In a car accident you often have two kinds of injuries: (1) bodily injury and (2) property damage. Property damage is often straightforward: your car suffered damage and needs repairs. The other driver’s insurance company typically will take care of repairs to the physical damage (but not always); although they may be aggressive in denying diminished value claims. Bodily injury broadly covers physical and mental injuries to your body and any passengers in your car. If you suffered an injury in an accident then you should talk to a Texas personal injury attorney right away.
Bodily injury is often recovered through repayment of medical bills, recovery for past and future pain and suffering, recovery for loss of mobility or use of part of your body, recovery for disfigurement and a few other related issues. In addition to both property damage and bodily injury, you may have other related claims.
Property damage and lawsuits in Texas
Property damage claims can often, but not always, resolve without an attorney. In my opinion it is not the insurer who is trusted to have your vehicle properly repaired; but instead the body shop that wants to bill the insurer for as much necessary work as possible and wants to avoid you coming back around to sue it for faulty work. That is why you should choose a reputable body shop to perform work on your vehicle. Don’t accept the insurer’s recommendation of their preferred location.
The reason why you want to pick your own location (although you may be fine with the place recommended by the insurer) is because some body shops that work with insurers on a regular basis want to keep that referral network and may use non-OEM parts (aftermarket replacements) or repair procedures that are acceptable but not always the best method. I often suggest that people take their cars to dealerships or take a referral from a local dealership. Dealerships use their repair shops to upsell services and parts. They will use OEM parts and likely use the most expensive procedures to repair your car. In Texas, you have the right to select the repair shop. The insurance company cannot refuse a claim because you do not take your car to a shop in their network.
Bodily injuries in Texas
Injuries are more difficult to assess. That is why it is not a good idea to settle bodily injury claims without first talking to a lawyer. Bodily injury claims are where insurers create a tremendous flexibility to downplay claims and underpay because they have better resources and more experience dealing with those claims. They will use the imbalance in expertise to their advantage. Many people believe all they should receive includes repayment of existing medical bills and lost wages. That is not correct. Many injuries can add pain and suffering as a form of recovery; but that is often not the biggest mistake people make.
The number one mistake people make when trying to settle a bodily injury claim is not fully understanding the extent of the medical bills the insurer should cover. The primary way people misunderstand their bodily injury claim is not taking into consideration the long term treatment. Often injuries include soft tissue injuries that are painful and may result in loss of mobility or loss of use. Although the pain may go away or become manageable in the short term, it is extremely possible that the pain may return in weeks or months (especially after a prescribed painkiller has run out and the effects have worn off) or extended inflammation from your regular daily activities causes the pain or loss of mobility to return.
In other situations you may require long term treatment or therapy to return to normal bodily function or after extended treatment you may never return to zero pain or complete mobility in the injured areas. These long term considerations are very difficult to assess, especially for those of us without medical expertise. That is why you must thoroughly understand your medical condition, long term treatment and long term expectations before you can even come close to accurately assessing the value of your bodily injury claims. Even relatively minor injuries today can develop into serious chronic pain or loss of mobility.
Settling the Texas claim
However, even if you thoroughly understand your bodily injury claims and you have a reasonable settlement offer, the insurance adjuster is likely to dispute the numbers and try to work you down to an unreasonably low number using their usual tricks. They will doubt your assessment and your physician’s expectations although they have no medical expertise and no place of authority to override your treating physician. Adjusters can be quite convincing. This is what they do as a full time job. They will use the imbalance in experience and expertise to negotiate you down. That is why you need to talk to a lawyer before you present anything to the insurance company. It is easy to fall into their trap and seriously harm your claims.