Being involved in a vehicle accident is an unpleasant experience, regardless of where the accident takes place. If the crash should occur while you’re out of state on vacation, however, you’re likely to experience even more stress, confusion, frustration, and complication in the aftermath of the wreck than you would at home.
Today, nearly half of all vacationers in the U.S. travel by car, and 70 million travelers visit the state of Texas each year. If you’re one of those out-of-state visitors who’s involved in an accident in Texas, you’re well advised to seek help from a Houston car accident lawyer for the reasons discussed below.
When Out-of-State Vistors Have Accidents in Texas
Out-of-state drivers who have accidents in Texas must follow Texas state laws and court procedures to recover damages.
Some key factors to be aware of include the following:
Texas Is a Fault State for Auto Insurance
If you live in a “no-fault” state and suffer damages in a car wreck there, you must seek compensation from your own insurance company. Texas, however, is a “fault” state in which an accident victim must file a claim for damages with the at-fault driver’s insurer. If your accident occurs in Texas, your out-of-state no-fault insurance could cover your economic damages (medical bills, lost income, and property damage), but you still might have to file a claim against the at-fault Texas driver for your non-economic damages (pain and suffering, psychological trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life), which could account for the bulk of your settlement.
In any case, the Texas courts have jurisdiction over car crashes in the state, so you must follow the legal procedures required by Texas law, which might differ from those in your own state. Texas traffic law, statute of limitations, and other factors are likely to be unfamiliar to you and require the services of a car wreck lawyer who knows the system and has experience in handling Texas accident cases. The process is complex enough if your accident is caused by a Texas resident. If the crash was caused by a visitor from yet another state, Texas still has legal jurisdiction, but the insurance claim process can get even more confusing because the defendant’s insurer is based in a third state.
Who Has Jurisdiction Over Your Crash?
If your out-of-state accident claim is expensive (more than $75,000), your case could be moved to federal court. A federal case is likely to take longer and cost more for all concerned parties than a state case does, so your best course of action after a crash in Texas is to consult a local attorney to see if the case can be resolved as simply as possible through the insurance claim process.
Texas Has a Modified Comparative Negligence Standard
If you’re partially responsible for a wreck in Texas, you may still collect damages awarded by the court. Your award will simply be reduced according to your percentage of fault as long as it’s no more than 50%. If you’re 51% or more liable, however, you collect nothing, so it’s very important to have a Houston car accident attorney who can investigate your crash and present evidence to prove you were not primarily at fault.
What to Do After a Car Accident in Texas
Whether you live in a fault or no-fault state, there are steps you should take after an out-of-state car accident in Texas to strengthen your damage claim and increase your chance of a fair settlement:
- Call 911 and report your accident. When law enforcement arrives to make an official police report, answer the officers’ questions honestly but minimally. Sign only documents required by the officers for their report, which is very important for your damage claim. Do not leave the scene of the accident.
- Collect evidence. Take photographs of your visible injuries, vehicles involved in the crash, and any other evidence at the scene.
- Exchange contact information. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver, but do not discuss the case or argue about who was at fault.
- Get witness information. Get contact information from any eyewitnesses to the wreck.
- Seek medical attention. If you’re not transported to a hospital, seek medical care on your own as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel that you were seriously injured. The adrenaline from the experience of the crash could mask symptoms of serious injuries. A doctor’s exam and diagnostic tests can reveal internal issues you might not know. A prompt exam and diagnosis will get you on the road to recovery sooner, and the doctor’s findings will provide documentation of your injuries, which is vital to your damage claim.
- Contact your insurance company. Contact your auto insurance company, but do not talk to any at-fault driver’s insurer representative.
- Don't admit fault. Do not admit any fault for anything to anyone.
- Contact the rental car company if needed. If you’re driving a rental car, notify the rental agency of the accident.
- Seek legal counsel. Contact a Texas car accident attorney as soon as possible for a free first consultation, and let your lawyer handle all communications related to your crash.