Auto Insurance FAQs

Common Car Insurance Questions Asked of Our Injury Attorneys

Some of the most frequently asked questions the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz receive about auto accidents involve dealing with the insurance companies. We've compiled a few examples of the most common types of questions here. These questions deal with:

The Claims Process

Q. How long does a claims process in a car accident case usually take?

My wife and I were in a car accident two weeks ago, and would like to know if there's a usual amount of time we can expect to go through before the whole process is over.

A. There is no set timeframe for a car accident claim. It depends on damages, the adjuster, the particular insurance company, the amount of coverage, cooperation of the insured, and on and on. In Texas, the insurance company for the person that hit you has no obligation to treat you fairly or for that matter timely. I've seen too many times where the insurance company intentionally delays hoping you give up.

Statute of Limitations

Q. How long do I have to settle a personal injury claim in Texas?

I was involved in an automobile accident where the other person was determined at fault. I was injured and began seeing a doctor immediately. I filed the claim the day after the accident and they were pushing me to settle right then. I was still unsure of the extent of my injuries so I was not ready to settle. Now, I am unable to get answers from the insurance company.

A. In Texas, the statute of limitations for auto accidents is two years. Insurance companies intentionally ignore and delay hoping you'll miss the deadline to file suit.

Denied and Delayed Insurance Claims

Q. Can the at-fault driver's insurance company deny or delay my claim?

I was in a car accident and the other party was cited for fault by police who arrived at the scene. I would rather file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company than pay my deductible and have my insurance company to pursue the case. But, if the faulty party refused to give statement for her insurance company, can her insurance company delay or deny my claim?

A. Yes. More importantly her insurance can deny coverage based on her failure to cooperate with the defense. Even if she gives a statement and cooperates with her insurance company, they can still deny and delay paying your claim. Her insurance company has no obligation to treat you fairly or promptly. This is the reason so many claims are denied and low ball offers are made.

Claims in Excess of Coverage

Q. What can I do if the at-fault's driver's policy limits aren't enough to cover my expenses?

An attorney told me that all I can receive from my injuries and pain and suffering is the amount of the at-fault person's insurance coverage. For example if they only had basic $30,000 coverage, then that is the limit I can go after. I was rear-ended and left with a severe spinal injury from L3-4 to L5-S1 and also T11-12. My medical bills and future therapy are going to be more than $30k. Can I file a claim with my own insurance company? Or is there any way that I can recover more?

A. There are many situations where the insurance available from the responsible party is not sufficient to cover the harms and losses suffered in a crash. If the responsible person doesn't have enough insurance coverage or personal assets to cover the damages, then another option is to file an additional claim under your own UIM/UM insurance coverage. However, since the Brainard decision from the Texas Supreme Court, your own insurance company has no obligation to pay your alleged claim until there is a finding from a judge or jury as to liability of the at fault driver and the amount of damages sustained. I recommend you contact several personal injury attorneys to discuss your options.

Personal Injury Coverage

Q. I don't have personal injury coverage. What costs am I facing if I go to doctor, out of pocket?

I was rear-ended on the highway and I don't have personal injury coverage. I tried to schedule a doctor's appointment but they said they handle billing of checkup due to accidents differently. They told me its $75 to walk in for a checkup. I worry that the bill might come back as a shocker.

A. Unfortunately, you are not alone in this situation. This happens on a regular basis to people with no health insurance, no personal injury protection (PIP) and the at-fault driver's insurance delays taking responsibility. It's a catch 22. The insurance company will claim you aren't hurt if you don't see a doctor because of financial reasons. They will argue you could have gone to the ER. People with no money can always be treated at the ER. As we all know, the ER will do nothing for you in this situation. If you go see an attorney first, then a doctor, they will argue the only reason you are seeking treatment is because your attorney told you to and you are trying to get more money for your case. It's completely unfair that you are put in this situation.

I recommend asking the doctor's office if they will accept a Letter of Protection or an assignment for payment of the bills after the matter is resolved with the at fault party's insurance. Next I would recommend you contact a personal injury attorney to help you with this situation.

Small Claims Court Instead of the Insurance Company

Q. Can I pursue the at-fault truck driver in small claims court?

My boyfriend and I were in a truck accident last year. We were hit by a truck driver driving his company 18-wheeler truck. We've been getting the run around with his company's insurance. Now they're trying to tell me that they probably won't be able to get to us until 2 years (to the day) after the accident occurred. That's not going to fly with us, so we decided to take the gentleman that hit us to small claims court then take his company to small claims court...can we do this?

A. It really depends on the amount of damages you are seeking. Small claims court is exactly what it sounds like, for small claims. If you are only seeking property damage you might be okay. If you and your boyfriend are seeking personal injury damages also, I wouldn't recommend filing in small claims court. The reason the insurance company is telling you two years is because that is the statute of limitations deadline. If you don't file a suit before then, you will be forever barred from making a claim. I recommend contacting a personal injury attorney for a free consultation.

Insurance Company Threats

Q. Can a car insurance company suspend my driver's license?

I was in a small fender bender and backed into a girl in a parking lot. There was very little damage and we agreed that we would take care of it because we did not want it to go on our insurance. We wrote up an agreement that I would pay her a certain amount for the damages and nothing more. Both parties signed it. But now I am receiving letters from a collection agency who was hired by the girl's insurance company saying I owe them $1600 dollars for the damages I caused. The letters say that if I do not pay they will suspend my driver's license. I was just wondering if they could actually do this?

A. In Texas, there is a statute which allows the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to suspend a person's driver's license for an unpaid JUDGMENT. Until you have been sued and a formal judgment taken against you, they cannot suspend your license. What you are receiving is the latest extortion from insurance companies. They pay a claim for one of their insureds and then turn around and send a collections letter to the other driver. They do not take into account fault, agreements such as the one you have in place with the other driver, or the fair debt collection statute. The first thing you need to do is send a letter in writing, certified mail, return receipt requested to the "collections" agency and demand proof of the debt. They will not be able to provide proof of the debt because at this point they have no valid debt, just merely allegations from an insurance company you owe this money.

Insurance Adjusters & Claim Denials

Q. Can an insurance adjuster deny part of my claim?

I was in an accident roughly a year ago and the other driver was at fault. I visited my doctor who advised physical therapy. I began with two sessions of physical therapy, and then had a gap in my therapy of 41 days. The gap was work-related and because I felt little pain while on medication. I turned to therapy and finished in 3 to 4 weeks. Now the at-fault party's claim adjuster refuses to pay my medical bills after the initial two sessions because he claims the gap in treatment was too long. Does he have a valid argument? Is he exempt from paying my medical bills?

A. One of the biggest misunderstandings people have is thinking the at-fault person's insurance company has an obligation to pay you anything. In Texas, the claim is against the at-fault driver, not his or her insurance company. The insurance company's obligation is to defend and ultimately indemnify their driver if you file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment. Until that time, they can offer you whatever they want and if you don't like it, then their position is sue their insured. They rationalize this behavior by correctly assuming most people just give up and they won't be able to find an attorney to take a case of this size. From a financial standpoint, if an insurance company saves $1,000 on 1,000 claims a month, that's a million dollars in savings on claims paid. There is a reason all of the major insurance companies spend billions on feel good advertising, because they know how bad they truly screw people making claims.

What this adjuster is doing is arguing that a jury will not believe the second round of treatment was reasonable and necessary as a result of the crash. It's the insurance company's way of calling you a liar and fraud.

One option you have is to file a claim under your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage on your policy. This should be able to get you up to $2,500 to pay for the therapy.

Insurance Guidelines and Settlements

Q. Do I need an attorney to settle my insurance claim?

I was in a car accident and the other driver was at fault. I hurt my back and neck. The driver's insurance company is trying to settle. I would like to get an idea as how much I should settle for. Based on conversations with the insurance company, they seem to want to pay me only for the out-of-pocket expenses. I am self-employed and want them to compensate me for time off work and time spent at therapy. I was told insurance agencies have guidelines for settlement. I am trying to determine if I should get an attorney involved.

A. Yes, you should consult with an attorney. Insurance "guidelines" for settlement are just that, insurance guidelines. They are not looking out for your or trying to do the right thing. They are trying to close a claim for the least amount possible. Contact a personal injury attorney for a free consultation.

Accepting Insurance Company Offers

Q. Do I have to accept what the insurance company offers me for an injury claim?

Very soon after a car accident, I was offered what I thought were pretty generous terms for an injury claim. Do I have to take the first thing offered to me?

A. The simple answer is no. However, depending on injuries, the amount of coverage, any Subrogation claims from medical providers, etc. the "generous" offer may not be that generous. You should consult with a personal injury attorney. Insurance companies aren't known for doing the right thing.

Additional Auto Accident Resources

Please remember that while some questions are common, every case is unique based on the specific facts. For information specific to your situation, please contact one of the experienced Texas personal injury attorneys in our Houston office. Call 713-587-9121 or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation.