No-Fault vs. At-Fault Insurance in Texas
Each state operates its own car accident insurance system, which kicks in after a crash resulting in property damage and/or injuries. States can choose between two basic frameworks–no-fault insurance and at-fault insurance. Texas is an “at-fault” insurance state.
How “At-Fault” Insurance Works
In an at-fault state like Texas, an injured car accident victim has two choices–file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, or file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy. Most victims choose the latter course of action.
- Filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party: The injured victim can immediately file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party seeking full damages-–medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. The defendant might file a counterclaim, however, and they might even win that claim.
- Filing a third-party claim against the defendant’s liability insurance company: If the other driver injured you through their own negligence, you become a third-party beneficiary of the insurance contract between the at-fault driver and their liability insurance company. This entitles you to file a “third-party claim” with the insurance company.
If you win your claim, you will probably end up collecting compensation from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy, even if you file a lawsuit. It’s possible, however, that you might have to wait for a trial verdict.
How To Prove Fault in a Negligence Case
If you can prove that the defendant deliberately ran your car into a telephone pole in an act of “road rage,” fault is a foregone conclusion. It can get trickier if you are claiming fault based on negligence, as negligence is almost a synonym for “carelessness.” To win a negligence claim, you must prove the following five facts:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care;
- The defendant breached their duty of care;
- You suffered an injury;
- The defendant’s breach of duty was the cause in fact of your injury; and
- Your injury was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s breach of duty.
You must prove all five of the above-described facts by a “preponderance of the evidence.” The “preponderance” standard is much, much easier to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies to a criminal prosecution.
How “No-Fault” Insurance Differs From “At-Fault” Insurance
Only a few US states are no-fault states. Even fewer states are “choice no-fault” states that allow their drivers to choose which type of auto insurance they prefer.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance
In no-fault states, the victim of a car accident usually looks to their own personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to cover at least some of their economic damages (medical expenses, lost wages, and others.). Non-economic damages are typically unavailable, and maximum coverage limits tend to be low ($10,000 in Florida, for example).
“Serious” Injuries and the Right To Sue
Normally, a driver injured in a no-fault state has no right to sue the at-fault driver. Instead, they must look to their own PIP insurance. Two of the main purposes of no-fault insurance are to avoid clogging the courts with small car accident claims and to avoid generating a multitude of large personal injury judgments that tend to cause insurance companies to raise their rates.
What happens, however, if you suffer a catastrophic injury but only have $10,000 in PIP insurance to pay for it? No-fault states allow seriously injured auto accidents a “back door” that allows them to exit the no-fault system if their injuries are serious enough. The definition of “serious” can get very specific, however. For example, In Florida, disfigurement is “serious.”
Texas Mandatory Auto Insurance
The Texas mandatory minimum auto insurance system requires drivers with cars registered in the state to carry auto liability insurance with maximum coverage limits no lower than $30,000 per person for injuries, $60,000 per accident for injuries, and $25,000 per accident for property damage.
Texas Optional Auto Insurance
Texas offers a variety of optional auto insurance to choose from. A great many drivers take advantage of at least some of these options. In fact, some lenders require drivers who are financing their cars to purchase some form of optional insurance.
Most of these policies cover you, members of your household, and anyone driving the car with your permission. Check the terms of your policy to confirm coverage, however.
Extra Liability Coverage
Texas requires drivers to purchase $30,000/$60,000/$25,000 liability insurance, as explained above. You have the option, however, to purchase a policy with limits that are higher than this.
This insurance pays for damage to your car, even if the accident was your fault. If you finance your car, the bank might require you to carry collision insurance. If it does, it’s not truly optional.
Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your vehicle other than through a car accident–fire, theft, and other similar situations.
Texas’s own slice of no-fault insurance. It will pay your medical expenses up to policy limits, regardless of fault.
Yes, Texas offers PIP insurance too. However, it’s just optional, and it doesn’t limit your right to sue. Although it will even pay for your passengers’ medical bills, it doesn’t cover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance
These forms of insurance come in handy in a hit-and-run accident. It is also quite useful if the at-fault driver carries the legal minimum liability insurance, but it turns out not to be enough to cover your claim. Finally, it’s good in a collision with an uninsured Texas driver.
Towing and Labor Coverage
Covers towing, as well as labor costs to change a flat tire or jump-start your battery.
Rental Reimbursement Coverage
Pays for the cost of a rental car if your car is in the shop for repairs due to a car accident.
Contact a Texas Car Accident Lawyer at Parker Law Firm Injury Lawyers for Help Today
If you have suffered injuries from a Texas car accident, you might not know where to turn. If your claim is sizable (or if you suspect that it might be), negotiating with the insurance adjuster could get you “taken to the cleaners.” Let an experienced Texas car accident lawyer do the negotiating for you while you focus on regaining your health.
For more information, please contact an experienced car accident lawyer at Parker Law Firm Injury Lawyers to schedule a free initial consultation today. We have convenient locations in Bedford and Fort Worth, Texas.