You were driving along – following the speed limit and paying attention to the road – when, all of a sudden, another car slams into yours. The other driver apparently didn’t notice that their traffic signal was red. Why? Because they were more focused on reading a text on their phone than the traffic around them. Now your car is totaled and you’re struggling with pretty nasty injuries. It looks like it will be a while before you’re able to get back to work.

You didn’t ask to get hurt. In fact, you did everything in your power to drive safely and avoid an accident. What should you do if you find yourself in this situation? Here’s what you need to know.

Texas Has “At Fault” Insurance Rules

Different states handle what happens after a car accident differently. One of the biggest factors is what kind of insurance laws a particular state has. Insurance laws fall into two categories: fault and no-fault. Texas has “fault” insurance rules.

What does that mean for you? After an accident, the party who is deemed to be “at fault” for an accident is responsible for the resulting costs. More specifically, if the at-fault party has insurance, as is legally required by law, their insurance company is on the hook for damages.

So, after an accident that’s not your fault in Austin, you can file a claim for damages directly with the at-fault party’s insurer. You don’t have to try to recover benefits through your own car insurance policy first.

Fault Will Be Contested, So Make Sure You Have Proof

Since the at-fault party (or their insurer) will be primarily responsible for accident-related damages, you can be certain that fault will be hotly contested. No one will want to accept responsibility and cut a check. So, fingers will be pointed and allegations will be made. It’s very possible that you’ll even be blamed for your accident and any resulting injuries.

Don’t let those tactics work. You can protect yourself by gathering information and preserving evidence immediately after your accident. Here’s how:

  • Call the police to report the accident, and ask to have a police report completed at the scene.
  • Visit the emergency room so that your injuries are recorded in a medical report as soon as possible after the crash.
  • Take photographs of the scene of the accident and your injuries.
  • Speak with witnesses and ask them for their contact information.

These simple steps can make a world of difference down the line if you decide to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Your attorney can use the evidence you’ve gathered and created to protect you from claims that you’re at fault.

Refuse Early Settlement Offers and Direct All Communication to Your Attorney

After an accident that is not your fault, the responsible party’s insurance company might try to contact you. The adjuster might happily tell you that he has a check with your name on it. However, he’ll add that the offer is attached to a very short clock. If you don’t accept this generous offer now, he warns, you’ll probably get nothing, at all.

These tactics are designed to take advantage of your fragile emotional state and uncertainty after an accident. If fault for an accident is pretty clear, insurance companies will be eager to make a deal with you and settle your claim before you have the opportunity to get an attorney involved. That’s because they know that things will change once you’re represented by a lawyer. So, they’ll work hard to scare you into accepting an early offer. Beware: while those early offers might be attractive, they tend to be for much less than a case is really worth.

The best thing you can do is decline to speak with insurance companies about anything other than very basic details – your name, address, and maybe even your own insurance information. If adjusters continue to put pressure on you, don’t respond. Wait until you’ve spoken with a lawyer and found someone you trust. Once you’ve hired a car accident attorney, let them handle all conversations and negotiations on your behalf. With the playing field level, insurers won’t be able to rely on their normal tricks.