Most states opt for one of two insurance systems: at-fault/“tort” systems or no-fault insurance systems. In at-fault states, the driver who caused the crash pays for the accident through their insurance. In no-fault states, everyone’s insurance covers their own injuries. There are some pros and cons to each system, but it is important to know which system your state uses and how it works if you are injured in a car accident.
Texas is not a no-fault insurance state and instead uses an at-fault or tort car insurance system. Under this system, you must prove that the other driver was at fault before their insurance will cover your injuries and vehicle damage. However, there are some additional insurance options available in Texas that help mimic a no-fault system, such as PIP coverage.
The Arlington car accident lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm can help you with your car insurance claims and file a lawsuit when applicable. Call us today at (817) 476-1797 for a free review of your car accident case.
How Texas’ At-Fault Car Insurance Works
As mentioned, Texas uses an at-fault or “tort” car insurance system. This is a different system from a no-fault system, and it gets injured drivers compensation in a different way. However, there are some additional coverage options available that mimic a no-fault system, which you might be interested in (or might already have without knowing it).
No-Fault vs. At-Fault Insurance
In a no-fault state, each driver carries their own insurance that covers them in the event of a crash. This means that when you pay your insurance premiums, that’s all an investment in your future coverage (in the event of an accident). You can also file an insurance claim with your own insurance regardless of who was at fault since your insurance is going to pay you either way. The insurance company is still going to wonder who was at fault though since they usually increase insurance rates for drivers who cause more crashes. However, you can get coverage without having to first prove who was at fault.
In states like Texas that use an at-fault or “tort” system, whoever is at fault for the crash is the one who pays. Each driver has to carry insurance in case they injure someone else, and when they do, that victim can file a claim against the insurance policy of the driver who hit them. This means that when you get injured, you typically file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance rather than a first-party claim with your own insurance.
Suing for Car Accidents
An at-fault system like the one Texas uses is sometimes called a “tort” system after the civil claim you’d file in court. A “tort” is the civil version of a “crime”; you file a cause of action for the tort of negligence when you sue someone in civil court for a car crash. Under our at-fault system, drivers are able to file a tort case in court instead of using insurance if they want to. Lawsuits might pay more since they are not limited by the terms of the other driver’s insurance policy. However, lawsuits usually take longer and require following all the official court systems for filings, deadlines, appearances, and more.
In an at-fault/tort system, a lawsuit is always an option. However, no-fault systems usually limit your right to sue. In states that use a no-fault insurance system, you usually cannot sue the other driver for an accident unless you meet a “monetary” or “verbal” threshold. Monetary thresholds use a set amount of money that you can sue for if your case is worth more than that (e.g., $10,000). Verbal thresholds use specific definitions of seriousness you can sue for if your injuries meet that definition (e.g., “permanent” injuries).
In Texas, the right to sue isn’t limited because we use an at-fault system. This means you can sue even for minor fender-benders. However, that might not be worth the expense of hiring a lawyer or going to small-claims court on your own, and an insurance claim might be better. Your Dallas car accident lawyer can help you understand whether you should file a lawsuit or an insurance claim. Often, more serious cases are worth taking to court.
Minimum Insurance in Texas
The main difference between no-fault and at-fault insurance coverage is who gets covered. In a no-fault system, you pay for your own insurance coverage, so paying more means you get more benefits. In an at-fault system, you pay for the other driver’s coverage, so paying more means you protect yourself from out-of-pocket payments if you hurt someone. Texas car insurance policies have minimum coverage options, but additional coverage options can help you like a no-fault insurance policy would.
In Texas, the minimum insurance you can have requires coverage for $30,000 worth of injuries per person ($60,000 per accident) and $25,000 per accident for property damage (“30/60/25” coverage). If the driver who hit you has minimum insurance, it might not cover enough to pay for your injuries.
First-Party Benefit Options in Texas
Since many drivers carry the minimum insurance, their victims are left without full coverage in many serious car crashes. This is why PIP and other first-party benefits are available.
Every Texas auto insurance policy includes personal injury protection (PIP) coverage by default, and you have to opt out of it if you don’t want it. PIP coverage works like a no-fault policy and provides the insured driver with injury payments even if someone else caused the accident.
Other first-party benefits can also cover you in a crash, even if someone else caused the accident. These include medical payment coverage (“medpay”), collision coverage, and other first-party benefit options. With these types of first-party benefits, you pay more for more benefits that protect you, just like in a no-fault insurance system.
One of the most important benefits to consider is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This pays you in accidents where the other driver was uninsured or where their insurance was too low to cover your needs.
Call Our Texas Car Accident Injury Attorneys for Help
If you were hurt in an accident, you should speak with an attorney before accepting any insurance money. Texas’ at-fault system allows you to file a lawsuit, and our Houston personal injury lawyers might advise doing so to get full compensation. Call us for a free case review at (817) 476-1797.