Since Texas is an at-fault state when it comes to car accidents, the person responsible for causing the collision is liable for damages. As a result, there is a possibility that you can be sued over a car accident. If this is your situation, there is critical information to know and steps to take.
Even if you carry auto insurance, you can still be sued after a car accident. There are several reasons why another party may choose to do so:
If your auto insurer denies liability, in other words, they do not believe you are to blame, they may refuse to pay the other party’s claim.
If you were at fault, but your insurer refuses to negotiate a fair settlement with the other party, they may decide to sue.
If your insurer believes the other party was partly to blame for the collision and the damages are extensive, they may wish to take the case to court to have fault decided by a jury. Under Texas’s modified comparative negligence law, each party to a lawsuit is assigned a percentage of fault that reduces the amount of compensation they recover. For example, if a victim is awarded $100,000 and found 30% at fault, they will only receive 70% of the award, or $70,000. However, Texas also has a 51% bar rule that states if a victim is 51% or more to blame, they cannot recover any compensation.
Getting served with a lawsuit can be frightening, but try not to panic. Call and notify your auto insurance company as soon as possible and request that they provide you with a defense. You typically have limited time to respond, and they should provide instructions on how to submit a copy of the complaint. As long as you have valid auto insurance and have not breached your policy, the company should take over from that point onwards. Your policy obligates them to hire a lawyer for you if necessary, but you will have to cooperate with the adjuster and the defense attorney they hire. Keep in mind that the insurance company will hire a personal injury lawyer who keeps their best interests in mind rather than yours. Therefore, you may wish to also discuss your case and legal rights with a car accident attorney of your choosing.
In Texas, a lawsuit over a car accident must be filed against the person responsible rather than their insurance company. That is their only option, but your insurance company must defend you if your insurance is valid. However, your insurer only has to pay any judgment up to your policy limits. For example, if your liability policy has a $50,000 limit and the other party is awarded $100,000 for damages, your insurer does not have to pay beyond the $50,000 limit. Therefore, you may be personally responsible for the difference unless there was another liable party.