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Texas Car Accident Compensation Laws

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of injury and death in Texas. Fortunately, Texas has laws that allow accident victims to recover compensation when they are injured by another driver. Unfortunately, the law can be complex and difficult to navigate on your own.

However, if you’ve been injured in a car accident, being aware of the laws that impact your case can help you understand what to expect moving forward.

Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits in Texas

Texas has a statute of limitations in place for car accident claims that limits the amount of time they have after an accident to file a lawsuit.

According to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §16.003, car accident victims have two years from the date of the accident in which to file a lawsuit petition if unable to achieve an acceptable settlement amount. This two-year time limit also applies to family members of victims who suffered fatal injuries in a car accident and wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit in court.

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.003.

TWO-YEAR LIMITATIONS PERIOD. (a) Except as provided by Sections 16.010, 16.0031, and 16.0045, a person must bring suit for trespass for injury to the estate or to the property of another, conversion of personal property, taking or detaining the personal property of another, personal injury, forcible entry and detainer, and forcible detainer not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues.

(b) A person must bring suit not later than two years after the day the cause of action accrues in an action for injury resulting in death. The cause of action accrues on the death of the injured person.


Some extensions to the two-year statute of limitations apply in limited cases, for instance, a minor in Texas who is injured in a car accident has up to two years after their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit in court to recover compensation for their damages.

Also, if a car accident victim discovers an injury later and a doctor determines that the car accident caused the injury, the two-year time limit begins on the date of the delayed discovery.

The statute of limitation may also be extended for seriously injured victims who are unconscious, comatose, or incapacitated for some time after the accident.

The window for filing a car accident lawsuit may be shorter in specific circumstances if the accident occurred with a government employee as the at-fault driver, an abbreviated statute of limitations of six months applies.

This deadline only applies to lawsuits, however. Accident victims may resolve their claim through direct negotiations with the insurance company through their car accident attorney. This happens in the majority of cases. Only in instances of an insurance company’s failure to offer an acceptable settlement amount does the claimant need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurer in court.

Speak to your attorney about the timing of your car accident claim so you have ample time to resolve the claim with an out-of-court settlement whenever possible before filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations.

Comparative Negligence Car Accident Laws in Texas

Texas is a modified comparative negligence state. Under this law, car accident victims can recover compensation for their injuries as long as their portion of responsibility for the accident is not greater than 50 percent.

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 33.

Sec. 33.001. PROPORTIONATE RESPONSIBILITY. In an action to which this chapter applies, a claimant may not recover damages if his percentage of responsibility is greater than 50 percent.

In some car accident cases, it’s clear that one driver caused the accident through a careless error, reckless driving, or intoxication. In other cases, fault may not be as clear or both parties in the accident may share a degree of fault.

The modified comparative negligence insurance law allows victims to recover compensation even if they were partly at fault for a motor vehicle accident.

Sec. 33.012. AMOUNT OF RECOVERY. (a) If the claimant is not barred from recovery under Section 33.001, the court shall reduce the amount of damages to be recovered by the claimant with respect to a cause of action by a percentage equal to the claimant’s percentage of responsibility.

If your case goes to trial in a Texas court, a judge will assign your level of responsibility for the accident and reduce your compensation based on that percentage. However, if you are deemed to be more than 50 percent at fault, you cannot recover damages.

For example, if one driver is 75% at fault because they pulled out of a parking lot into the path of an oncoming vehicle but the other driver was speeding, the insurance adjuster on the case may assign the speeding driver 25% of fault under the presumption that they might have been able to stop in time to avoid the accident had they not exceeded the speed limit. If the injured driver’s damages amount to $100,000, they may still recover $75,000.

What Damages Are Available for Compensation After a Car Accident in Texas?

Car accidents quickly become costly, especially if one or more motorists suffer injuries in the crash and require medical treatment. A successful car accident claim in Texas allows compensation for some or all of the following damages depending on the circumstances of the accident and injuries:

  • Property damage to a vehicle and personal items
  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses if the injury victim requires further treatment or rehabilitation
  • Lost wages
  • Future income loss
  • Diminished earning capacity due to disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Any other non-economic damages that might apply in an individual accident case such as PTSD, disfigurement compensation, traumatic limb loss, loss of household services, or loss of enjoyment of life

The above damages include both tangible economic damages that are easy to calculate and intangible non-economic damages that are more challenging to quantify but help provide increased compensation as well as a sense of justice for car accident victims.

In certain cases, punitive (referred to as exemplary damages in Texas) may be available, though these are capped by Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 41.008

Sec. 41.008. LIMITATION ON AMOUNT OF RECOVERY. (a) In an action in which a claimant seeks recovery of damages, the trier of fact shall determine the amount of economic damages separately from the amount of other compensatory damages.

(b) Exemplary damages awarded against a defendant may not exceed an amount equal to the greater of:

(1)(A) two times the amount of economic damages; plus

(B) an amount equal to any noneconomic damages found by the jury, not to exceed $750,000; or

(2) $200,000.

Exemplary damages exist to punish especially harmful behavior and dissuade it in the future. These are capped at whichever is the greater of the above three figures.

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