CAR ACCIDENT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
We understand many car crash victims do not have a thorough understand of their rights and responsibilities in the event of a crash. We also understand many car crash victims are hesitant to contact a lawyer to discuss those rights and responsibilities, for any number of reasons.
Car crash claims are generally divided into two categories: bodily injury and property damage. A car crash victim should understand there are different rights and responsibilities for bodily injury claims and property damage claims. The purpose of this page is to answer some very common questions we hear from car crash victims, and to encourage those victims to contact us for further guidance if necessary.
FREQUENTLY ASKED DOs and DON’Ts
Q: Should I call the police when I am involved in a car crash?
A: Yes you should. Although we like to think people will do the right thing after causing a car crash, the sometimes don’t. So, a car crash victim should begin protecting themselves immediately after the crash to help make sure they are treated fairly by the insurance company involved. The police will often have video and audio recordings (from the police car, body cameras, and body microphones) that can contain very valuable evidence that might be needed later in the claim or lawsuit.
Additionally, police are, in some circumstances, required by law to complete an investigative report, called a CR-3. This report will contain highly valuable information, such as identification of all the parties involved, insurance information, and an opinion of how the crash occurred. A personal injury victim might later need to rely on some of this information in order to help their case. Depending on the severity of the car crash, the police might actually complete a full accident investigation, complete with photographs and measurements, which can later serve as valuable evidence if a lawsuit is necessary.
Finally, the police will often interview witnesses to learn more about how a crash happened. Through this process (and the investigative process in general) documents are created that can later be obtained through an Open Records Request, and which contain information that might be useful in the event of a dispute about liability.
Q: Should I take down witness information?
A: Absolutely. Personal injury victims often rely on the police to document witness information. However, an injury victim should not rely on the police to properly acquire or preserve this information. It is very common for a personal injury lawyer to have to try to identify witnesses by making an Open Records Request, then extracting that information from public records or 911 call recordings. If the personal injury victim has taken down witness information (name, phone number, and address), a personal injury lawyer can attempt to talk to witnesses soon after the crash while their memory is still fresh. This can make a significant difference in the outcome of a personal injury case.
Q: Should I take photographs?
A: Yes. Take photographs of the crash scene, the witnesses, the other driver, all vehicles involved, and any conditions of the roadway you believe might be relevant. Photographs of a car crash scene can, in some circumstances, help demonstrate the severity of the crash and how the car crash occurred.
Q: Should I contact my insurance company?
A: Yes. Your insurance contract requires you to notify your insurance company in the event you have been involved in a collision. Failing to report the collision or failing to comply with your insurance policy can, in limited circumstances, cause your insurance to refuse coverage for a claim related to the incident.
Q: Should I talk to the at-fault driver’s insurance company?
A: Not immediately, and a personal injury victim is not required to. When an insurance claim is reported, the negligent driver’s insurance company will conduct an investigation to learn more about how the crash happened and what, if any, injuries any of the car crash victims sustained. During this investigation, the insurance company will usually ask the personal injury victim to provide a recorded statement. If the personal injury victim provides a recorded statement, the victim could unknowingly say something on record that can later be used against them. This could include statements relating to vehicle speeds, amounts of time that passed between events, and distances between objects. A personal injury victim trying to give an honest answer might under-estimate or over-estimate this information in a way that could make the personal injury victim appear to have some responsibility for causing the crash. Or, the personal injury victim might make statements that minimize the extent of their bodily injury before there has been an opportunity for the victim to actually have the bodily injury properly evaluated.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDICAL CARE AND MEDICAL BILLS
Q: When should I get medical care after a car crash?
A: It is critically important to seek prompt medical attention after a car crash. While many personal injury victims might not be sure whether their injury warrants medical care, it is better to be safe than sorry for a few reasons.
First, the law allows a personal injury victim to seek compensation for their losses associated with their bodily injuries. This includes the victim’s losses leading up to a settlement or trial, as well as well as any losses the injury victim can prove you will likely have in the future. To fully understand and prove what those losses are, the personal injury victim must understand the extent of their injury. To fully understand the extent of the injury, the personal injury victim must be proactive with their medical care and work with someone qualified to diagnose their bodily injury. Since many permanent injuries do not seem that bad in the beginning, it is important to explore all injuries, even those that might seem like they will resolve on their own.
Second, if a personal injury victim is not proactive about getting medical treatment, they will potentially create a “treatment gap.” Insurance companies will find any reason they can to deny or undervalue a personal injury victim’s bodily injury claims. When there is a large lapse of time after a car crash before the personal injury victim has sought medical care, or large gaps in the personal injury victim’s medical care, there is a much higher chance the insurance company will refuse to fully compensate the victim for their losses without a long, difficult fight.
Finally, and most importantly, we want our personal injury clients to get better. The best way for a personal injury victim to get better is to put their medical care in the hands of a medical professional who can help guide their recovery.
Q: How should I pay for my medical care after a car crash?
A: Many personal injury victims fail to obtain prompt and thorough medical care after a being injured because they are concerned about the costs. We have found this to be true even for personal injury victims with health insurance but would be burdened by high deductible costs or co-pays. It is important to know that personal injury victims have several options to pay for their medical care when their injury was caused by the carelessness of another. This is true whether the personal injury victim has health insurance or not.
Personal injury victims with health insurance who would be financially burdened by their co-pays or deductibles, or victims who do not have health insurance, can often work with medical providers who will agree to accept payment for their services once the personal injury victim has settled or otherwise resolved their personal injury case. Also, many personal injury victims have a type of insurance coverage called “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP) or “Medical Payments Coverage” (MedPay), which are more thoroughly discussed on our insurance coverages page. In some instances, PIP or MedPay can be useful tools to help a personal injury victim pay for their medical treatment after an injury.
If you have been injured, and are interested in learning more about your options for obtaining medical care for your injuries, you should call a personal injury lawyer. There are important pros and cons associated with your options for receiving medical care, and you should understand them fully as soon after a personal injury event as possible.
Q: I am receiving a lot of medical bills after my personal injury. How should I pay for them?
A: It is common for personal injury victims to receive many unexpected medical bills after being injured. This can be very unnerving. Exactly how a personal injury victim should handle their medical bills after a personal injury depends on the circumstances. Factors to consider include the availability of health insurance, auto liability insurance from the careless person who caused the injury, and Personal Injury Protection.
For personal injury victims who have health insurance, many medical providers who have treated the victim will refuse to bill the victim’s health insurance. This can result in the victim being held liable for the full medical bill. Sometimes, it is in the personal injury victim’s best interest to force the medical provider to submit the bill to the victim’s health insurance. Sometimes it is not, depending on the victim’s specific financial situation and the facts and circumstances of each case.
For personal injury victims who do not have health insurance, there are steps that can be taken to prevent the medical bills from causing serious financial burden on the victim or damaging the injury victim’s credit. These steps are frequently time-sensitive, and also depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. Some medical providers will stop their collection efforts until the personal injury victim has received compensation for their injuries. Some providers require a minimum monthly payment. And, of course, if there is Personal Injury Protection or Medical Payments Coverage insurance available, the personal injury victim might be able to seek some relief from their own car insurance policy.
Often, the insurance company for the careless person who caused the personal injury will try to convince the personal injury victim to settle the case early in exchange for prompt payment of the victim’s medical bills. This is usually a bad idea, and a personal injury victim should understand their rights before they entertain an offer like this. While it might seem uncomfortable to pick up the phone and ask a personal injury lawyer for advice, any good personal injury lawyer will gladly take the time to explain the victim’s options so the victim can make an educated decision.
Q: I received a lien notice from a hospital. What is it and what should I do about it?
A: In Texas, hospital have the legal right to file a lien in the county where they provided emergency medical services to a personal injury victim. The purpose of the lien is to protect their bill for services provided in connection with the injury. In the event the personal injury victim is able to reach a settlement or otherwise recover money from the careless person’s insurance, the insurance will not pay the personal injury victim until they know the hospital’s bill has been paid. This lien is very similar to a lien a bank would have if they loaned money to someone to buy a home or a car. The person could not sell the home or the car without paying the bank back. Similarly, the personal injury victim cannot settle their case with a liability insurance company without paying the hospital back.
Unfortunately, it is common for hospitals to abuse the hospital lien. When a hospital knows a personal injury victim has been injured in a car crash, the hospital sees an opportunity to get paid more for their services by asserting a lien against the victim’s settlement. This is particularly true when the personal injury victim has health insurance. Rather than submit the injury victim’s bill to health insurance, where the hospital will likely be required to substantially reduce their bill, the hospital will simply file the lien, notify the liability car insurance company about the lien, and hold a settlement hostage until the lien has been resolved. By doing this, the hospital will then argue they are owed the full billed amount, rather than the reduced amount they would have received if the bill had been submitted to health insurance. With proper guidance, though, this scheme can be successfully fought and defeated.
By calling a personal injury lawyer, a personal injury can learn what their options are for handling a hospital bill and dealing with a hospital lien. If the personal injury victim waits too long to take action against the hospital lien, the victim might lose very important options, including the ability to force the hospital to submit the bill to the victim’s health insurance. A mistake like this can cost the personal injury victim thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE
Q: I have full coverage on my damaged car. Should I use my own insurance?
A: That is a difficult question, and depends on the circumstances of each case. Car crash victims who have full coverage on their damaged or totaled vehicle have more options than victims who have no insurance or only liability insurance.
For car crash victims who have full coverage (Collision Coverage) on the vehicle, there are two options. First, the car crash victim can rely on the careless driver’s liability insurance company to handle the property damage (Link to here: https://www.fvflawfirm.com/personal-Injury/car-accidents.aspx) and rental car. Second, the car crash victim can rely on their own insurance company to handle the property damage. However, if the car crash victim does not have rental coverage on their own policy, the victim will either have to rely on the other driver’s insurance to provide a rental car, or pay for a rental car out of pocket and seek reimbursement later.
There are pros and cons associated with each option. If the car crash victim uses their own insurance, it is less likely there will be delays in processing the property damage claim and placing the victim into a rental car (if the victim has rental car coverage). However, the car crash victim will likely pay a deductible, and face the possibility of an increase in their insurance premiums. If the car crash victim relies on the careless driver’s liability insurance, they are, to some extent, at the mercy of that insurance company. Because the careless driver’s insurance company is allowed to investigate the circumstances of the car crash, and the careless driver might not always be honest about what happened, the car crash victim will frequently be required to wait until a police report has been completed and filed before the careless driver’s insurance company will take responsibility for the crash. This can cause significant delays in the car crash victim’s ability to get their vehicle repaired or replaced, and the victim’s ability to get a rental car.
Q: I do not have full coverage on my own car. Who is going to pay for my property damage?
A: Unfortunately, car crash victims who do not have full coverage (Collision Coverage), have few options with regard to who will pay for their property damage. Because the car crash victim’s auto insurance company is not required to pay for the car crash victim’s property damage if they do not have full coverage (under most circumstances), the victim must rely on the careless driver’s liability insurance company to pay for the damage and put the victim into a rental car. Because the careless driver’s liability insurance company has the opportunity to investigate the case, and does not have a contract with the car crash victim, the car crash victim must often wait until an investigation has been completed before the property damage claim will be processed and before the victim will be provided a rental car.
Q: Will a personal injury lawyer represent me on a contingency fee if I was not injured, but only sustained property damage in a car crash?
A: Usually not. This is not because the personal injury lawyer does not want to help you, but because the law in Texas puts car crash victims who have only sustained damage to their property in a difficult position. There is usually very little to argue about when it comes to the value of a property damage case; a personal injury lawyer can do very little to help increase a car crash victim’s recovery in a property damage case because the value of the car’s damage is pretty easily determined. So, if a car crash victim wishes to hire a personal injury lawyer, the car crash victim will either have to pay the personal injury lawyer hourly, or pay the personal injury lawyer a percentage of the damaged vehicle’s value. Since Texas does not allow a successful car crash claimant to recover their attorneys’ fees, hiring a personal injury lawyer to represent them for a claim involving only property damage will usually be a losing proposition for the victim.
Q: What should I do if I owe more to the bank for my car than my car is worth?
A: This is a difficult position to be in. Because the insurance companies are only required to pay the replacement value (i.e. what the car crash victim’s totaled car was worth immediately before the crash), insurance companies are generally not responsible to pay off the car crash victim’s full loan when the loan balance is more than the replacement value of the car. However, some car crash victims maintain GAP coverage through their bank, which would cover the difference in the event the victim is “under water” on their loan. Additionally, the car crash victim can, in some circumstances, work with their bank to roll the remaining principal balance into a new loan when the victim purchases a new vehicle.
Q: The insurance company deemed my vehicle a total loss. I can’t replace my car with the money they are offering. Can I negotiate?
A: Short answer: not much. In a total loss situation, Texas law requires only that insurance companies pay the fair market value of your vehicle in its immediate, pre-crash condition. If your vehicle was paid off and reliable, then you probably never would have sold your vehicle for the amount they are offering. Arguing that your vehicle was special or irreplaceable simply won’t work here. Instead, focus on the insurance company’s assessment of the fair market value. Start by gathering information. Insurance companies rely on third party services to compile reports about sales and advertisements of comparable vehicles within a given geographical area and time-frame. Ask the adjuster for the total-loss evaluation report for your vehicle. Read the report to make sure they are basing their evaluation on the average “private party” value and/or “dealership” value, and NOT “trade-in” value. Check to make sure they are using your vehicle’s exact year, make, model, and trim package. Perform your own online research of vehicles for sale in your area. You might even email the sellers to ask if they would take the amount the insurance company is offering. Send the “no” responses to the insurance company along with the corresponding advertisements. You should be able to achieve a modest increase in their offer. Just be aware, there will be very little time to vacate the rental vehicle after the total loss offer is made. Holding out for an extra $100 could cost you $200 if the insurance company cuts off your rental car. More on that below.
Q: Can the insurance company cut off my rental car before I receive the total loss settlement money?
A: Assuming you are not the cause of any delays, no. Many insurance adjusters still believe that “loss of use” (i.e., the rental-car claim) is not owed under Texas law in the event of a total loss. That used to be true. In 2015, however, the Texas Supreme Court decided J&D Towing, LLC vs. American Alternative Insurance Corp.. Now, the rule is reasonableness. The insurance company has to allow a reasonable amount of time to arrange the purchase of a new vehicle. If your adjuster claims they don’t owe for “loss of use”, tell them to google the J&D Towing case. Ask them to review it with their supervisor. Just remember that “reasonable” is in the eye of the beholder. To minimize the risk of having to pay out of pocket, contact online sellers, dealerships, and finance companies ahead of time if you can. Decide what you are buying. Find out if you can get into your new vehicle with a “letter of guarantee” from the adjuster. That way you won’t have to wait for the insurance company’s check to process to get out of the rental car.