Texas Car Accident Laws

How fault affects a Texas car accident case, deadlines for filing a car accident lawsuit in Texas courts, and more.

By , J.D.
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  • After any kind of traffic accident in Texas, it might be a good idea to get familiar with a number of state laws—especially if you end up making a car accident claim—including:

    • when you're required to report a car accident in Texas
    • the deadline for filing a car accident lawsuit in Texas's civil court system, and
    • how Texas's "modified comparative fault" rule might affect any injury claim you make if you share some amount of fault for causing the accident.

    Reporting a Car Accident in Texas

    Under Texas Transportation Code section 550.026, the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident must immediately ("by the quickest means of communication") report the accident to the local police department (if the accident occurred in a municipality) or to the local sheriff's office (if the crash occurred outside a municipality) if the crash resulted in:

    • injury or death of any person, or
    • damage to a vehicle to the extent that it cannot be safely driven from the scene.

    Should I Report the Accident to My Car Insurance Company?

    States do not generally have laws on whether (or when) policyholders who get into a car accident should report the crash to their car insurance company, and Texas is no exception.

    However, every automobile insurance contract requires the policyholder to promptly report a car accident to the insurer. The sooner the insurer knows about the accident, the sooner it can start trying to investigate or defend a claim. Learn more about how a car insurance company investigates a claim.

    If the insured person fails to report an accident within a reasonable time, the insurer may deny coverage in connection with the crash. An insurance company could define a "reasonable period of time" as being as little as a week or so after the car accident, depending on the circumstances, if the delay jeopardizes the company's financial position.

    Bottom line: Even if your car accident was minor and did not rise to the level of a "reportable accident" in Texas, you still want to report it to your automobile insurer just to make sure they'll provide coverage for the accident if you should need it. Learn more about contacting your car insurance company after an accident.

    Texas Is a "Fault" State When It Comes to Your Options After a Car Accident

    Around a dozen states follow some version of a "no-fault" system when it comes to car accidents, meaning after a crash drivers turn to their own insurance coverage to make a claim for injuries and certain out-of-pocket losses, regardless of who caused the accident. (Get the basics on how no-fault car insurance works.)

    Texas is not a no-fault state. That means all options are on the table if you're injured in a car accident in Texas. You can make a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance company, or file a lawsuit against the other driver in court.

    Speaking of car insurance, like most states Texas requires vehicle owners to maintain a certain amount of insurance coverage—or otherwise demonstrate financial responsibility in case an accident occurs. Learn more about the Texas car insurance rules and requirements.

    What Is the Texas Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits?

    A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a time limit on the right to bring a lawsuit. These deadlines vary depending on the kind of harm you suffered and the kind of case you want to file. In Texas, most car accident lawsuits need to be filed within two years of the date of the crash. Get the details on the Texas car accident statute of limitations.

    Texas's Comparative Negligence Rule in Car Accident Cases

    If the other driver was entirely at fault for your car accident, the result is usually predictable: The other driver (through their insurance carrier) will pay to compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you suffered. But what happens if you were partly at fault?

    Texas follows a "modified comparative fault" rule when more than one party is found to share blame for an accident. In the rare event that a car accident case goes to a court trial, the jury will be asked to calculate two things based on the evidence: the total dollar amount of the plaintiff's damages, and the percentage of fault that belongs to each party. Under the modified comparative fault rule, the plaintiff's damages award is reduced by a percentage equal to their share of fault.

    For instance, suppose that the jury decides your total damages award should be $100,000 (including your medical bills, lost income, vehicle damage, and "pain and suffering"). But the jury also decides you are 40 percent responsible for the accident (maybe you were speeding). Under Texas's comparative fault rule, you are entitled to get 60 percent of the $100,000 total, or $60,000—still a significant sum, far below your total damages.

    One important note: Since Texas is a "modified" comparative fault state, you will receive nothing at all if you are found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the crash.

    Not only does the comparative negligence rule bind Texas judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster who's evaluating your case. A claims adjuster makes decisions based on what is likely to happen in court, after all. But don't let that prevent you from pursuing an auto accident settlement or lawsuit. Instead, talk to an attorney about your situation and your best course of action.

    Getting Help After a Texas Car Accident

    Educating yourself about your state's laws may be only the first step after a car accident, especially if key issues like fault for the crash or the legitimacy of your injuries are in dispute.

    If you're getting pushback from the insurance company or you're just not confident you can handle your own claim and still get the best result, it might make sense to discussion your situation with a legal professional. Learn when you might need a lawyer after a car accident, and how to find the right attorney for an injury case. You can also use the features on this page to connect with a Texas car accident lawyer in your area.

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