How to Sue the Insurance Company in Texas
Attorney Doug Goyen is a Dallas automobile accident attorney. He has represented people injured in car accident injury cases since 1997. The Law Office of Doug Goyen takes pride in providing top legal representation for his clients. When people have an auto accident and run into a dispute with the other driver’s liability insurer, they often want to know about suing auto liability insurers. It’s a common question when people call for help with a claim against a liability insurance company.
Unfortunately, you cannot typically sue the liability insurance company directly in Texas. Texas is not a “direct action” state when it comes to trying to settle or enforce your claim against a liability insurer. Texas law requires you to do the song and dance of suing the other driver first (the person who caused the accident and injury), and then once you get the judgment you can then go about collecting against liability insurers, or if needed, suing auto liability insurers to satisfy the judgment. This inefficiently creates the possibility of two lawsuits instead of one – one against the other driver to prove liability and damages, then another after getting the judgment to prove the insurance company owes the judgment based on their contractual relationship with the driver who caused the accident.
Car accident injuries can lead to multiple types of lawsuits. Each case is different so the type of lawsuit that must be filed depends on the circumstances and what type of liability insurance is involved in the case.
The following is a list of common scenarios where who you sue may be different. This list is not exhaustive, there are other scenarios as well, but these are common:
- The other driver is the owner of the vehicle that caused the injury
- The other driver is driving someone else’s car and caused injury
- Multiple car accident causes injury
- Hit and run driver causes injury
- Uninsured motorist causes injury
- Passenger in the vehicle is injured by their own driver
- Other driver does not have enough insurance for injury
- The other driver is drunk or under the influence
- Other driver does not have a drivers license
- The other driver was on the job when they caused the injury
In order to understand how to force the other driver’s automobile insurance company to pay under its liability provisions read the first scenario below as it describes how this must be done in Texas. The other sections describe who to sue and what insurance may be involved in those types of cases.1) THE OTHER DRIVER IS THE OWNER OF THE VEHICLE THAT CAUSED THE INJURY
In a two-car accident where there is only your vehicle and the vehicle that caused the accident, and the other driver is also the owner of the vehicle, you typically sue the other driver. But be sure to see all the other scenarios listed below. There may be circumstances where you would want to include other parties in the lawsuit.
If the other driver’s insurance is not treating acting right in handling an injury claim, in Texas you have to file your lawsuit against the other driver if they were the cause of the accident and injury. Texas liability insurance policies state that the insurance company will pay for what their insured is “legally liable”. The Texas Supreme Court has stated that Texas has no right to a “direct action” against someone else’s liability insurance. State Farm Cnty. Mut. Ins. Co. of Tex. v. Ollis, 768 S.W.2d 722, 723 (Tex. 1989). The court held that “… plaintiff cannot enforce the policy directed against the insurer until it has been established, by judgment or agreement, that the insured has a legal obligation to pay damages to the injured party.”
This means that technically you cannot prove your case against the other driver’s liability insurance until you have proven in a court of law that their driver is legally liable for your injury claim. Texas courts require that you get a judgment against the other driver for your damages before you are able to force the other driver’s auto liability insurance to pay. You need that judgment first.
In order to enforce your judgment against the insurance company, you need to place the insurance company on notice of the lawsuit as soon as possible after filing the lawsuit. If you don’t place them on notice then the insurance company can get out of paying the claim since they were not able to hire lawyers and defend the lawsuit on behalf of their insured. In other words, you can’t just file a lawsuit against the other driver and hope they do nothing, and then get a default against them and try to use that to collect against their insurance company. In order to collect against the liability insurance company, they have to be notified so they can participate in the lawsuit. Then, once you get the judgment against the other driver.2) THE OTHER DRIVER IS DRIVING SOMEONE ELSE’S CAR AND CAUSED INJURY
If the other driver was driving someone else’s car you may have two different people to sue. If the owner of the vehicle negligently entrusted the vehicle to the driver then they might be liable as well. This comes up most often in cases where there are drunk drivers and unlicensed drivers. If you cannot find any negligence on the part of the owner then you typically do not include the owner in the lawsuit.
Another issue if the other driver is driving someone else’s car is which insurance company to go after. If the driver has their own liability insurance and the owner of the car has a different liability insurance policy then you have a choice of two different liability insurance policies that may be responsible for the injury claim.
Another important issue when the driver is different from the owner is establishing permissive use of the vehicle. If the other driver stole the car then there might not be liability insurance coverage. The facts surrounding how the driver came into possession of the vehicle need to be researched to make sure the liability insurance company covers the claim.3) MULTIPLE CAR ACCIDENT CAUSES INJURY
If you are involved in a multiple car accident that causes your injury you might find many people you think you can sue, but sometimes including multiple parties can cause more harm than good. If there was clearly one party that caused the chain reaction then that person’s liability insurance is the one to make the claim against. If think you will get more money by blaming others involved in the accident then you set yourself up for a bad outcome. Once you start blaming other vehicles other than the driver of the vehicle that actually caused the collision will latch onto that and start saying “Yea, it wasn’t my fault, it was those other drivers’ fault”. Now you have multiple liability insurance companies with none of them wanting to pay the claim. If liability was clear then it is best to keep it that way and collect against the party who caused the collision and injury.
There are times that liability needs to be divided in multiple car accidents. In chain reaction cases one vehicle might rear-end your vehicle and cause injury, and then a split-second later a third vehicle hits that vehicle and knocks it back into you causing even more injury and damage. In these cases, you do need to file the claim against both insurance companies and be as clear as possible about the details about what happened. If you cannot settle this type of case you will need to file lawsuits against both drivers to let a jury sort out what percent each owes for the injury and other damages.4) HIT AND RUN DRIVER CAUSES INJURY
I will cover three scenarios of hit and run drivers in injury cases. The first is where the hit-and-run driver leaves the scene and is never identified. The second is where the hit-and-run driver is found and does not have liability insurance. The third is where the hit and run driver is identified and actually does have liability insurance.
If the hit and run driver is never identified, or if they are identified but have no insurance then you will need to use your Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury coverage for any injury. If you were injured by a hit-and-run driver and you cannot identify the other driver, you will need to file your claim against your own Uninsured Motorist insurance coverage but your insurance policy will require that you report the accident to the police. Most of the time this has already happened before you contact your insurance company. But if you have not reported the hit and run to the police you are required to do so if you want to use your Uninsured Motorist coverage. Your own insurance policy will then act as the liability insurance company for the other driver. If a lawsuit needs to be filed then you sue your own insurance company under the Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury portion of the insurance policy. There are multiple parts to this type of lawsuit. You have to prove you had insurance with the company, you have to prove the hit and run driver caused the accident, and you have to prove your damages. In this scenario, you do actually sue the insurance company first, mainly because the other driver is not around to sue and you have an actual contractual relationship with your own insurance company under the Uninsured Motorist Coverage portion of the policy.
If the other driver is identified and they have liability insurance then you make the claim against their insurance like you would in any other two-car accident where the injury was involved (see above).5) UNINSURED MOTORIST CAUSES INJURY
If an uninsured driver causes your injury then you likely need to file your claim against your Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury coverage under your own insurance policy. If you were in someone else’s vehicle when injured then their vehicle might also have Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury coverage that you can use. If you need to file a lawsuit against the insurance company that carries the Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury coverage then you include the insurance company in the lawsuit. Typically you include the other driver as well. You need to prove there was insurance coverage in the lawsuit under your Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury policy and then prove how the other driver caused the car accident and how that accident caused the injury. You will then need to prove your damages.6) PASSENGER IN THE VEHICLE IS INJURED BY THEIR OWN DRIVER
If a passenger is injured by their own driver then they have a claim against that driver’s liability insurance for their injury. If a lawsuit needs to be filed then you sue your own driver in this type of case in order to get a judgment against them and then use that judgment to force their liability insurance to pay the judgment. You must put the liability insurance company on notice of the lawsuit so they can try and defend the lawsuit, failure to do so will allow the liability insurance company to avoid paying.7) OTHER DRIVER DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH INSURANCE FOR INJURY
If the other driver does not have enough insurance on their liability policy to pay for your injury claim then you may be able to file an Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury claim against your own insurance to cover the difference. You must have this type of insurance on your auto insurance policy to use it. If you need to file a lawsuit due to this type of claim then you file the lawsuit against the Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury insurance company directly. In the lawsuit you need to prove you have the insurance coverage, prove the amount paid by the other driver’s insurance, prove the other driver caused the accident, prove the accident caused the injury, and prove the amount of damage done showing how much over your damages are compared to the amount you were paid by the original liability insurance company for the driver.8) OTHER DRIVER IS DRUNK OR OTHERWISE UNDER THE INFLUENCE
If the other driver is drunk or otherwise under the influence of drugs of some sort, then you can sue the other driver and possibly sue others involved. If someone negligently entrusted their vehicle to the impaired driver you may be able to include that person in the lawsuit. If they were overserved at a bar or other establishment you may be able to include that business that overserved them in the lawsuit. Just like with other car accident injury cases above, you have to file a lawsuit against the negligent party and obtain a judgment in order to force their liability insurance company to pay.9) OTHER DRIVER DOES NOT HAVE A DRIVERS LICENSE
If the other driver who caused your injury does not have a driver’s license then that naturally poses the question of who gave them access to a vehicle. You may have a claim against the person who gave them access to the vehicle for negligent entrustment as well as a claim against the unlicensed driver. If a lawsuit needs to be filed you would need to file the suit against the unlicensed driver and against the person who negligently entrusted the vehicle to the unlicensed driver.10) THE OTHER DRIVER WAS ON THE JOB WHEN THEY CAUSED THE INJURY
If you were injured by a driver who was on the job when they caused your injury you will have a claim against the company they were working for if they were in the “course and scope” of their employment. If they were driving a company car there may be different insurance than the driver’s personal insurance for their private vehicle. The company they work for may have their own coverage. If a lawsuit needs to be filed you will file it against the driver and the company under a theory of “respondeat superior” – meaning that the employer is responsible for the employee who causes damage while in the course and scope of their employment.
The personal injury lawyers at the Law Office of Doug Goyen have over 23 years of experience helping people sue in order to force insurance companies to pay car accident injury claims. Attorney Goyen has been licensed by the State Bar of Texas since 1997. Call us today at (972) 599 4100. We have recovered millions of dollars in car accident injury cases. There is no fee unless we win. We offer free phone consultations and strategy sessions for people looking for a Dallas auto accident attorney.
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