Can Someone Sue You for an Accident in Texas?

A car accident always has consequences. Texas is an “at-fault” state, which means that if the accident was your fault, you are liable for personal injuries and damages. The process of a car injury claim in Houston, TX, is far from simple, so your first step should be to research auto accident attorneys in the area.

Ask Auto Accident Attorneys: Can Someone Sue You for an Accident in Houston, TX?

The short answer is yes. There are several reasons why someone can sue you after an auto accident. However, there are many steps before going to court, and having a good lawyer by your side can help you understand the process and mitigate the consequences of the lawsuit. Some of the most important reasons why someone might sue you after a car accident include the following:

Not Having The Minimum Insurance Limits at the Time of the Accident

According to Texas law, you need to have car insurance that covers certain limits:

  • A minimum of $30,000 for bodily injury to 1 person and $60,000 for bodily injury to multiple people
  • A minimum of $25,000 for property damages

While you won’t go to jail for failing to comply with these limits, you will have to pay out of pocket in case of an accident, and you will face other administrative consequences, such as impounding your vehicle and hefty fines.

Conflicts With the Insurance Company

After an accident, both parties will have to deal with their insurance companies. Your insurer should pay the other person’s damages and medical expenses up to your policy limits if you were at fault. However, insurance companies will sometimes try to deny liability or undervalue claims. If this is the case, a person cannot sue the insurance company but will have to sue you directly. If your policy limits are not enough to pay fair compensation to the other party, you are directly responsible for the remaining amount.
In Texas, it’s essential to mention Comparative Negligence. A court will determine how much of the responsibility is yours, and the compensation will be paid accordingly. For example, if payment is set at $10,000, but the court decided you are only 70% responsible, the other person will obtain only $7,000. The amount is reduced to reflect their level of responsibility for the accident.

What About a Criminal Lawsuit?

Suppose you caused an accident in which people were severely injured or died. In that case, you might face a criminal lawsuit to determine if you committed a crime (this is an entirely different process from the civil case, where the intention is to offer the victim fair compensation for their losses). You may face a criminal lawsuit if:
  • You leave the scene of the accident
  • You were driving under the influence
  • You caused “substantial and unjustifiable risk to others” (for example, if you were texting and driving)
If you believe you could be charged with a felony, you should immediately contact a car accident lawyer. 

Statute of Limitations

One of the reasons you want to contact a lawyer immediately after an accident is that the statute of limitations for property damage and bodily injury in Texas is two years. This means that someone can sue you up to two years after the accident. A lawyer will guide you to settle the case from the beginning to ensure you won’t be sued later.

What Happens if You Are Sued?

After the court accepts the other party’s claim, you’ll receive a notification or “be served” court papers. You have 20 days to respond or the court may enter a default judgment, after which the person who sued you may try to prove the value of their damages to get a final judgment. With a final judgment, the plaintiff may start collecting damages.

Taking action immediately after being served is your best choice. Even when you have the right to challenge a judgment, prompt action and defending your case are better and more manageable.

How Does a Lawyer Help You?

In Texas, you can defend yourself in court. While you may think this is a way to save money, it may cost you more. Judges expect that the person defending you understands the law and can answer legal questions without hesitation. Not knowing the technicalities of the court process may end up in you losing your case. An attorney can help in several ways:

Study Your Case

A lawyer will first study all the paperwork regarding your case. This is one of the reasons why you should always keep any document that may be considered proof (hospital bills, medical records, copies of police reports, copies of insurance documents). It is vital to be honest with your lawyer and disclose any information that may be relevant to your case.

After studying the case, they may offer you an informed opinion about your chances to win the case if it goes to court.

Negotiate a Settlement

If, after studying all the paperwork, your lawyer believes that you are at risk of losing the case, they will propose to help you settle the case out of court. This means that you’ll make an offer to the plaintiff, and if they agree with it, the court process will not continue. Settling out of court is faster and often cheaper.

Negotiating a settlement is a delicate matter. The plaintiff’s lawyers will want to get as much as possible for their client, so your best choice is to be represented by a professional who can convince them to compromise, at least to some extent, in your favor.

Represent You in Court

If you were unable to settle, the case would continue to court, where your lawyer will help you find and present evidence to support your case and will speak on your behalf. Keep in mind that lack of professional representation can be an important factor in losing the case.

Protect Your Rights

As an American citizen, even if you are at fault for a car accident, you have rights that must be respected. Every lawsuit must follow due process of law, which means that all the proper procedures must be followed. A good lawyer will be able to spot inconsistencies in dates, paperwork, or any other matter that means that your rights were violated.

If this is the case, you may even have grounds for a dismissal of the lawsuit.

Before Hiring a Lawyer

There are many car accident lawyers in Houston, but not all of them offer the same services or can guarantee the same quality. Before signing a contract or paying a retainer, it is essential to follow due diligence:

  1. Research different options and ask for many recommendations from people you trust
  2. Book a few consultations (some firms offer one free consultation) 
  3. Once you narrow down your search to a few attorneys, research their track record
  4. Ask about fees and payment plans
  5. Ask for an approximate timeline

If you suspect you may be sued, or have recently been served court papers, we are ready to help you figure out your next steps. Book a free consultation with Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner to learn more about how our team can assist you in your car accident lawsuit.