Refugee Resource Center

If you get into a car wreck

This is the usual procedure when car accidents happen. There is more information on these steps later in this document.

You get the name of the other drivers’ insurance company, their policy number, their name, driver’s license number and phone number — for every driver involved in the wreck. You must give them your information. This is Texas law. Do not leave the area until you do this.

You report the accident to your insurance company and to the other driver’s company. The other driver is supposed to report it to their insurance company, but sometimes they don’t.

The insurance company will do an investigation to decide who they think caused the accident. Sometimes an insurance company will send an inspector to look at the damage to your car.

You go to a body shop and get an estimate of how much it will cost to fix your car.

You might want to go to a doctor to see if you are injured.

IF the insurance company agrees that their customer is responsible, they should offer you money. If the company does not agree, you may have to argue with or even sue them.

If you think the offer is fair, they should give you a check for that amount or tell you to take your car to a body shop and they will pay the shop.

If the company will not pay you or you do not think the offer is fair, you can ask a lawyer if they will accept your case. Find a lawyer who will not charge you at the beginning. They will get paid out of any money you get from the insurance company. Here are our suggestions on how to find a lawyer.

What to do after the crash

Pull your car over to the side of the road or into a parking lot if you can. Try not to block traffic.

Do not leave the accident area. You could be charged with hit and run and have to pay a big fine.

Before you get out of the car, look to see if you are injured.

If you are hurt stay in the car and call 911.

If you think you are OK, get out of the car and check to see if the other driver is hurt. If they are hurt, call 911. Do not try to move an injured person unless you have to (like if the other car is on fire or leaking gas).

If the wreck is very serious, call 911 for help.

If you need to go to the hospital emergency room but your injuries are not life-threatening, try to get someone to drive you. Medicaid and some other insurance plans do not always pay for ambulances. It might be cheaper to take a taxi or Uber to the hospital. BUT DON’T DO THAT IF YOU REALLY NEED AN AMBULANCE.

Getting information

It is Texas law that everyone must give their contact and insurance information to the other drivers. Some people don’t want to give that information because they think it means admitting that they are responsible for the crash. That is not true.

All other drivers must give you their:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance company name and their policy number

You must give them your information.

If they will not give you their information, call the police to report the accident.

Write their information down on paper. You could also take a photo of their insurance card and driver’s license on your phone.

Try to get the names and contact information of any passengers in the other car or witnesses who saw the accident happen.

If you are too injured to do this, rest and try to memorize as much as possible what the area looks like.

Do not apologize or say it was your fault. Don’t discuss the accident until the police come.

Document what happened

If you are not too hurt, take as many photos as you can and maybe videos. Take photos that show all cars including their license plates, the street location, the area around the accident, the weather and any injuries. Photograph all sides of your car, especially where the damage is.

If you can, it’s good to take a photo of the other driver’s insurance card and a business card if they have one.

You might want to write down what the other drivers say so you can remember. It might help you with the insurance company. For example, if they apologize to you, you could say they admitted the wreck was their fault. The same is true for you.

If the police come

Sometimes police will come to help clear the cars off the road or if someone has called 911 because someone is hurt. Sometimes fire trucks will also come.

The police should make an accident report. Try to write down this information:

  • The name and badge number of the police officers.
  • The names of the EMTs (the emergency medical technicians) and what company they work for.
  • A case number if they have one.

Usually, but not always, the officers will submit a crash report. Ask the officers about how you can get the report. If they give you a number for the report write that down.

If the police don’t come

There is a form you can fill out called a CR-2. This is just for your records. You do not give this to the police or DMV. You can use it to explain what happened to an insurance company or to a judge. Go to this page and look for CR-2.

On this form you write:

  • Location of the accident. Include city or county.
  • Date and time of the wreck.
  • The vehicles involved. Your vehicle is the #1 vehicle.
  • A description of the damage to all drivers’ property.
  • All description of all injuries from the crash, especially yours. If you have passengers, write where they were in your car — in the front or back seat and the side of the car they were on -— and any injuries.
  • A driver’s statement. This is your description of what happened. Use another piece of paper if you have to.

Describing the accident

Before you talk to insurance companies, write down exactly what happened. Just say the facts as simply as possible. It is important to tell the same story every time. Writing it down will help you remember.

Here is an example: “I was stopped at the traffic light on Burnet Road and Koenig Lane at 5 pm going south. The driver of the Mazda behind me crashed into the back of my car, which made my car go into the northbound lane. Then a Toyota hit my car.”

Don’t talk about whether anything was your fault or the other driver’s fault. Just say the facts of what happened.

Talking to insurance companies

After you’ve collected all of the information and written down what happens, you must work with insurance companies. Understand that both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company do not want to give you money. They want to find a way to keep from paying you. You must prove that you should get the money.

Sometimes insurance companies will fight over who caused the accident. Sometimes an insurance company will “deny your claim” and say they won’t pay you. You might have to hire a lawyer and sue the insurance company.

If you were injured very badly or your car is damaged too much to be fixed, you might want to find a lawyer who will take your case without making you pay before they talk to the insurance company. Lawyers who do that get paid only if you get money from the insurance company. Here is information on how to find a lawyer.

All of this can take a lot of time.

Every time you talk to an insurance company, take notes. Write down what they tell you, what day you talked to them and the name of the person who talked to you.

Call your insurance company

Call your insurance company to report the accident. If the accident is not your fault, they might not want to talk about it and will tell you to call the other driver’s insurance company. But you should try to report it. Write down what you said, what they said, the name of the person you talked to and the date you talked. Sometimes insurance policies say you must call within 24 hours, so check your policy.

Call the other driver’s insurance company

If the wreck is not your fault, call the other driver’s insurance company to report the accident in case the other driver does not tell their insurance company. Say, “I am just reporting that your customer hit my car.”

Give them the name and policy number of their customer.

Give them the basic facts of what happened — the date, the time and where the accident happened — but don’t say anything more. Tell them you just want to report it in case their customer does not.

If they ask you whether you are hurt, say you will be going to a doctor to be checked. Sometimes you don’t feel hurt but then a few days or weeks later you start having pain. Always go to a doctor if you hit your head on something.

If they ask you whether the damage to your car is serious, tell them you are having your car checked for damage. There may be damage to the car that you don’t know about.

Different lawyers have different opinions about this. Some lawyers think your insurance company should fight with the other driver’s insurance company. Some think it’s OK for you to talk to the other company for small accidents. If you are hurt in a very serious car accident, you should probably get a lawyer who will talk with both insurance companies.

Some insurance companies will try to use anything you say against you if they can.

Getting your car fixed

The insurance companies will now do an investigation. They usually send an inspector to look at your car.

Then they might tell you to take your car to a body shop to get an estimate about how much it will cost to fix your car. If they just offer you money, make sure to get your own estimate. If the insurance company offers you an amount of money, you won’t know if it’s a fair amount unless you have your own estimate. The body shop will also ask for insurance information for you and the other driver because they want to bill the insurance companies as much as they can.

Body shops have a bad reputation for cheating people and not fixing things properly or charging too much money. Not all body shops are bad, but it’s good to check out reviews on Yelp or Google to see what other people say about them. You might want to find a body shop that is near where you live or work so it is easy to pick up your car.

Unless you must get your car repaired immediately to use it, it might good to wait to fix it until you know if the insurance company is going to pay you. Some insurance companies will fight with you if you have it fixed before they have done an inspection. But if you can’t drive your car and you need to get to work, get it fixed and send the insurance company the bill.

Paying for the repairs

If the other driver’s insurance is paying, you should not have pay anything. Ask their insurance company to pay for you to rent a car while your car is being fixed.

If your insurance company is paying for the repairs, you must pay your deductible. For example, if your deductible is $500 and the cost of the repairs is $3000, you only pay the $500. The body shop will bill the insurance company for the rest.

Getting a check from the insurance company

Sometimes the insurance company will give you a check. Sometimes they will pay the body shop that is fixing your car.

If you get a check, it’s your money so you can use it however you want. You can keep the money and not get your car fixed. Or you can use the money to get your car fixed. But if you don’t fix the car now, you might not have money to fix it in the future. And the car will be less valuable if you want to sell it.

Paying for medical bills

If you had to go to the doctor because of the accident, you will have a medical record to prove to the insurance company that you were hurt. They might pay you back for your medical bills but you need to have a record. Write down every time you went to the doctor and what the doctor said. Keep all of the receipts and papers the doctor gives you.

Remember, sometimes if you hit your head or hurt your back, you don’t know that there’s a problem until much later. That’s why it’s good to go to a doctor even if you feel OK.

If you have a lawyer, you might also get money for “pain and suffering.” A lawyer can explain that to you.

Getting money for “lost wages”

If the other driver caused the accident and that made you take time off from work, you might be able to get the company to pay you the money you would have earned. Write down every time you were not able to work because you were getting your car fixed or you were getting medical treatment.

About insurance

Liability property damage coverage is required in Texas. It covers damage you do to another person or their car. It does not cover your own car. You probably have liability insurance only, but you must understand what type of insurance you have and what is included in it.

If you have a more expensive car, you might want to have collision insurance. That pays for damage to your car that you caused. But if your car is older and not in great condition, it is not worth paying the extra money for collision insurance. If you have a car loan, the company who lent you the money might require you to have collision insurance.

This Texas Department of Insurance website has good information on different kinds of insurance.

It is possible that your insurance will not cover you if you drive for Uber or Lyft. Check with your insurance company to find out. You might want to buy insurance through Uber or Lyft or another company.

Always keep your insurance card in the glovebox of your car.

NEVER DRIVE WITHOUT INSURANCE!

Where to get more information

DMV.org is a private website — not an official one — but we think they have good information. Here is their guide for what to do after an accident in Texas.

Go to the Texas Department of Insurance to learn about different types of insurance.

If a police officer made a crash report, you can get it here. (You might have to pay a small fee.)

Here are our suggestions for how to find a lawyer.

If a police officer gave you a traffic ticket, this page by TexasLawHelp.org will explain how to pay your ticket or go to court if you think you are innocent and do not want to pay a fine.

REMEMBER: IT IS ILLEGAL TO DRIVE WITHOUT CAR INSURANCE. DON’T DO IT!

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