When the Other Driver Has No Insurance
Texas law requires all drivers to have valid insurance. That means that if someone hits you, you can be sure they have insurance, right? Wrong. Texas law requires that people stop at red lights and drive safely, too, but that doesn't mean that everyone is going to do so.
According to current estimates, anywhere from 10-25% of drivers on the road don't carry any insurance at all. Many drivers carry only the minimum limits of liability coverage allowed by state law (currently $25,000.00). Anyone who has paid a hospital bill or had serious damage to their car knows that $25,000.00 doesn't go very far. And of course, even those minimum limits come with the strong possibility that the insurance carrier for the other driver will fight over every dime.
An increasingly popular scam by people who don't want to purchase the insurance required by law but do want to be licensed drivers is the "monthly payment insurance" dodge. It works like this: the driver calls one of the high volume "low cost" insurers that advertise constantly on TV, and pays the first month's premium. The carrier sends a proof of coverage card, which the driver uses to get or renew his license. The driver then never pays any more premiums, and the carrier (which is definitely not shocked by the nonpayment) cancels the policy. Result? Driver gets his license, carrier gets a month of premiums in exchange for a proof of insurance card, and you get into an accident with an uninsured driver.
Another less-than-stunning fact is that drivers who are irresponsible enough to have no insurance are also the most likely to be bad drivers and the least likely to have assets with which they can pay for the damages they cause. That means that when you get into an accident, there is a good chance that the person who hit you is not covered by insurance and can't pay to repair your car.
These facts also did not escape the attention of our Legislature, which is why in Texas auto insurers are required to offer you uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or "UM coverage" as insurance adjusters refer to it. Unfortunately, you are not required to accept it. Dealing with car accident cases as I do, I strongly recommend that everyone have UM coverage. Too many people who come to me are very sorry they don't.
Here's how it works: Suppose you are in an accident which totals your car and causes you $45,000 in medical bills and lost wages, but the other driver has no insurance. In that case, if you bought UM coverage, your policy would pay for the damage caused by the uninsured driver, up to the limits of the UM coverage you purchased. Or the other driver, instead of being completely uninsured, could be "underinsured", meaning that even after the limits of his coverage are paid, you still have unreimbursed losses. In that event, once again your UM coverage steps in to make up the difference.
You get this coverage automatically unless you sign a document saying that you do not want it-so the likelihood is that if you have auto insurance on your car, you also have UM coverage.
If you are in a car accident with a driver that has either no insurance at all or insufficient insurance, it is critically important that you call lawyers who understand UM coverage and Texas law concerning UM policies. An inexperienced lawyer can easily make a mistake that would extinguish your UM coverage by an imprudent settlement with the other driver, or by failing to follow the steps which are required to obtain payments from your insurance company's UM coverage. Don't gamble with such important issues: contact us today.
Have you or a loved one been seriously hurt in a car accident with an uninsured driver? Please call Polewski & Associates today at 972-230-6200 to schedule a consultation.