What If I Was in an Accident With an Uninsured Motorist in Texas?

Monday, January 20, 2020

You might assume every driver on the road is as responsible as you are when it comes to purchasing and maintaining automobile insurance. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Hundreds of drivers in Texas operate motor vehicles while uninsured. If one of these irresponsible drivers causes your car accident, it can be difficult to obtain fair compensation for your damages. You may need to file a first-party claim, bring a lawsuit or hire a car accident attorney for assistance.

Should I Report the Accident?

In Texas, you generally do not have to report a car accident unless it causes injuries, deaths or more than $1,000 in property damages. An exception exists, however, for accidents involving broken laws – including the failure to meet the state’s insurance requirements. If the other driver involved in your crash admits to not having insurance, call the police. Dial 911 from the scene and explain that you were in a wreck with an uninsured driver. Wait at the scene until the police arrive.
The police can ticket and fine the uninsured driver, as well as suspend his or her license to force the driver to get insurance before getting back on the road. The police can also write up a report on your car accident, cataloging the most important details for an insurance claim later. Your police report can include facts such as what direction each vehicle was traveling, where the impact occurred and who might have caused the crash. You can use the police report in the future as evidence for your insurance company.

What If I Was in an Accident With an Uninsured Motorist in Texas? 1

Should I Call an Insurance Company?

Collisions with uninsured motorists take different insurance processes than typical car accidents in Texas. With two insured drivers, the insurance company of the at-fault driver will pay for victims’ damages. If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, however, the other driver will have to file a first-party claim instead. The other driver will seek damage recovery from his or her own insurance provider.
If you get into a car accident with an uninsured driver, start the claims process by calling your own insurance company. Call the phone number on your insurance card and state that you have been in an accident with an uninsured motorist. Your insurance agent can inform you whether or not you have uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance. This is an optional type of insurance in Texas that can cover your damages after a crash with someone who does not have insurance.
If you do have uninsured motorist insurance, your own company should front the costs of your medical bills and property repairs. Your company may also offer to pay part of your damages if the other driver has insurance, but not enough to cover the full costs of your losses. If you do not have uninsured motorist insurance, however, your only option for recovery may be a personal injury lawsuit.

Should I Get Legal Help?

Get legal help if you do not have uninsured motorist insurance, your insurance company has denied your claim, you suffered catastrophic injuries or you need to take your case to court. A car accident attorney in Dallas can help you through this complex type of case, pointing you in the right direction for financial compensation. Since the uninsured driver most likely does not have the funds to fulfill a judgment award, for instance, a lawyer can search for other parties who may be responsible for your losses, such as the at-fault driver’s employer.
At the Law Offices of Aaron A. Herbert, we can review your uninsured motorist accident for free at our local law firm. Then, we can use years of practice area experience to guide you to the right solution, whether that is a first-party claim, third-party claim or personal injury lawsuit. Partnering with an attorney can help you fight for fair compensation regardless of the circumstances of your accident.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 11:25 am

Are Punitive Damages Available in Personal Injury Cases?

Sunday, January 19, 2020

One of the main goals of filing a personal injury lawsuit is pursuing compensation for your losses. The compensation you could receive, called damages, may cover tangible and intangible losses such as medical bills, lost wages, property damages, and pain and suffering. A special type of compensation you could receive in addition to these awards is punitive damages. Under Texas law, personal injury victims may seek punitive damages in certain circumstances. It can be difficult, however, to win this type of award.

What Are Punitive Damages?

The Texas courts divide a personal injury claimant’s financial recovery into two damage categories: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages make up for your losses by offering a financial award in a fair amount based on your economic and noneconomic damages. Punitive damages, on the other hand, punish a defendant for especially wrongful acts. Punitive damages are an award you might receive in addition to compensatory if the courts see fit to punish the defendant for certain acts.

  • Gross negligence. Gross negligence goes beyond a simple breach of duty of care and into willfulness or recklessness. A defendant whose behavior shows an extreme disregard for the safety and health of others or knowledge that his or her actions could cause foreseeable harm is grossly negligent.
  • Malice refers to the intent to commit the act in question, knowing that it will result in harm to others. A defendant guilty of malice will have intentionally caused your injuries or a loved one’s death. Someone could be guilty of express malice, formed by a rational mind, or implied malice that is inferred from the defendant’s conduct.
  • Fraud refers to someone’s intentional deception of another through misrepresentation of material facts. Fraud can refer to tricks, scams, deceit or other dishonest actions the defendant knowingly committed to injure you or damage your property.

These are the three reasons the courts will award punitive damages during personal injury cases in Texas. To receive these damages, you or your attorney will need to prove that the defendant’s actions or misconduct meet the threshold of gross negligence, malicious intent to harm, fraud, recklessness or wanton disregard for your safety. The judge may then deem it appropriate to teach the defendant a lesson – and set a precedent for others in the community – by forcing him or her to pay an additional sum in punitive damages.

Punitive Damages and Texas Law

Section 41.001 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code gives standards for the recovery of punitive damages or exemplary damages. It states that the plaintiff must prove through clear and convincing evidence that the defendant caused the harm in question through fraud, malice or gross negligence. A jury must unanimously vote in favor of the plaintiff regarding the defendant’s liability and the number of exemplary damages to receive a punitive damage award. This 12 out of 12 juror requirement differs from the 10 out of 12 requirements needed to settle on a verdict.

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Texas law also places a cap on the amount of money you could receive in punitive damages. If you and your lawyer can overcome all the other challenges in receiving exemplary damages, you could receive up to the state’s maximum compensation. The law places a cap of $200,000 or twice the amount of your total economic damages plus an amount equivalent to your noneconomic damages, up to $750,000 maximum.
For example, if you received $1 million in economic damages for a spinal cord injury and $500,000 in noneconomic losses, the total amount of punitive damages possible would be $2,500,000 (two times $1 million, plus the $500,000). This cap does not apply, however, to cases where the defendant committed a felony. Work with an attorney to maximize your odds of obtaining punitive damages in Texas.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 10:55 am

6 Smart Questions to Ask Your Personal Injury Attorney

Friday, January 17, 2020

Your first encounter with a personal injury attorney can be daunting. You might not know what to expect or how to get the most out of your free initial consultation. Asking the right questions can help you understand more about your claim and the possibility of filing a lawsuit in your county. It can also give you peace of mind about the future by leading you to the correct attorney for your needs. Arrive prepared by bringing a list of smart questions with you to your first meeting.

What Is the Lawyer’s Experience in This Practice Area?

Different attorneys specialize in different practice areas. Search for a lawyer that offers services for your particular type of accident, such as a commercial truck accident or a slip and fall attorney. During your meeting, ask for more details about the lawyer’s experience in your practice area. Find out how many years the lawyer has been practicing and his or her success rate with cases like yours. The lawyer you choose should have at least a few wins under his or her belt in your practice area.

Do You Have a Claim? What Is it Worth?

Ask whether the lawyer believes you have grounds for a lawsuit based on the information and facts you have provided. The lawyer may think you have a claim but tell you he or she is not the right person to represent you or say you do not seem to have a claim at all. Either way, get a second opinion from another attorney. Someone else may see things differently. If the lawyer does think you have a case, ask about its potential value. Finding out what your case might be worth can help you negotiate with insurance companies.

Who Will Actually Be Taking Your Case?

Many mill-type firms accept dozens of cases at once and pass them off to paralegals, assistants and associates rather than providing one-on-one attention from lead attorneys. Ask if the lawyer you are talking to will be the person handling your case. If not, ask which attorney will be taking over after your initial consultation. Find a firm that provides care and attention from a licensed attorney, not less-qualified staff members.

Can the Firm Go to Trial?

Most personal injury cases settle without needing to go to trial. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to take a defendant to court for fair compensation. Retain a firm that is comfortable going to trial if the need arises. Otherwise, you could get stuck having to find and hire a different attorney partway through your case, if settlement negotiations do not seem to be working. Find a law firm with trial propensities from the start for the simplest legal process. Hiring a lawyer an insurance company knows can go to trial could also lead to higher settlement offers.

Will You Have to Pay If the Firm Loses?

In general, you should not have to pay for your attorney if he or she loses your case. Most personal injury law firms accept clients on a contingency fee basis, meaning no fees after lost claims. Find an attorney that will accept your case with no fees upfront (no retainer necessary) and that will only charge you for his or her services after the lawyer obtains you a financial settlement or verdict. This fee arrangement can give you peace of mind financially while you recover from serious injuries.

How Long Will My Case Take?

Although each case is unique and unexpected delays can arise, a lawyer should be able to give a rough estimate as to how long he or she thinks your case will last. A lawyer can base this estimate on factors such as the severity of your injuries, whether you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement, how cooperative the insurance company has been and how long similar cases generally take. Knowing how long your claim could take to settle can prepare you and your family for the journey ahead.

Posted by Aaron Herbert at 3:16 pm