When you are in an automobile accident, it is vital to get compensation fast to cover medical bills, vehicle damage and other costs such as lost wages, gas, and medication. Ideally, these expenses should be covered by the insurance company of the party who is at fault for the accident. But what happens when that driver has no insurance? What can you do to obtain the financial help you need to recover?
Understanding Texas Car Insurance Regulations
The spirit of Texas’ laws is to have those who drive in the state pay for any accidents they cause. To do so, they must carry at least the minimum amount of auto liability insurance. The most basic policy, called 30/60/25 coverage or “minimum liability coverage”, includes the following minimum liability limits:
• $30,000 for each injured person
• Up to $60,000 per accident (regardless of number of injured people but only if more than one)
• $25,000 for property damage per accident
Of course, a driver can always carry larger coverage, and if you were hit by someone and injured, it is your hope that they do carry a large policy, but it is not legally mandatory, at least in Texas.
Fines for Not Carrying Insurance
Those who risk driving without car insurance face considerable financial penalties. For a first offense, drivers in Texas can receive a citation and be fined anywhere from $175 to $350. They will also have a $250 surcharge added to their annual driver’s license fee for the next three years.
Subsequent offenses can be fined between $350 and $1,000. They will continue to have a $250 surcharge added to their annual license fee, and also risk having their license revoked and vehicle impounded.
The Impact of Uninsured Drivers
The Texas Department of Insurance estimates that 20 to 25 percent of drivers in the state do not have automobile insurance coverage. Nationally, this figure is much lower–closer to 12 percent. As you might expect, this percentage significantly impacts the potential detrimental effect of an accident with an uninsured driver. In Texas, you have a one in five chance of having an accident with someone who is uninsured or underinsured.
In the United States, 12.6 percent of accidents are caused by uninsured drivers, resulting in $28 billion in unpaid damages. Drivers without insurance often say they don’t have coverage because they can’t afford it as premiums are too high, or they rarely use their vehicles.
Protect Yourself Against Uninsured Drivers
By law, insurance companies are required to offer you Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage. This coverage is supposed to take care of your expenses after an accident with a driver who has no insurance, does not have enough coverage, or in a hit and run. Options are available for injury coverage, property damage or both. Coverage can extend to authorized drivers and passengers in your vehicle, and even to other vehicles you do not own.
If you do not have this coverage, get it. The potential cost of damages caused by an uninsured driver far outweigh the small amount you will need to add to the monthly premiums you should already be paying for your minimum liability insurance.
There are other steps you may be able to take after an accident with a driver without proper insurance. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to pursue the following:
• File a personal injury lawsuit against the driver
• Hold an employer liable if the driver was working at the time of the accident.
• File a products liability claim against an auto manufacturer if defective auto parts were involved.
• File a negligent entrustment claim if the vehicle was owned by another party who allowed a reckless or unlicensed driver to drive.
However, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss the particular facts involved in your case.
Uninsured Motorist Cases Can Be Difficult
Given the intricacies of car accident claims involving an uninsured driver, preparing your case can be difficult. It can be expensive to try to do an investigation on your own, not to mention time-consuming. Additionally, you probably want to hire someone who does this for a living rather than trying to “DIY” (Do It Yourself).
There also can be legal potholes and red tape that you may take you by surprise during the process. For example, most cases require a thorough investigation immediately after the wreck in order to preserve evidence, take photographs, measurements, and interview witnesses, at the very least. There also is a time limit placed on how long after an accident you can file a claim in a court of law. Most experienced personal injury lawyers have access to the resources needed to pursue this type of case, as well as the “know-how”.
Get Help with Your Uninsured Driver Claim in Austin
You don’t have to handle your accident case alone. In these instances, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney who has experience with uninsured motorist claims, particularly if there were severe injuries or a death involved.
Your lawyer can thoroughly evaluate the circumstances and evidence of your case to determine how to best proceed. They can help to uncover all liable parties and pursue compensation on your behalf. Most importantly, they will fight for your best interest and protect your rights throughout the legal process.
Contact Pastrana & Garcia Law Firm for help with your uninsured driver case. We have over thirty years of experience and we will help you pursue the fair and full compensation you deserve.