Car Accident Damages

When you are injured in a car crash that was caused by someone else, you may have the right to pursue car accident compensation for the various ways you were harmed. The types of harm you can be compensated for are called damages.

The most common losses and expenses our firm fights for include:

  • Any expenses you have already incurred, and your future medical expenses related to the car accident injuries, such as hospitalization or surgeries.

  • You can pursue compensation for the wages and employment benefits you lost while recovering from your injuries. You are entitled to income you will lose in the future because of permanent injuries that reduce your earning capacity.

  • Compensatory damages are not limited to economic losses. You can also demand compensation for the physical pain and suffering the injuries caused you. There are various ways of calculating the value of your pain and suffering, including per day amounts or a multiplier of your economic damages.

  • Car accident injuries do not only affect you physically. Compensatory damages encompass the psychological and emotional impact of a crash, like any resulting depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

  • You can pursue compensation if the car accident left you with a permanent and visible disfigurement.

  • If you now suffer from a long-term or permanent disability because of the crash, your compensation should take that into account.

  • This encompasses the loss of a loving and/or sexual relationship with your spouse or the loss of a personal relationship with a parent or other relative. This is also referred to as loss of affection.

Physical & Phycological Effects of Car Accidents

Any number of physical injuries can result from the blunt force trauma of a car crash. Depending on the weight of the vehicles involved, the speed at which they s were moving, the angle and placement of the collision, and the protective equipment involved, injuries can range from bumps and bruises to catastrophic injuries and even death.

Our Family Firm has helped people suffering from all types of injuries, including facial disfigurement, broken bones, whiplash, herniated discs, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and paralysis. We have helped families who have lost a loved one in a traffic fatality.

We know that the physical harm is not the only consequence. You may experience significant psychological trauma from the collision. You may suffer from anxiety, a phobia of driving or being in a car, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders, or other psychological and emotional affects. We hire the necessary experts to help evaluate and prove up your damages in each of these areas.

Negligence, Fault, and Liability in Car Accidents

Companies are typically responsible for the negligent conduct of their employees. In addition, sometimes companies are negligent in how they direct their drivers. For example, a company that sends a driver out who is tired and overworked may be at fault. A company who hires a driver with a bad driving record may be at fault. An experienced car wreck lawyer knows how to investigate all the circumstances surrounding the wreck in order to hold accountable all who are responsible.

Proving Liability in Car Accidents

To receive compensation from another party, or more likely their insurer, you need to prove they were directly at fault for the crash or liable by law, such as the employee-employer relationship.

Proving liability begins with gathering evidence after the car accident. Your lawyer will obtain a copy of the police report, pictures of the crash, any video footage available, and eyewitness statements. Depending on the complexity of the crash, your attorney may hire one or more experts to testify regarding the underlying cause of the accident.

Your lawyer presents this evidence to an insurance company or employer to persuade settlement; or to a jury in court to obtain a verdict. By presenting this evidence to the right party in the most persuasive manner, you can establish that a specific party is liable for the car accident and the resulting damages. For example, the police report and eyewitnesses may provide evidence that the other vehicle was speeding and ran a red light. Expert testimony may be needed to help establish how the wreck was caused, or how you were injured from the wreck, or what amount you were damaged.

What is Negligence?

Drivers have the duty of ordinary care, which requires them to behave as a reasonable person would under the same or similar circumstances. What does this mean? Every driver on the road has a duty to obey the rules of the road and drive with reasonable care. When they do not do so, they are negligent.

Negligence is a failure to act reasonably and safely..

More specifically, negligence can be broken down into three elements:

  • A duty to act with reasonable care;
  • A violation of that duty:
  • and An injury caused by the violation (The injury would not have happened were it not for the breach of duty.).

The breach of duty may be violating a traffic law by speeding, running a stop light, or making an illegal U-turn. Or the breach may occur when a driving does not violate a specific law but drives carelessly and increases the risk of a collision, such as by not paying close attention to the road and traffic.

This breach, whether a traffic violation or not, can lead to a collision with another vehicle or pedestrian, which causes injuries, and which was a probable risk of careless driving.

Typically, car wrecks don’t just happen. Car crashes are the result of drivers violating the basic safety rules we all depend on, whether it involves speed, inattention, texting, alcohol impairment, or many other factors. Regardless the type of neglect, the result is often the same: your life has changed in the blink of an eye. Your health, your income, your credit can all be greatly affected. And the insurance company is not interested in looking after your interest. That is why you need a proven law firm who has the results to show they can pursue your case to settlement or trial. When considering who to hire, do not hesitate to contact us or visit us online. We are available to answer your questions and discuss our approach and explain how our experience has led to significant outcomes for our clients.

Whether you in the San Antonio area, West Texas, or Southern New Mexico, our car accident attorneys will help you through the entire process to help you determine the value of your case and work to obtain the best result.

Texas and New Mexico: At-Fault States with Comparative Negligence

Some states have a no-fault system where the injured person submits his claim against his own insurance company. However, New Mexico and Texas have at fault accident laws. The insurer for the person who is at fault is responsible for payment of damages. When you are injured in a crash, insurers will look to who is at fault to decide whether to pay a settlement to a car accident victim. Insurance companies do not readily pay claims even when their insured is at fault. They dispute liability. They dispute injuries. They dispute the amount of medical expenses. They often immediately start an adversarial process aimed at preventing your fair recovery. If you already started the process and experienced this, it is not too late to call an attorney.

Comparative Negligence

Often, the other driver or the insurance company blames the injured person for causing the wreck. Sometimes, where the fault lies is not clear, or it is shared. In Texas and New Mexico, even where an injured person is partly at fault, he or she can often recover.

Texas follows a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, found in Section 33.001 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, an insurer or court will consider how much each party was at fault.

In Texas, if you are greater than 50%at fault, you cannot recover compensation. If you are 50% or less at fault, you can recover compensation. However, your recovery will be reduced be your percentage of fault.

New Mexico car accident laws differ. New Mexico follows a pure comparative negligence rule, found in the New Mexico Statutes §41-3A-1. You can recover compensation after a crash no matter your percentage of fault. For example, even if you are 60% responsible, you can still recover 40% of your compensatory damages.

Proving Liability in Car Accidents

To receive compensation from another party, or more likely their insurer, you need to prove they were directly at fault for the crash or liable by law, such as the employee-employer relationship.

Proving liability begins with gathering evidence after the car accident. Your lawyer will obtain a copy of the police report, pictures of the crash, any video footage available, and eyewitness statements. Depending on the complexity of the crash, your attorney may hire one or more experts to testify regarding the underlying cause of the accident.

By presenting this evidence to the right party in the most persuasive manner, you can establish that a specific party is liable for the car accident and the resulting damages. For example, the police report and eyewitnesses may provide evidence that the other vehicle was speeding and ran a red light.

Car Accident Statute of Limitations

Every state has a statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits. This is a deadline for how long you have to file suit and begin the litigation process.

  • In Texas, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury suit.
  • In New Mexico, you have three years from the date of the crash to file.

A statute of limitations applies only to litigation—not an insurance claim. Insurers impose their own deadlines, and you typically do not have long to begin the insurance claim process. After a crash, you should speak with a car accident attorney right away to ensure you do not wait too long. If you wait weeks or months to begin the auto insurance claims process, your claim may be denied.

Property Damage and Texas Law on Total Loss

For an insurer to claim your vehicle is a total loss, the cost of repairs plus the salvage value must be more than the pre-wreck fair market value. If your vehicle is a total loss, Texas car accident laws entitle you to the fair market value of your vehicle before the wreck. Unfortunately, insurance companies often use processes or formulas that place your vehicle at a lower value than it should be. Talk with an attorney about how to properly value your vehicle, and do not be afraid to counter an insurer’s first offer regarding the value of your car.

Vehicle Damage in New Mexico

Whether or not your vehicle is totaled in New Mexico depends on the Total Loss Formula. This is where the insurer determines if repairing the car would be uneconomical based on the cost of repairs versus the cost of salvage/scrap. If your vehicle is deemed totaled, the insurer should provide a total loss payment. You should discuss how insurers determine the cash value of your vehicle with your lawyer and how you can negotiate for the best possible payment.

If your vehicle is undrivable after the crash, whether or not it will be repaired or replaced, talk with your attorney about a loss of use claim. This claim specifically seeks compensation for the days you cannot drive your vehicle.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages in a couple of ways. These are not meant to compensate you for a specific injury, and they are not available in all car accident claims. Punitive damages are meant to punish the wrongdoer and are only available when you can prove the at-fault party’s actions were reckless, or grossly negligent.

Survival Damages

A survival action is a legal claim that arose when the injured person was alive, but the individual was unable to pursue the action prior to their death. For example, your loved one may have been seriously injured in a crash but lived. At that point, your relative had a personal injury claim. If your relative then passed away, the personal injury claim survived their death. Your relative’s estate can then pursue the personal injury claim and certain compensatory damages suffered while the relative was alive.

Texas recognizes the separate survival claims of the decedent in the Texas Survival Statute and wrongful death claims of the spouse or children in the Texas Wrongful Death Act. However, New Mexico is different. If your loved one passed away, even if they initially lived for weeks or months, you would only pursue a wrongful death claim.

Wrongful Death Damages

If your spouse, parent, or child passed away in a car accident, you should talk with an attorney about pursuing a wrongful death claim under the Texas Wrongful Death Act or New Mexico’s wrongful death statutes.

Through a wrongful death lawsuit, the family members can pursue compensation for their injuries from the death of the loved one. Relatives can typically pursue compensation for the loss of their relative’s income, loss of their relative’s services, loss of their relative’s companionship and society, and the family member’s emotional distress.

  • In New Mexico, you have three years from the date of your loved one’s death to file.
  • In Texas, you have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Proof of Damages

To obtain compensation for your physical, psychological, and financial injuries, you need proof.

Proof of your injuries can come from pictures, your own testimony, medical records, and a medical expert’s testimony. Proof of the pain and suffering and mental anguish arising from your injuries can come from your own testimony, a daily journal you have kept since the accident, your friends and family’s observations, and your mental health care records.

Proof of your economic damages is more straight forward, including your medical bills and receipts. However, proof of future medical expenses may require a medical expert’s testimony. Proof of your reduced earning potential may come from a vocational expert and/or economist.

Calculating Damages

To calculate the potential value of your damages, our car accident lawyers work closely with you, your medical providers, and experts. We help you keep track of your expenses and financial losses throughout the personal injury claim process. This paperwork is essential in calculating your economic damages.

When it comes to valuing your non-economic damages, we will utilize an appropriate method, such as a multiplier. In some circumstances, we use a per diem (daily rate) for your pain and suffering.

Auto Accident Insurance Claim Laws

Each state has insurance laws that dictate how insurance claims must progress and how an insurer must treat a claimant. Overall, insurers need to treat claimants with good faith and avoid unlawful and unfair business practices.

The Car Accident Claims Process

  • Notice: You must give the insurer notice of your first- or third-party claim within a reasonable amount of time after the accident.
  • Insurance Adjuster: Your claim will be assigned an insurance adjuster. This is the person responsible for investigating your claim, approving or denying the claim, and negotiating a settlement.
  • Investigation: Adjusters are required to investigate a car accident claim thoroughly and promptly. During this investigation, the adjuster will likely reach out to you for a statement, medical records, and other answers or documentation. We recommend you have a car accident lawyer handle this process.
  • Approval or Denial: After an investigation, the adjuster will either approve or deny the claim based on the insurance policy coverage. If your claim is denied, a car accident lawyer can help you appeal through the insurer’s administrative process or pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Settlement Negotiations: When your claim is approved, the adjuster will offer you a settlement. Do not immediately say yes. It is better to consider whether the settlement fairly compensates you. In most cases, it will be low. Your attorney can enter into negotiations and pursue a higher settlement amount.

Texas Insurance Laws

The Texas car insurance law requires drivers to carry:

  • Bodily Injury Liability: $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident
  • Property Damage Liability: $25,000 per accident

Additionally, insurers must offer Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which covers your medical bills, lost wages, and other non-medical expenses, and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. If you do not wish to purchase either PIP or UM/UIM coverage, you must inform the insurer in writing.

If you file a first-party claim, and your insurer does not address your claim in good faith, you may have a bad faith claim against your insurer. However, Texas does not recognize bad faith claims arising from third-party insurance claims.

New Mexico Insurance Laws

The New Mexico auto insurance law requires drivers to carry:

  • Bodily Injury Liability: $25,000 for one person, $50,000 for two or more person
  • Property Damage Liability: $10,000 per accident

New Mexico has a similar bad faith law. If your own insurer treats your unlawfully during a claim, you may have a bad faith claim. However, like in Texas, this claim is only for an insured against the insurer, not for third parties who are treated unfairly.

Uninsured / Underinsured Drivers

If you were injured in a collision caused by an uninsured driver, talk with a car accident lawyer right away. If you carry UM coverage, then your own insurance company may pay for your property damage or bodily injuries depending on what your policy specifically covers.

If you do not have UM coverage, talk with an attorney about pursuing compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. This may or may not be helpful depending on the at-fault driver’s income and assets. Pursuing a judgement against a driver with little-to-no income or assets can cost more than it is worth.

When the other driver is underinsured, you can also utilize your own UIM policy to cover the difference between the car accident settlement and your damages. If you do not have UIM coverage, talk with us about filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Car Accident Lawsuits and Preparing for Trial

If the at-fault driver does not have auto insurance, has too little insurance, or the insurer denies your claim or refuses to settle for a fair amount, then you need to talk with an experienced car accident lawyer. You may benefit from filing a personal injury lawsuit and proving your claim in court. Before accepting a settlement, there are some things to consider. You want to be sure your lawyer did their due diligence to maximize your claim.

Gathering Evidence and Discovery

To prepare for a car accident trial, your lawyer will perform a thorough and independent investigation into the crash. This includes gathering the police report, photos and videos, and eyewitness statements. At this point, your lawyer may hire one or more experts to help establish why and how the crash occurred and who was responsible.

Many investigations, however, are limited until we get to discovery. This is a pre-trial phase of litigation. During discovery, we exchange information with the other party. By using interrogatories (questions the other party must answer), requests for documents, and depositions (out-of-court questioning of pertinent parties), we are able to obtain new information and records that were under the other parties’ control.

Hiring Car Accident Experts

During discovery, we may hire one or more experts to strengthen your case. These experts can range from accident reconstructionists and engineers who can testify regarding fault for the crash to medical experts who can testify regarding the extent of your injuries and pain and suffering. These professionals can add weight and credibility to your case.

Using Witnesses

It can be very helpful to have eyewitnesses testify regarding what they saw and heard in regard to the accident. This is particularly effective with the witness is not your friend or family member. An objective third party who testifies that the other person is at fault in a car accident can sway the jury in your favor.