Table of Contents
- What to do after a crash: Texas car accident reporting laws
- Financial responsibility and coverage minimums: Texas’ insurance laws
- Claiming damages after an accident: Texas’ personal injury laws
- Who’s to blame: Texas’ modified comparative negligence law
- How to save money on car insurance in Texas
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If you’re involved in an accident in Texas, you’ll need to promptly report it to law enforcement, especially if there is an injury or death, or if the vehicle damage makes it impossible to drive. To recover from any injuries or damage, you’ll also need to file a claim to your car insurance provider.
Car crashes are an unfortunate daily reality, and most people will experience one at some point. If you find yourself involved in a collision—whether it’s a little fender bender or a serious crash involving injuries—you need to know your legal responsibilities and rights after the accident.
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What to do after a crash: Texas car accident reporting laws
The first and most important thing to do after a car accident is to check yourself and any passengers for
Next, if it’s possible to move your vehicle, get it out of the way of any oncoming traffic to avoid further collisions. If the vehicle can’t be moved, or you’re unable to move it due to your injuries, either escape the vehicle or call 911 for help immediately. If you can get out of the vehicle and away from traffic, you should call emergency responders when you’re a safe distance away.
Once you’re away from danger, check yourself and your passengers again for injuries. Even serious injuries can be overlooked in a state of high stress or trauma.
You also should check in with anyone else who was involved in the collision. For one thing, you’ll have to exchange the following information, including:
- Phone numbers
- License plate numbers
- Car insurance details
- Driver's license information
Also, more importantly, you need to see if anyone involved needs assistance. In Texas, it is required that parties in an accident render aid if needed. That means you might have to help someone get medical attention or assist them in getting out of the way of danger at an accident scene if you can.
Once all of that is squared away, you can start taking steps to report the accident to law enforcement and your insurance company.
When to report an accident to the police
Not all car accidents in Texas need to be reported to law enforcement. However, Texas’ vehicle code states that any accident which involves an injury or death, or damage to a vehicle that leaves it undrivable, must be reported immediately to the police.
Which law enforcement agency you report to depends on some general guidelines:
- If the crash was within the city limits of a municipality, you need to contact the local police department.
- If the accident occurred outside of city limits, report it to the nearest county sheriff’s office.
A safe bet is to call 911 for reportable car accidents. The dispatchers will relay your information to the appropriate law enforcement division, as well as emergency medicine providers.
You also should contact law enforcement if you suspect a
driver involved in the accident is intoxicated, has no insurance, or leaves the scene—even if the crash didn’t result in injury, death, or extensive damage.
Lastly, you’ll need to
contact your car insurance companyas soon as you can. While this isn’t mandated by law, most insurance policies have a fairly strict timeline for filing an accident claim.
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Financial responsibility and coverage minimums: Texas’ insurance laws
Most states, including Texas, require all drivers to carry a minimum amount of
liability insurancebefore getting behind the wheel. This protects you and other people on the road by paying for damages deemed to be your fault in a collision. Without liability insurance, you could face criminal penalties as well as crushing lawsuits if an accident occurs.
Texas has more stringent liability insurance requirements than many other states, with a 30/60/25 coverage minimum. This means you must have insurance that covers:
If you fail to have car insurance in Texas, not only are you posing a huge risk to other people, but you’re also in danger of some stiff penalties. Texas fines first-time offenders with fees of $175 to $300 for failing to possess minimum liability insurance. After that, repeat offenders see even higher fines and potential car impoundment, which is also attached to a daily impoundment fee.
Despite all that, a significant number of Texas drivers—8.3%—choose to take the risk by going without liability insurance. With that many uninsured drivers on the road, you might want to consider purchasing
uninsured/underinsured motorist coverageto supplement your insurance.
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Claiming damages after an accident: Texas’ personal injury laws
While you may plan to settle any compensation claims through the other party’s car insurance company, you ought to know the guidelines for filing a crash-related suit in Texas. After all, the
insurance adjusterwho will work on your claim is going to act on behalf of the insurance company—not you.
If you are going to file a lawsuit for compensation after a crash in Texas, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations. This is the period in which you can file a lawsuit for personal injury, wrongful death, or property damage after a collision. If you file after this deadline has passed, the defendant will likely make a successful motion for dismissal of your case.
The statute of limitations for these suits in Texas is a basic two-year timeframe. That means if you plan to file a lawsuit for compensation for property damages or personal injury, you have two years from the date of the accident to file.
There are two types of compensatory damages you can sue for in Texas, including economic damages and non-economic damages. Here’s what differentiates them:
- Economic damages include compensation for financial losses like missed wages, property loss, medical bills, loss of employment or business opportunities, and funeral expenses.
- Non-economic damages could include compensation for scarring or bodily disfigurement, mental trauma, emotional suffering, damaged family relationships, or a loss of enjoyment of life.
Texas does not cap either of these types of damages in car accident cases. However, there is a cap on punitive damages. Punitive damages are non-compensatory damages that you can sue for. These damages are awarded as a punishment when someone was found to act with negligence or in a grossly reckless manner.
Punitive damages are limited to either $200,000 or the amount of awarded economic damages multiplied by two and added to the amount of non-economic damages—up to $750,000. Between those figures, the court can award whichever amount is greater, but it can never exceed $750,000.
Exceptions to Texas’ compensatory damage laws
Texas has a tort law that partly waives the government’s immunity in cases of personal injury or property damage after a car accident. Under this law, it is possible to sue a Texas government for its liability if a government employee or entity causes an injury, death, or property damage in a collision.
However, the rules for recovering damages from the government are a little different. In Texas, damages awarded from a state or local government entity are limited to $250,000 per person or $500,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $100,000 for property damage.
Who’s to blame: Texas’ modified comparative negligence law
In Texas, multiple parties can be found at fault in an accident, and multiple parties can collect damages as long as their percentage of fault doesn’t reach 50% or more. That means if you’re found to be partly at fault in a collision, you can still recover compensation through the courts, but the amount of your reward will be reduced in proportion to your amount of fault.
Here’s an example of how this works in real life. Imagine you’re in a collision that was caused partly by your broken turn signal. You might be found to be 15% at fault in the accident. You can still sue for bodily harm or property damages, though. If you’re rewarded $200,000 in total damages, this amount will be reduced by 15%, and you will only receive $170,000.
How to save money on car insurance in Texas
No matter where you live, you want to make sure you’ve got the right kind of car insurance coverage to protect you and your property if you’re ever involved in an accident. You can find high-quality,
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