After a car accident, one of the tasks you will need to complete before obtaining financial recovery is to determine fault. Texas is a traditional tort-based state, meaning you will seek reimbursement for your damages from the party at-fault for causing your car accident. You or your lawyer will need to determine and prove fault before you can receive fair compensation for your medical bills, property repairs, lost wages, and other damages.
Different authorities can determine fault for a car accident at different stages of the claims process in Texas. The first is the police. Police officers are often the first to the scene of a car accident. They can document and record important information about the wreck and its cause, such as official photographs of the crash scene, notes about the at-fault driver, and statements from eyewitnesses. If the driver appears intoxicated or drowsy, for example, the responding police officer may document this in an official crash report.
Although many police reports do not state a determination of fault, an officer’s report and professional opinion can serve as evidence during a car accident claim, as can traffic citations against the other driver for infractions such as speeding, reckless driving, or red-light running. Documents and photographs from police officers may convince an insurance company of the fault of its policyholder. If a car accident case proceeds to court, the police officer can testify on the witness stand as to what he or she saw, noticed, and documented when responding to the scene of the crash.
The Insurance Company
Upon receiving a car accident claim to damages, an insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to review the case. The claims adjuster may work for the insurer or be an outside hire. The adjuster will review the claim and all documents the car accident victim submitted. The adjuster will typically contact the victim to discuss the crash in more detail shortly after receiving the claim. He or she may request to record a statement by the victim. If a claims adjuster contacts you in the aftermath of an auto accident, politely decline to give a recorded statement. An adjuster may try to use a statement against you later to deny your claim or diminish payout.
The insurance company will then have its own investigators try to determine fault for the car accident. The investigators may visit the scene of the accident, speak to crash reconstructionists, analyze submitted evidence, hire experts, talk to witnesses, examine vehicle damage, and take other steps to try to determine who or what caused the crash. The insurance company will generally determine fault for the car accident based on the legal definition of negligence in Texas. An insurance company may also try to allege your comparative fault as a claimant. The insurance company’s determination of fault is not final. You have the option of appealing the company’s decision if you wish.
A car accident claim may need to proceed to court in Texas if insurance settlement negotiations fail. A case may go to court if you appeal the insurance company’s decision or believe the insurer is not offering a reasonable settlement. At the court stage, it will be a judge or jury that determines fault for the collision. The courts will listen to testimony from both sides of the case, review evidence and rule in favor of the plaintiff or defendant. Once the court determines fault, you will either recover compensation for your damages or lose the case. Your attorney may appeal the court’s decision after a negative verdict.
At any stage of the car accident claims process, hire a San Antonio car accident attorney to help you prove fault and liability for your damages. A lawyer can gather evidence, build a claim, protect your rights, and help you achieve fair results for your case.