What to Do After a Texas Car Accident with an Uninsured Driver
Know your legal rights following a car crash with uninsured or underinsured motorists.
When a driver doesn't have liability auto insurance on their vehicle in the state they're registered to drive, no one can argue the risk they take financially, both in terms of the legal fees and fines they may incur and their legal liability should they be at fault in a car accident. Driving without insurance also puts others in financial danger.
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The latest figures from the Insurance Research Council (IRC) reveal that 14.1 percent of the Texas population are uninsured drivers. All American drivers have a roughly 14 percent chance of being hit by an uninsured driver at some point in their lives. Texas ranks 16th on the national list of states with the highest percentage of uninsured motorists.
Car Insurance and Texas UM/UIM Law
In Texas, an uninsured motorist (UM) is someone without insurance, while an underinsured motorist (UIM) has the minimum liability insurance only, which is sometimes insufficient to cover another driver's injuries and damages.
Texas law requires that drivers purchase at least the minimum amount of car insurance for their vehicle to meet state law for financial liability. Liability insurance is intended to help repair or replace another driver's vehicle and help pay their medical expenses in the event they're injured in an accident that is your fault.
The minimum required auto insurance in Texas is $30,000 for personal injury, $60,000 for the accident, and $25,000 for property damage. This coverage, often referred to as 30/60/25, is the state minimum.
Even though having insurance coverage provides protection from the law because you carry the basic insurance required by law, an insurance policy may not be enough to cover the entire expense of a serious car accident and the damages and injury that occur as a result. The basic minimum coverage required by law helps protects the driver who pays the policy, not any other person.
The high cost of medical care, car repairs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages and other damages may exceed the at-fault driver's insurance coverage. When this occurs, an injured individual (or the family members of a person killed in a fatal car accident) may be able to sue the responsible driver for the difference that insurance doesn't cover.
We recommend purchasing extra Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) insurance coverage. This coverage isn't cheap, but you should carry this extra insurance as it provides things the minimum insurance won't such as:
- Medical bills
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
- Auto Repair
- Rental car
In addition, UM/UIM coverage covers family members and passengers in your car as well as anyone who's authorized by you to drive your vehicle.
Situations where having UM/UIM coverage can protect you include not only drivers without insurance, but also hit-and-run accidents.
Only an experienced attorney can wisely advise you whether additional compensation may be owed to you and, if so, how much that might be. Each car accident case is unique to the parties involved, as are the elements and facts. Only once an attorney has all the fact of your case can they recommend the best course of action going forward.
What are the Penalties for an Uninsured Driver?
In Texas, a first offender is fined $350. They are also placed under an SR-22, which means they're required to file a verification of insurance stating they hold the minimum legal insurance and it must be filed with the Texas Department of Safety (DPS). An insurance company immediately notifies the DPS in the event that their policy is canceled or terminated for any reason, or if there is a lapse in payment enough to discontinue the policy.
Penalties also include a $250 surcharge to keep their driver license for the next three years and a mandatory fine of up to $300 to the Department of Motor Vehicles when they renew their license. On a case by case basis, their driver license can also be suspended if they were involved in an accident while uninsured, or revoked if they caused an accident with injuries or death.
The penalties for driving uninsured in Texas can be as high as $1,500 for subsequent offenses. Worst of all, the uninsured driver is 100 percent responsible and legally liable for any and all damage and injury from an accident that's their fault. There can be garnishments and levies ordered in order for the injured party to retrieve their damages.
I've Been in an Accident with an Uninsured Driver...What Do I Do?
If you've been hit by an uninsured motorist, regardless of whether you have UM/UIM coverage, the first steps you should take at the scene of the accident are as follows:
- Notify police
- Get the other driver's personal information
- Write down names and contact information of any witnesses
- Take many photos of the accident scene if possible
- Give the other driver your information
- Contact your insurance company
- Obtain a copy of the police report
If the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, your next step should be to consult a personal injury attorney regarding the accident.
In the event of a car accident, your own insurance company might even attempt to deny your right to claim rightful coverage under your policy. Or if you were in any way at fault, they may try to lower the compensation payout. In such cases, it's in your best interests to consult an attorney with bad faith insurance experience. Insurance companies can be intimidating and have large groups of lawyers working for them.
In 1993, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled that there's no requirement for an insurance claimant to exhaust the policy liability of the person who hit them in order to be entitled to underinsured motorist benefits from his or her own policy.
It may seem as if insurance companies should work for their customer (you), but the truth is they're a business providing a service for profit; therefore, don't make the mistake of thinking your insurance company enjoys paying large sums of money on claims. They will work hard, in fact, to avoid paying out claims.
Whether you wish to pursue further legal action against an uninsured driver or an insurance company, it's important to hire an attorney who has extensive experience working on cases just like yours, who isn't intimidated by insurance companies, who can relieve stress in an already stressful situation, and who will fight for your legal rights to achieve the best possible outcome for your accident case.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.