Answers to FAQs for Automobile or Truck Accidents in Texas and New Mexico
S. Clark Harmonson is a personal injury lawyer with offices located in El Paso, Texas. Clark is licensed in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
The information in this guide is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice. Nothing herein shall constitute or create an attorney-client relationship. Please feel free to contact our Personal Injury Lawyer Firm at (915) 329-2892 or [email protected] for a free consultation about your Texas or New Mexico car accident claim.
I’ve just been involved in an automobile accident, now what?
Immediately after a car accident, you should report the accident to the police and your insurance company, get medical help if injured, get names and addresses of all witnesses, be polite to the police officer or EMS, and exchange insurance and driver’s license information with all parties to the accident.
Should I get medical treatment after an automobile accident?
If you were injured in a car accident, you should get prompt medical treatment. Often times, the adrenaline produced in a person’s body as a result of a sudden accident will mask the severity of injuries prompting a car accident victim to erroneously tell the responding EMS or police officer that no injuries were incurred. Whiplash injuries can take a day or more to produce significant pain. You should tell the personnel responding to the scene of a car accident about any and all of your pain and injuries. If warranted, you should go to the emergency room to be treated for your injuries and promptly follow up with medical specialists to treat your injuries.
What if the car accident didn’t cause much property damage to my vehicle?
Insurance companies often wrongly believe that low property damage means little or no injuries. However, the opposite can be true, which is little property damage can cause significant injuries.
Who will pay for my medical bills if I am injured in a car accident?
There are many possible sources of payment for your medical bills. If you have personal injury protection (“PIP") coverage on your auto insurance policy, PIP can pay for your medical bills and lost wages. This coverage is usually available regardless who is at fault for the accident. If you have no PIP coverage, your health insurance can pay for your medical bills. The insurance company of the negligent driver may be responsible for paying you the value of your past and future medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident up to the driver’s insurance policy limits; however, the payment is contingent on a finding of liability on the part of the driver.
What if I don’t have PIP or health insurance and can’t pay my medical bills?
A car accident lawyer can be helpful in stopping any collection efforts and arranging for payment of medical services if your case is settled. Many health care providers will provide services to persons injured in car accidents on a letter of protection (“LOP") which is an agreement to pay the health care provider out of the settlement of your automobile accident claim.
What happens if I am injured by a “hit and run" driver or a driver who does not have insurance or low insurance limits
If you purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist protection, you may file a claim under your auto insurance, which is known as an uninsured or underinsured claim (UM/UIM). This type of insurance is available to pay your medical bills and lost wages. You have UM/UIM coverage unless you sign a waiver of that coverage with your insurance company. In New Mexico, certain insureds are able to “stack" coverage limits for each automobile covered under the policy.
If I assert a UM/UIM claim, will my insurance company automatically pay the claim?
No. Even your own insurance company may assert defenses against the claim including disputing your injuries and medical treatment. If they do this, you may have a “bad faith" claim against your insurance company. Both Texas and New Mexico have specific statutory provisions and common law rules dealing with unfair insurance practices.
If my insurance company denies my claim, what can I do?
You may be able to file suit against your insurance company for violations of the Insurance Code, the Consumer Protection Act, for breach of contract and/or for breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing.
Can I settle my car accident case without hiring a lawyer?
If you are in a very minor car accident with minimal medical bills and injuries, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney to settle your claim. Beware that the insurance adjuster is not on your side and will take every measure to compromise your claim for bottom dollar.
What can I expect from an insurance adjuster?
An insurance adjuster is not your friend and is not concerned with compensating you for your injuries. An insurance adjuster is concerned with protecting their negligent driver and paying you as little money as possible to settle the claim.
If an insurance company pays for damage to my car, will they automatically pay for my medical bills and injuries?
No, because their goal is to pay as little money as possible on the claim. Also, there may be one insurance adjuster assigned to your property damage and a separate adjuster assigned to deal with your injuries.
Should I give a recorded statement if requested by claims adjuster?
There is no requirement that you give a recorded statement. Remember, the claims adjuster does not represent you or care about your best interests.
Should I give the insurance company a medical authorization?
Generally, it is not a good idea to give the insurance company a blanket medical authorization as it can be used to gather all of your medical history which may help the insurance company deny or minimize your claim.
What is contributory negligence or comparative responsibility and how does it affect my injury claim?
These terms refer to a legal rule that says the value of your claim can be decreased by any negligence on your part. For example, if a jury finds the auto driver is 80% at fault and you are 20% at fault and you are awarded $100 for your injuries, the Court will reduce this award to $80 because you were 20% negligent. You cannot recover compensation for your negligence and part in causing the accident. The rules of proportionate responsibility are different in Texas and New Mexico.
What type of compensation can I recover from an auto accident?
You can recover your medical bills, lost wages, future medical care expenses, future loss of earning capacity damages, and compensation for pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, and impairment.
If a person dies from an auto accident, can a claim still be pursued?
Yes, under a wrongful death statute spouses, children, and parents of the deceased can pursue a claim.
What if I was hit by an 18-Wheeler or commercial truck?
If you or a loved one were hit by an 18-Wheeler or commercial truck or vehicle, you should seek the assistance of a truck accident lawyer immediately. Accidents caused by negligent truckers often cause catastrophic injuries or death and time is of the essence.
What's meant by statute of limitations?
Statute of limitations refers to the need to file a lawsuit within a time limit. In Texas, many causes of action, such as for a car accident, have a two-year statute of limitation, but not all. Some lawsuits, such as lawsuits against the government require a notice within a short time, such as 90 days (NM) or 180 days (TX). In New Mexico, the statute of limitations for a car accident is generally three years; however, if a governmental entity is involved, the statute of limitations is generally two years.
How much will I have to pay for an attorney to handle my case?
A car accident lawyer's fee is typically taken as a percentage of the recovery that is made. If a lawsuit is filed on your behalf, the percentage increases, due the increased amount of work required in prosecuting the lawsuit. Most attorney's do not charge a fee if no recovery is made on the client's behalf.
How much money is my auto accident case worth?
Your case is worth either what you agree with the insurance company it's worth or the amount of a cash award granted by a judge and jury.
Generally, the dollar value is dependent upon the type and extent of your injuries and the degree of fault of the person that caused the accident. Other factors influencing the dollar value of your case are the amount of medical bills, length of treatment, frequency of treatment, future medical bills, permanent disabilities and any other damage that can be documented.
Will I have to go to court?
If the insurance company agrees to pay what we believe your case is worth and you wish to settle for that amount, then your case will not go to court. This is what happens in most situations. Some cases do require a formal trial proceeding, however. In either situation, hiring a car accident lawyer with experience in handling personal injury cases is critical.
How long will my case take?
The length of time it takes to reach a resolution depends on the nature and extent of your injuries, the length of treatment, and whether a case is settled, a lawsuit is filed or the lawsuit is taken to trial. It can take as little as a few months to over a few years to reach a resolution of your case.