When you’ve been hurt in a car accident that was caused by another driver’s negligence, you may have the right to seek financial compensation for your losses through a personal injury claim. But how much compensation should you pursue? How do you know if a settlement offer is fair? And what can you do to maximize the value of your case and try to save yourself from being left owing expenses down the line?
Retaining experienced legal representation is essential to pursue the fair and full compensation you need. For more than 25 years, the Houston car accident attorneys of The Callahan Law Firm have worked hard to protect the rights of everyday people hurt because of the negligence of others. We take on the big insurance companies and powerful corporations to help our clients get maximum value for their injury claims.
Contact us today for a free initial consultation to learn more about why having an experienced lawyer on your side can improve your chances of recovering maximum compensation for your Houston car accident case.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident to Maximize Compensation
Following a car accident in Houston, you should remember the following tips to help protect your rights and interests in a claim for financial compensation:
- Get the contact and insurance information for each driver involved in the crash.
- Speak to any eyewitnesses about the crash and take down their contact information as well.
- Take photos of the accident scene, including vehicle damage, traffic lights, traffic signs, weather and road conditions, marks on the road, and visible injuries you suffered.
- Get checked out by medical personnel at the accident scene, go to the emergency room, or seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident for evaluation and when necessary to begin treatment for your injuries. Save all paperwork related to your treatment, and follow your doctor’s orders.
- It is strongly recommended that you speak to an attorney before giving a statement to the other driver’s insurance company or investigator. Insurance adjusters and their investigators are trained to ask questions in a way that helps the insurance company, not you. Anything you say can be used to minimize the value of your claim.
- Do not wait to seek legal advice. An experienced car accident lawyer will want to begin an immediate investigation into your crash to preserve evidence and begin building a strong case for full compensation.
How Much to Expect from a Car Accident Settlement
Through a car accident settlement, you may recover compensation for the expenses and losses you have incurred as a result of the crash. Financial compensation in a car accident settlement may include:
- Costs of medical treatment for your injuries
- Future medical care needs
- Lost wages or income
- Loss of future income or earning ability and lost benefits, such as health insurance or pensions if disabilities caused by your injuries prevent you from returning to work
- Vehicle damage repair costs or the cash value of your vehicle if it was totaled in the wreck
- Physical pain and impairment
- Mental anguish
- The reduced quality or enjoyment of life due to disfigurement or disability
What Factors Impact the Amount of a Settlement?
How much money you may receive in a car accident settlement may depend on multiple factors, including:
- Liability for the accident – Under Texas law, you cannot recover compensation for a car accident in which you were more than 50 percent responsible. In other words, if a jury determines you were 51 percent or more responsible for the crash, you will receive nothing for your injury claim. If you are found to be 50 percent or less responsible for the crash, any share of fault you do have will reduce the total value of your settlement. Under comparative negligence rules, your compensation can be reduced to reflect your share of fault for the accident. So, for example, if you are found to be 25 percent at fault by a jury and your damages are $100,000, your compensation would be reduced by $25,000.
- The severity of your injuries – If you’ve suffered debilitating injuries in a car accident, you may incur greater expenses, such as long-term medical bills and lost wages. You can also seek compensation for personal losses such as pain and suffering or a reduction in your quality of life.
- Insurance coverage limits – If the driver at fault for the accident doesn’t have significant financial assets, your sole recovery will likely come from their insurance policy. But in most circumstances, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will not pay any more than the maximum amount of coverage its driver purchased. Texas law requires drivers to carry a minimum of $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident in injury liability coverage. If the at-fault driver only has the minimum coverage, their insurance company will likely only pay you up to $30,000, even if you sustained losses exceeding that value. There are ways the at-fault party’s insurance company can be made to pay more than its policy limits. However, for a chance to receive more than the policy limits you will need an attorney experienced in handling these types of car accident claims.
- Your lawyer’s skill and reputation – A skilled plaintiff’s car accident attorney with a reputation of properly developing cases and winning in the courtroom may convince an insurance company to agree to a higher settlement amount in order to avoid the risk of going to trial.
How to Estimate an Injury Settlement
You can begin to estimate what amount of compensation you could receive in a car accident settlement by looking at:
- The type and extent of your injuries
- Medical bills, along with bills and receipts for other out-of-pocket expenses
- Your pay stubs or income statements to begin documenting lost wages
These factors can help you calculate your current financial losses. You should also review your medical records to determine how long you may need to continue treatment of your injuries and what further treatment may be needed.
For example, does your doctor think or recommend that you may require surgery or other medical care in the future? In addition, how long does your treating physician think you may continue to be out of work? This information can also be used to determine the extent of your future lost income or to estimate your lost earning ability if you may be permanently unable to return to your job.
In addition to these economic losses, a knowledgeable lawyer will help you calculate a fair value for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and in certain cases, disfigurement.
How to Maximize Your Car Accident Settlement
- Consult with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. You may be contacted by the insurance company soon after the crash and quickly offered a settlement. By first speaking to a knowledgeable car accident lawyer, you’ll have a better idea of the value of your case and what to expect from the insurance company. Never accept a settlement offer without speaking to a lawyer.
- Avoid discussing the accident on social media or posting photos or videos of yourself while still undergoing treatment for serious injuries. Insurance companies often secretly monitor car accident victims’ social media accounts to find statements they believe are inconsistent with the person’s official account of the accident. They may also try to dig up photos or videos that they will argue contradict the victim’s injury claims.
- Follow your treating physician’s instructions and recommendations. If you delay medical evaluation and treatment, you give the insurance company a reason to argue that your injuries were not as serious as you claim or that you have allowed your condition to worsen.
How to Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement
Negotiating a car accident settlement with the insurance company can seem overwhelming, especially when you are dealing with experienced adjusters or defense attorneys trying to trick you into doing or saying something that hurts your case. That’s why it always helps to have an experienced car accident attorney negotiate on your behalf, as your lawyer will have a good idea of what losses you have suffered and will continue to suffer in the future, and can calculate a fair amount that would fully compensate you for those losses.
When negotiating a settlement, you should remember that you can always reject any offer you receive from the insurance company and counteroffer for a higher amount. However, you may need to provide documents or evidence to back up your higher demand, such as pointing to medical bills or your treating physician’s prognosis to support a claim for more compensation.
Your willingness to go to trial is also a key component of the settlement negotiation. Insurance companies take accident victims more seriously when they have an attorney who has properly developed the case and is ready to take the case to court.
Get Help Maximizing Your Case Value from a Houston Car Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured in a car crash, don’t delay in beginning the process of pursuing financial compensation from those responsible for the injuries you have suffered. Contact us at The Callahan Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation case review with an experienced Houston car accident lawyer. Learn more about what compensation you may be entitled to and how we can help you get maximum financial recovery for your losses.