Texas Car Accident Pain & Suffering Damages
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If you are injured in a car accident in the state of Texas, you can ask to be compensated not only for your economic losses (your medical bills and property damage, for example), but also for the more intangible non-economic losses (such as loss of enjoyment of life, the suffering you endured as a result of the physical pain from the injury, or damage to your relationships as a result of being incapacitated). With the exception of who was at fault in the accident, non-economic damages can be the most controversial part of a car accident claim. These losses are, by their very nature, not easy to quantify and not always easy to define.
How Insurance Companies Calculate Pain and Suffering Damages
Setting aside the issue of who was at fault for the accident, insurance companies will, by and large, compensate you for your property loss and your medical expenses (including doctor visits, medications, chiropractic care, physical therapy, etc.). Your total economic damages will be a baseline for determining how much the insurance company is willing to offer you for your non-economic damages, also known as pain and suffering damages. Depending on the severity of your injuries, the insurance company will usually take the total sum of your medical expenses and multiply that by 2, 5 or even 10, to come up with a starting figure for pain and suffering. This amount, added to your economic damages, will be the starting point for negotiating your final settlement. For more information about car accident settlement factors, see How Insurance Companies Calculate Car Accident Settlements.
Insurance Tip: Texas law also requires auto insurers to offer Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage to all drivers. PIP will cover your medical expenses, most of your lost income (currently 80%), and the cost of hiring a caregiver. The minimum coverage is currently $2,500, but you can purchase more. If you don’t want PIP, you will have to reject it in writing.
How Juries Award Pain and Suffering Damages
Texas maintains a fault-based, tort liability system. When a car accident claim ends up in court, jurors decide to what degree each driver is responsible for the accident. Sometimes one driver is clearly at fault for the accident. Sometimes both drivers are partially to blame. Jurors will determine the level of fault attributed to each driver and will also decide who is entitled to damages and how much, and this includes each and every claim for pain and suffering requested in the lawsuit. A jury will look to the details of the accident itself, the severity of the injuries and the treatment pursued by the injured party when awarding reasonable and fair compensation. For more information about how juries assign value to pain and suffering, see Valuing Pain and Suffering Damages.
Important Legal Tip: All states have laws that limit the amount of time a person has to file a personal injury lawsuit following an accident. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. Texas’ law provides for a 2 year statute of limitations. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may want to consult with an auto accident lawyer soon after the accident to make sure you preserve your rights before the statutory deadline passes.
Document Your Pain and Suffering Claim (Checklist): A checklist that helps you document your economic and non-economic damages. An invaluable tool to help you prove how much your pain and suffering claim is worth.
Texas Department of Insurance: The Texas Department of Insurance website offers helpful information about auto insurance laws, requirements, tips for purchasing insurance, and the process for filing complaints.
Automobile Insurance Made Easy (Texas Department of Insurance): A consumer-friendly publication that spells out available coverages and takes the mystery out of purchasing auto insurance in Texas.
Free Advice Auto Insurance Center: Articles, FAQs, free quotes and research links.