The vast majority of car accidents in Texas are settled smoothly, with the drivers and their insurance companies quickly reaching an agreement and negotiating a settlement. However, not all car accident claims are easy and straightforward, and many require more complex investigation and documentation, and more aggressive negotiation. If you have been in a Texas auto accident, here is how to settle an auto accident claim without a lawyer.
What is the Process for Settling an Auto Accident Claim Without a Lawyer?
At the scene of a car accident, where there may not be someone fighting on your side, it is important that you advocate for yourself and your needs. Here are the most important things to do immediately after an auto accident:
- Take care of injuries. If you or anyone else has been injured in an accident, even if it seems that injuries may be minor, administer first aid and call 911.
- Call the police. Texas law requires you to call the police after a car accident when there has been an injury or fatality, vehicles cannot be moved from the crash site, you suspect that a driver may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, one of the drivers does not have car insurance, or one of the drivers leaves the scene of the accident.
If there are no injuries, and vehicle damage is minor, then follow these steps:
- Move your vehicle out of the roadway. Make sure that you and the other driver can communicate safely without posing a hazard to other drivers.
- Exchange information. Make sure you get the other driver’s full name and contact information, their insurance company name and policy number, and their driver’s license and vehicle license plate number
- Look for witnesses. If there are any witnesses to the accident, get their name and contact information.
- Document the accident. Take pictures of the damage to the vehicles, from multiple angles. If it’s helpful, take pictures of the accident scene to help demonstrate when, where, and how the accident occurred.
- Talk with the police. If the police have been called, remain at the accident site until they clear you to leave. Get the names and badge numbers of the responding officers.
After you have left the auto accident scene, there are two main things to do to make sure you get a fair settlement:
- Contact both insurance companies. The other driver should report the accident to their insurance company, but they may not have, or they may be mistaken about their level of coverage. It is also important to report the accident to your own insurance company, because you may also have coverage that helps protect you in the event of an accident.
- Document all your damages. Keep copies of estimates and receipts for car repair or property damage, or for interim car rental. Keep copies of bills or insurance statements for any medical care you or your passengers received. Keep records of any time lost at work. Request a copy of the police report, if there is one.
After you have filed a claim, you should receive notice in writing that the insurance company has received your claim and is processing it. The insurance company will conduct an investigation to determine who is at fault and liable for the accident costs, compare the liability with the policy coverage, and offer you a settlement amount for your damages.
If the settlement offer is sufficient compensation for your damages, you can simply accept their offer, take the payment, and get on with your life.
Do You Need an Attorney to Settle a Car Accident Claim?
Almost all Texas auto accidents involve simple property damage, and the insurance settlement offer covers the cost of repair. In those cases, you do not need an attorney in order to settle your car accident claim.
However, a settlement agreement waives your right to pursue more damages for the same accident in the future, so here are two questions to ask before signing:
- Is this a fair offer? The first offer from an insurance company is usually the lowest possible amount. Are they offering sufficient compensation for all your damages?
- Are there longer-term effects that are not yet settled? Car accidents can often cause neck or spinal injuries that take months or years to recover from. Are there potentially longer-term consequences with costs that are not yet known?
If your damages are higher than the offer, you can negotiate directly with the insurance company to reach a higher settlement. Reply in writing with receipts and documentation that proves the amount you are entitled to. Insist that they settle for the full amount of your damages.
What are the Risks When You Settle an Auto Accident Claim Without a Lawyer?
You should always contact a qualified car accident attorney when:
- You disagree about who was at fault in the accident
- The other driver was uninsured, and you need to settle your claim with a lawsuit
- The insurance company refuses to compensate you for all of your damages
- Your damages exceed insurance policy limits
- The accident caused severe, long-lasting effects like death or disability
These types of cases can require a deeper, more complex understanding of legal proceedings and liability issues and more aggressive negotiation tactics. Having an attorney on your side, who isn’t afraid to take your claim to court, is the best way to make sure you recover everything you are entitled to.
How Can Aaron Allison Help?
In the case of difficult or complex auto accident settlements, it is best to at least consult with an attorney and discuss your options. No two car accident cases are the same, so there may be special considerations in your case. Aaron Allison offers free consultations, so you can learn more about your rights before signing them away in a quick settlement.
Aaron Allison has been fighting for the rights of car accident victims since 1978. Even though you now know how to settle car accident claims without a lawyer, contact us today to make sure you are fully compensated.