As a Houston-based personal injury law firm with a national reputation, we receive a lot of questions about car accidents from friends, family and, of course, our clients. We are honored to be a trusted source of information for auto accidents and what to do when you find yourself in an accident.
Here, we provide answers to some of the most common questions we get about car accidents. We truly believe that when it comes to legal issues, knowledge is power. When you know more, you can make better decisions about what to do following a car accident.
If you have additional questions about your particular situation, please schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys by calling us at 713-230-9137 or contacting us online.
Driving a car is something most of us do daily. Cars are a fundamental part of our daily lives. Cars help us get to work, take our kids to school, see friends and family, and, generally, take us where we want to go. Driving gives us freedom. Yet, driving is also one of the more dangerous things we do.
The United States averages 6 million car accidents annually, with over 35,000 deaths and far more injuries. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2018 there were more than 3,000 vehicle accident deaths in Texas and over 12,000 serious injuries.
Those of us who drive in Houston regularly may not be surprised to know that many of Texas’ car accidents occur in the Houston metro area. In fact, Houston is regularly listed as one of the top cities in Texas for serious car accidents and deaths.
Despite efforts, road deaths in Houston continue to rise. In 2019, there were over 64,000 car accidents in Houston alone. Of those, 189 were fatal, and 1,175 were suspected of having caused serious injuries.
Statistics like these can be scary, but should not prevent you from living and enjoying your day-to-day activities, including driving. Simple safety steps — not driving while impaired by alcohol or fatigued, wearing seatbelts, and not driving in stormy weather — will keep you safer and help reduce the risk of being involved in a car accident.
A car accident, regardless of whether or not there are injuries, is a jarring experience. As your body deals with the shock and trauma, it can be hard to think clearly about what to do. Yet, what you do next matters for your health and future financial well-being. We recommend taking the following steps after a car accident:
If you’ve been in a car accident in Texas, even if it just seems like a minor fender bender, you must stop. Failure to stop is a violation of Texas state law and could result in a ticket or even jail time, depending on the circumstances. Stop your vehicle as close to the accident as possible without obstructing traffic or parking in a dangerous spot. For example, you could pull onto a wide shoulder off the highway.
Immediately park your car, get out, and walk to a safe location away from the vehicle and oncoming traffic. Do not sit and pass the time on your phone in the car. There may be hazards, not always immediately clear, that can cause the vehicle to catch fire or otherwise become a dangerous location. If you or one of your passengers is unable to get out of the car due to injuries, call 9-1-1 immediately for assistance.
Following a car accident, if you are able to walk away from your vehicle, you may be tempted to begin evaluating the damage to the car and exchanging information immediately. You should do these things, but only after you have called 9-1-1 to report the accident and obtain medical and law enforcement support.
The safety of yourself and everyone involved is the number one priority. Sometimes it takes a medical professional to identify signs of a serious medical issue, especially because you could be in shock after the accident. Calling 9-1-1 is the fastest way to get trained medical and law enforcement personnel to the accident scene.
Once you have called 9-1-1, you should begin recording information about the accident if you are physically able to do so. When the police arrive on the scene, it is common practice for them to ask you to sign a citation. You are not accepting guilt by signing the traffic citation, so you should sign it. It can take months, or even years, for insurance and legal disputes related to car accidents to sort themselves out. Your records can be vital in the future when your recollection of the details might otherwise fade.
Exchange names, phone numbers, and insurance information with any other drivers involved in the accident. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses, including passengers. Avoid the temptation of discussing the details of the accident, such as who was at fault, with other drivers. You do not want to inadvertently admit guilt or cause an issue for any future legal case you may have.
After exchanging information, take photographs of the scene and write notes about what happened while it is fresh in your mind. You can use the notes section of your phone if you don’t have paper handy. Do not show or give your notes to anyone at the scene — just save them for later. Once the police arrive, we strongly advise you to get the names and badge numbers of any officers at the scene, as well as the police report number. If available, get a copy of the accident report. You may have to ask the police for it. If it is not immediately available, ask them how you can procure a copy as soon as possible.
A wide variety of car accident injuries are not immediately apparent to an untrained person after an accident, and some injuries will not show any symptoms until days or even weeks later. Even if you feel fine, you should obtain a medical assessment as soon as possible after your car accident to help catch hidden injuries early and start treating them.
At the scene, medical providers will provide a preliminary assessment. They may order you to go to the emergency room immediately by ambulance or by having someone else drive you. Even if they do not, we strongly advise you to still get a full detailed medical assessment as soon as possible. If you suspect there may be an acute injury, go to the hospital. If not, make an appointment with your primary care provider.
Once you have taken care of your safety, report the car accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Some insurance companies now have phone apps that make it easy to report an issue. If not, you can simply call the number listed on your insurance card.
Reporting the car accident to your insurance company starts the claims process and is required for you to utilize some types of coverage under your policy. Reporting is important whether or not you were at fault because your insurance company may need to cover costs while it pursues recovery against the other driver’s insurance. Your insurance company may request a recorded statement from you, but you are not obligated to provide it immediately. You should consult with an attorney before giving them your statement. You may need to use your own insurance coverage to receive full compensation if the other driver does not have adequate coverage.
It is not uncommon for another person involved in the car accident or their representative — like their attorney or insurance company — to call you shortly after an accident, sometimes within hours. This is not a good time to talk to them.
Be polite, but only offer minimal information such as your name and contact information.Do not agree to a recorded call, and do not provide detailed information about the accident or injuries on the spot. You can tell them that you will give a written statement once you have gathered your information.
Talking to them on the phone — and so early on — might cause you to say something that could later be used against you. In fact, by calling so early, they are sometimes hoping to catch you off guard. For example, if you later discover you had more injuries than you initially thought, such as whiplash — a common delayed-onset injury — they may try to hold you to your initial description of your injuries. Waiting and providing a written statement gives you time to gather your thoughts, investigate the accident, evaluate your injuries, and obtain an attorney.
You are not required to hire an attorney for your car accident, but, as we’ll talk about next, it is often recommended. At a minimum, you should meet with one or more attorneys to learn about how they could help you before deciding whether to hire one.
You have probably heard of people hiring attorneys for car accident cases, or even seen them advertised on TV, radio, and the internet. Yet, you may not know why someone would hire an attorney for a car accident, especially if it seems like a simple, straightforward accident. The following are some of the key reasons to hire a personal injury attorney to represent you after an accident:
When you think of attorneys, you probably think of lots of money coming out of your pocket. In some cases, such as divorces, that is certainly the case. But car accident cases are different. Most car accident attorneys, including our law firm, Husain Law + Associates, P.C., represent clients on a contingency fee basis.
In a contingency fee case, the client does not pay any legal fees upfront. If and when the case resolves in the client’s favor through settlement or lawsuit, the law firm that represented the client gets paid out of those proceeds. If the case is unsuccessful, the client does not owe any attorney any fees. These types of arrangements allow clients to pursue their legal remedies when they otherwise would not be able to afford to.
Many people assume their insurance company will just handle their case for them. In this case, insurance companies are not your friends. They have lawyers working day and night to find ways to pay you less or deny your insurance claim. Unfortunately, insurance companies are notorious for taking actions that are in their best interests — not yours — including low-ball offers that are less than your claim is worth, or refusing to pay a claim they should.
Don’t face your insurance company alone. Experienced Houston car accident attorneys are very familiar with common insurance bad faith tactics. Attorneys serve as your adviser and advocate, protecting you against bad behavior by yours and other involved parties’ insurance companies.
For example, if an offer is unreasonably low, your attorney will likely advise you not to accept it. They will work to get you an offer that will fully compensate you and can tell you whether you can take action against the insurance company for their wrongful behavior.
Even if you think you were clearly the victim of a car accident, other parties might see it differently and could accuse you of causing the accident. Determining who is liable in a case can involve complex legal and factual issues involving accident reconstruction, case law, and proof of causation. Your attorney will have the knowledge and resources, such as expert contacts, to defend you against allegations by opposing parties.
If you are injured in a car accident, you will have medical bills from the care and treatment immediately after and on an ongoing basis until you reach your maximum medical recovery.
If another driver was at fault, they are responsible for paying these costs. However, they generally do not pay the expenses immediately, and you are responsible until they do. Your health care coverage might cover some of the costs, but in many cases, there are still thousands of dollars in medical bills left for you to pay.
A Houston accident attorney can help prevent medical bills from causing you financial ruin in a few ways. They can help you sort through what is often a tangled web to figure out who is responsible for the payments. Then, they can help negotiate with medical providers to hold off on collection efforts until your lawsuit is settled, and possibly get bill amounts reduced so that less money comes out of your settlement payment.
Hiring an attorney for your car accident case may be the first time you’ve had to work with an attorney. If you don’t know any personal injury attorneys, you may not know where to start. Where do you find attorneys? How do you find good attorneys? To find the right Texas attorney for your case, start by researching potential attorneys, meeting with your top candidates, and then making your decision.
Start your attorney search by gathering a few names of potential car accident attorneys. You can ask friends and family, search Google, or contact the local bar association for ideas. Look for an attorney or firm that focuses specifically on car accidents as one of their practice areas. Even the best business law attorney is not going to be a good pick to represent you in a vehicle crash case.
Find two or more law firms that you are interested in, and schedule a consultation. Reading about attorneys and law firms will only tell you so much. We recommend that you always meet with attorneys before hiring them for your personal injury case. Good attorneys understand this and will be happy to meet and discuss your case with you. You can learn more from in-person interaction than paper. A few examples of good questions you may want to ask are:
Make sure that you trust the integrity and experience of your Houston car accident lawyer. You will be working with them closely for a while and sharing confidential information with them. Further, their capabilities will impact the outcome of your case.
Car accidents are traumatic events that can cause physical and psychological injuries. You should assess your physical and mental well-being immediately after the accident and continue to do so.
Even minor car accidents can cause serious injuries. Some injuries, such as whiplash, may not cause pain or other symptoms immediately.
There are too many possible injuries from a car accident to list; however, the following are some of the most common injuries caused by automobile crashes:
A severe auto accident can — and often does — cause cuts, scrapes and bruises of varying levels of severity. They can be caused by contact with the seatbelt, airbag or armrest, or by flying items in the vehicle. Cuts and scrapes are visible immediately, while bruises may take some time to develop.
The trauma and impact of car accidents can cause broken bones. The most common bones to break or fracture are the neck bones, vertebrae, femur, collarbone, pelvis, ankle bones, and rib bones. The most common sign of a fracture or break is pain in the area. Other signs and symptoms include swelling or bruising, deformity, or inability to use the body part, such as being unable to walk in the case of a femur or ankle break.
Headaches are pains in the head or face area. They can range greatly in severity and type; for example, they may be mild and feel like head pressure or could feel like stabbing pain so severe it causes nausea. Headaches after a car accident may be a sign of additional injuries, such as whiplash or concussion.
Whiplash is a neck injury that is caused by the head moving forward and then backward rapidly — in other words, whiplike movement of the head. Neck pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms, but not the only ones. Whiplash can manifest itself in different ways, some of which are surprising. Symptoms include loss of neck range of motion, headaches, arm numbness, blurry vision, memory problems, and ringing in the ears. Whiplash can take several days or more to begin showing signs or symptoms.
A concussion is a brain injury that occurs when your brain hits against your skull. Concussions are severe injuries that can cause serious short- and long-term injury, including death. You do not have to hit your head to get a concussion. The sharp back-and-forth movement of your head during a car accident can be enough to cause a concussion.
Concussion signs and symptoms after a car accident include headaches, ringing in the ears, nausea, blurry vision, slurred speech, dizziness, confusion, light and noise sensitivity, change in sleeping patterns, pale skin, convulsions, and dilated pupils.
The two most commonly injured regions in car accidents are the neck and back. There are countless types of head and back injuries that can occur. In addition to whiplash, common injuries include cuts and scrapes, soft-tissue injury, disc injuries, fractures, mechanical pain, spondylolisthesis (a slipped vertebra), spinal stenosis, and spinal cord injuries.
Neck and back injuries can range from minor to debilitating. Imaging, such as x-rays and MRIs, and evaluation by a doctor are often required to properly diagnose the cause of neck and/or back pain after a car accident. It is not uncommon for multiple injuries, such as a disc injury and spinal stenosis, to occur that, combined, cause the neck and back issues.
The trauma of a car accident can increase the likelihood of a blood clot forming. A blood clot is a clump of blood. The dangerous kind forms inside a person’s veins. Blood clots can travel through the body and cut off circulation to vital organs, causing a stroke or heart attack. They are very dangerous, particularly if untreated.
Signs and symptoms of a blood clot include bloody cough; lightheadedness; difficulty breathing; chest pain; rapid heartbeat; radiating shoulder pain; numbness or weakness in the face; difficulty speaking or understanding; vision changes; and swelling, redness, or pain in an arm or leg.
Car accidents may cause internal bleeding — bleeding on the inside of the body. Bleeding on the inside can occur in different areas and flow into muscles or joints. These areas include the chest, abdomen, or head.
Because it is on the inside, internal bleeding is not typically visible without proper medical equipment. Signs and symptoms of internal bleeding include chest pain, shortness of breath; severe pain in the abdomen, head, or chest; vomiting; diarrhea; blood in the stool; acute vision issues; low blood pressure; dizziness; weakness; and fainting.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is not just something military personnel suffer from — anyone can get it. PTSD is a psychological disorder that develops following a traumatic event of any type. It is common for people to develop it after a car accident. Signs of PTSD are flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, mood swings, behavior changes, suicidal thoughts, sleep disruption, and avoidance. We recommend psychiatrist consultation since symptoms of PTSD vary.
If you or someone you know has been in a car accident, you probably want to know more than just general information about car accidents; you want to know how it applies to your situation. Our team of experienced, passionate attorneys is here for that.
Contact us online or call 713-230-8137 to set up a free initial consultation to discuss your car accident and potential legal claims.
As frequent as accidents are these days, a majority of people still don’t know their rights and the Texas laws that explain the proper procedure for what to do after a car accident. Let’s go over a few laws that you should know before heading out on the open road.