessary." Many injured people find it reassuring to have the benefit of the experience and expertise of a personal injury attorney to advise them on their injury claim.

13. What is my car accident injury claim worth?

There is no straightforward answer to this question because there are many variables that go into placing a dollar amount on injury to a person’s body. Some of the important factors to be considered are:

severity of the injuries;

severity of the accident;

whether there will be any impairment or medical costs in the future;

whether there are any permanent injuries;

the amount of the injured person’s medical bills;

whether the medical treatment was inconvenient or painful;

whether there was any "bad conduct" on the part of the person who caused the accident, such as DUI;

whether the accident happened in a jurisdiction that has a typically conservative or liberal jury pool;

That is by no means an all-inclusive list, but in my opinion these are some of the more important factors in valuing a personal injury claim. Often people injured in car accidents feel disadvantaged because they have never been in an accident before and have no idea what is reasonable compensation. Part of a personal injury attorney’s job is to advise the client as to whether a settlement offer is fair, and there really isn’t a book or a formula attorneys use, rather they rely on their knowledge and experience.

Some examples are obvious: if a person loses an eye in car accident, in my opinion that claim has a higher potential settlement value than a car accident in which a person’s neck was sore for a few days but they felt back to their old selves within two weeks. No single factor controls the potential value of a personal injury claim.

14. I missed time off work because of my car accident. Can I make a claim for lost wages with the other driver’s insurance company?

Yes. In my experience most insurance companies will consider between one and three days of lost wages without a doctor’s excuse, though for any period of lost wages longer than that they will probably require a doctor’s note that you were physically unable to work. No matter how much lost time you are claiming, you will need some documentation to prove how much time you missed, your rate of pay, where you work, etc. This is easiest if you have an employer: they can provide you with a letter to give to the insurance company. At a minimum the letter should state: your job title, your salary or hourly rate, the dates you missed work and that you missed work because of the car accident. The letter should also provide the name and phone number of someone the insurance company can call to verify the lost wage information. If you are self-employed, the insurance company may ask you to provide some additional proof of your income such as a copy of your tax return.

15. I’ve been hearing talk about insurance "policy limits." What does that mean?

All insurance policies have a policy limit. This refers to the maximum amount of coverage provided under that policy, or put another way, the most money that insurance policy can pay out. In the State of Texas, the minimum liability insurance that is allowed for an automobile is 20/40/15.

Texas Transportation Code 601.072. MINIMUM COVERAGE AMOUNTS. 
(a) The minimum amounts of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage required to establish financial responsibility under this chapter are:
(1)  $20,000 for bodily injury to or death of one person in one accident;  
(2)  $40,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in one accident, subject to the amount provided by Subdivision (1) for bodily injury to or death of one of the persons; 
and
(3)  $15,000 for damage to or destruction of property of others in one accident.
(b)  The coverage required under Subsection (a) may exclude, with respect to one accident:
(1)  the first $250 of liability for bodily injury to or death of one person;
(2)  the first $500 of liability for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons, subject to the amount provided by Subdivision (1) for bodily injury to or death of one of the persons; 
and
(3)  the first $250 of liability for property damage to or destruction of property of others.


Note that in June 2007 a house bill became law that required all new automobile insurance policies written after May 1, 2008 to have a minimum policy limit of 25/50/20, increasing the amount of auto insurance coverage all motorists must carry.

Here is what the numbers 20/40/15 refer to:

The "20" means that for a given car accident, a single individual injured in the accident can recover a maximum of $20,000 under that insurance policy for injury-related expenses such as medical bills and lost wages caused by the policyholder.

The "40" means that for a given car accident, a group of injured individuals (no matter how many people are in the group) can recovery a maximum of $40,000 under that insurance policy for injury-related expenses such as medical bills and lost wages caused by the policyholder.

The "15" means that for a given car accident, no more than $15,000 can be paid under that insurance policy for any and all property damage caused by the policyholder.

Here is an example to explain. Al has a 20/40/15 policy and causes a car accident. He crashes into a car driven by Bill and containing passengers Charles and Dana. The maximum either Bill or Charles or Dana could recovery under Al’s insurance policy for their injuries and lost wages is $20,000. The maximum Bill and Charles and Dana combined can recovery under Al’s insurance policy for their injuries and lost wages is $40,000.

Let’s say Bill’s medical expenses and lost wages total $32,000. What is the most he can collect under Al’s policy? The answer is $20,000. How about if Bill’s medical costs are $32,000, Charles’ are $28,000 and Dana’s are $56,000? The answer is that they must all split amongst them the maximum available payment under Al’s policy of $40,000, and the maximum either Bill, Charles or Dana can receive is $20,000.

Regarding the $15,000 property damage limit: this means that even if Bill was driving an $80,000 Mercedes and Al totaled it, the most that can be paid to Bill for his totaled Mercedes under Al’s policy is $15,000.

Often the fact that all insurance policies have limits means that severely injured people with very high medical bills are in an extremely tough spot: using the example above, if the accident was severe and Bill suffered catastrophic injury such as losing both his legs with associated medical bills of $500,000, the most he can recover under Al’s policy is $20,000.

20/40/15 is the minimum liability insurance an automobile driver must have in Texas however some motorists have more than the minimum amount of coverage. Outside of commercial insurance policies (i.e. insurance policies covering commercial vehicles, such as 18-wheelers), automobile insurance liability policy limits usually arise as follows:

20/40/15 (Texas State law minimum limits)

25/50/25 ($25,000 per individual/$50,000 per accident/$25,000 property damage)

50/100/50 ($50,000 per individual/$100,000 per accident/$50,000 property damage)

100/300/100 ($100,000 per individual/$300,000 per accident/$100,000 property damage)

Insurance adjusters and insurance companies do not have to tell you what their insured’s policy limit is, however if an attorney files a lawsuit on your claim, then the at-fault driver has to disclose their insurance policy limits.

16. The other driver caused my car accident and they have insurance but their insurance company hasn’t paid my claim because they said their insured is "not cooperating." It was the other driver’s fault…doesn’t their insurance have to pay?

Under a standard Texas personal automobile insurance policy, the insured has a duty to cooperate with the insurance company for coverage to apply. In other words, if the other driver does not cooperate with their insurance company, e.g. by refusing to take their phone calls or give a statement about what happened, the insurance company does not have to provide coverage or pay the claim. Most people have enough sense to cooperate with their insurance company so that there will be insurance coverage for the damage they have done, however once in a while people fail in their duty to cooperate and the insurance company is entitled to deny the claim because of their insured's lack of cooperation.

17. Be prepared before an accident happens:

It is a great idea to keep a single use 35mm film camera in your glove box. These cameras cost around $4.00 and, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Be sure to keep your current insurance card in your wallet.

18. When a car accident happens:

- do not admit fault

- write down:

o the time and date of the accident

o name of the other driver and their passengers

o name, phone number and address of any witnesses

o the other driver’s insurance company and their insurance policy number

o the other driver’s year, make and model of vehicle and license plate

o the name of the street(s) where the accident happened

o the location of any nearby construction, temporary signs and road markings

o any statements made by the other driver

o the time the police were called and who called them

o the name, department (e.g. HPD, Harris County Sheriffs, etc), badge number and precinct phone number of the investigating police officer

o the police report number (the officer should give you the incident report number on a slip of paper before leaving)

o the name of the towing company if your vehicle was towed, their phone number and the location of the storage lot

- take photographs of the damage to all vehicles involved

o do not just take close-up pictures, also photograph the whole accident scene to show the location of each vehicle

o try to get the other driver in a photograph if possible

o photograph any traffic signals, lights or signs in the vicinity of the accident

o if there was damage to property, e.g. a utility pole or fence, take a picture of that too

- if you are injured, tell the investigating police officer so it is noted in the police report


19. After the accident:

- if the accident was not your fault, you can contact the other driver’s insurance company to set up a claim or if you have collision coverage, you can file a claim with your own insurance company.

- If you file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company:

o if it is a weekend you may not be able to reach someone right away, though the big insurance companies usually have 24 hour claims assistance

o be calm and polite

the people you are dealing with may have a lot of questions, they are just doing their job and following company procedures

often things such as providing a rental car at no cost to you is at the discretion of the insurance company (there is no law that requires them to do it)—they are more likely to help out calm, polite people than people who yell, scream and threaten them!

o You may be asked for your "recorded statement"

In a recorded statement the insurance company will ask questions about you (such as address, date of birth, etc), about how the accident happened, and about your injuries if any

Once you give a recorded statement, you cannot take it back.

If the insurance company denies your claim and you later have to hire an attorney to pursue your claim for you, the recorded statement might come back to haunt you later

The insurance company may tell you that they cannot pay for your property damage or provide you with a rental car unless you give them your recorded statement. This is not necessarily true.

It may be best to seek legal advice from an attorney before giving your recorded statement.

 

 

 

 

 

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