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Know Your Rights After an Accident



If you or a family member has been - or may become - the victim of an automobile accident, there are serious legal issues involved that you need to know about to make sure your rights are defended.  In addition to the physical damage to your car, you might suffer physical injury, medical expenses, on-the-job wage losses, partial or permanent disability, emotional distress and many other potential problems.



Your Rights and Responsibilities

Your rights after an accident depend on several factors.   Among them include:

WB01539_.gif (682 bytes)    Who is at fault?

WB01539_.gif (682 bytes)    Do you have auto insurance?  Does the driver of the other car?

WB01539_.gif (682 bytes)    How much insurance coverage is available?

WB01539_.gif (682 bytes)    Were any of the people in the accident on the job at the time?

Nobody can tell you exactly what your rights are without knowing the specific details of your accident.  Contact ROLLE, BREELAND, RYAN & LANDAU, and we can answer all your questions  about your case.  You can reach one of our attorneys 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 214-905-2000 or 1-800-234-0786.



Who Pays Your Medical Bills?

The Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments coverage contained in most auto insurance policies, unless waived in writing, will pay all your necessary and reasonable medial expenses for a covered individual who has suffered bodily injury from an auto accident.  The minimum statutory amount of PIP is usually $2,500, often from one to three years from the time of the accident.  The insurer who covers the vehicle you are occupying (whether as the driver or passenger) at the time of the accident will be primarily responsible for the payment of these medical expenses.   If there is no PIP or Medical Payments coverage available through existing auto policies, health insurance may cover your medical expenses.



What Kind of Automobile Insurance Should I Have?

There are two kinds of coverage that you should always have in your auto insurance policy:  liability coverage and underinsured motorist coverage.  The underinsured motorist coverage is vital, since a significant percentage of drivers in Texas are not insured, and these uninsured drivers are often the worst drivers and the ones most likely to be in an accident.  The amount of underinsured motorist coverage you should carry should be enough to protect you and your family from claims against you, or if you or your family members are injured in an accident and the responsible driver is uninsured or underinsured.  This amount should range from $100,000 to $500,000, depending on the size of your family and your specific needs.

It is also a good idea to carry PIP coverage, collision coverage and comprehensive coverage.



What Can I Do if the Negligent Driver is Uninsured, or Does Not Have Enough Insurance to Fully Compensate Me?

Texas State Law requires that all persons operating a motor vehicle must be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy or bond, with limits of not less than $25,000 for injury or death to one person, and not less than $50,000 for bodily injury or death to two or more persons in one accident.  And this coverage must include, unless specifically waived by the insurance policy holder, coverage that compensates an injured person when the negligent driver either has no insurance or insurance that is insufficient to fully compensate the injured person.  This is called underinsured motorist coverage.   The required amount of underinsured motorist coverage that is available in a specific accident has remained an unresolved issue that's been widely debated.



What Happens If I Cannot Work and Lose Wages

PIP coverage provides time loss benefits, usually limited to 80% of the lost wages, while you miss work due to injuries caused by an auto accident.



Can I Get Compensated for Pain and Suffering?

"General damages" such as pain and suffering, disability and loss of enjoyment of life are recoverable from the driver who was at fault and caused the accident, or the driver's insurer.  You may also recover damages for past and future medical expenses, wage loss, and any impairment of future earning capacity.



What If I Can't Agree on a Settlement With the Insurance Company?

If you and the negligent driver's insurer cannot agree on a settlement, you generally have two options: 

WB01539_.gif (682 bytes)    Arbitration

WB01539_.gif (682 bytes)    Jury Trial

The opposing insurance company must agree to take the issue to arbitration, where a local attorney usually acts as the arbitrator.  Arbitration usually results in a quicker resolution to your case than a jury trial.  It also costs substantially less than a jury trial.


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                      Last modified: January 18, 2000