Each state has a different system for handling car crashes. In some places, like New York, drivers use their own insurance to cover accidents, meaning no one is considered “at fault.” In other places, like Kentucky, contributing to the crash by even 1% could leave you unable to claim any recovery at all.
With so much variation and so much on the line, it’s critical that every Texan knows how car insurance works in our state and what each driver can do to improve their chances of a fair recovery.
Is Texas An At-Fault State?
Texas is an at-fault state. More specifically, we use a system called “modified comparative negligence.” The “comparative” part means that in a given crash, the insurance companies assign each person involved an amount of the fault and then compare it.
In a standard crash with two cars, the total fault assigned always adds up to 100%. In most cases, that means one person will hold the majority of the fault (no matter how slight) and will be considered “at-fault” for causing the crash. In Texas, the person who is considered “at fault” in a car crash cannot recover any damages and must pay for repairs and medical bills on their own.
Let’s look at a practical example: Steven and Hugo are in a car crash. The insurance company determines that Hugo holds 70% of the fault and Steven holds 30%. Hugo is considered “at-fault” and cannot claim any damages. But things aren’t so easy for Steven. This is where the “modified” part comes into play.
Modified Comparative Negligence
When seeking damages from the insurance company, your settlement is reduced by the amount of fault you were assigned. Say the insurance company determines Steven’s damages are worth $100,000, but he holds 30% of the fault. Under modified comparative negligence, he would only receive $70,000, which could be far less than he needs to make a full recovery.
What many drivers don’t realize is that assigned fault is not set in stone. Even after the crash, what you say and do throughout the course of the case can cause your fault to shift. If you’re not careful, you could shift the fault so much that you might be found responsible for the crash!
When you’re involved in a crash, the most important thing you can do is say as little about it as possible. The only person who needs to know the details of the crash is your attorney so they can better negotiate a fair amount of fault distribution. With that in mind, here are a few traps people fall into that can turn an otherwise straightforward case into a drawn-out legal battle.
Talking to the Other Driver
After a crash, it’s common to feel apologetic even if you didn’t cause the accident. While these feelings are normal, you should avoid expressing them to the other driver. Some insurance adjusters will take your apology as an admission of guilt, which can shift your assigned fault even if you didn’t cause the crash. You need to assume that the other driver will be repeat anything you say to their attorney.
When it comes time to meet the other driver, simply acknowledge there was a crash, call an ambulance if either of you are hurt or if you see blood, and then exchange information.
When you report the crash to your insurance company, don’t let them trick you into saying more than you need to. If they ask for a statement “for the record” or if you hear the call is being recorded, be extremely particular about the words you use. Anything you say could be taken out of context and used as justification to shift your fault or lower your settlement offer. Once the insurance company has a recorded statement, it is very difficult to get it dismissed.
If you refuse a recorded statement, know that the insurance company may lie to you and say they can’t give you a rental car or even claim you are required to make a statement. There is no requirement. If this happens to you, contact your attorney immediately.
Never talk about your car crash on social media. The insurance company will be watching your communications throughout the case If they find you posted about the crash on your Facebook page or made a comment about the case on another social platform, they will likely subpoena your account. This means they’ll have access to everything, including your private messages and all of your comments. This can be devastating to a case as you might speak candidly to friends and family, only for the insurance company to twist your words and assign you more fault.
As you can see, navigating a car crash is tricky, especially when modified comparative negligence comes into play. That’s why many people who’ve been in a serious crash hire an attorney. An attorney can guide you through the process, give you sound advice to avoid fault redistribution, and can help you maximize your settlement, so you get the full amount you need to move forward.
If you or someone you love suffered severe injuries in a car crash crash, you might have a case. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Amarillo car accident attorney from Wood Law Firm LLP, please send us an email or call (806) 304-0447.