Car accidents are jarring enough on their own. When the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, things become a lot more complicated. Since Texas is an at-fault state for motor vehicle accidents, how will you get the financial compensation you need to cover medical bills, lost wages, and other damages due to the collision? In this blog, the personal injury lawyers at the Villarreal & Begum, LAW GUNS review your options and outline recommended next steps.
Understanding Uninsured Drivers in Texas
In Texas, like most states, auto insurance is not just a prudent choice; it’s a legal requirement. To drive legally in the state, individuals must carry minimum liability insurance coverage that meets specific criteria:
- $30,000 for physical injury or death per person in an accident
- $60,000 total for physical injury or death per accident involving multiple parties
- $25,000 for property damage per accident
These minimums serve as a baseline to ensure that drivers can cover the costs associated with accidents they may cause. However, it’s important to note that these amounts might not fully cover the damages in serious accidents, which is why additional coverage is often recommended.
Uninsured drivers pose a special challenge because they operate a vehicle without a valid auto insurance policy. This means that when they get into an accident, they don’t have the coverage needed to compensate any parties they may have injured, forcing injured victims to seek other types of financial recovery.
Recent statistics indicate that the uninsured motorist rate in Texas stands at approximately 8.3%. This means that nearly 1 in 12 drivers in the state may lack the insurance coverage required by law. These numbers highlight the importance of being prepared and understanding what to do after an accident involving uninsured drivers.
How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work?
Uninsured Motorist Coverage is an optional insurance add-on that you can include in your own auto policy. While Texas law doesn’t require you to carry UMC, it’s highly recommended due to the prevalence of uninsured drivers on the roads. UMC essentially steps in to provide coverage when you’re involved in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have insurance, or in some cases, when the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient to cover your damages.
Coverage generally includes:
- Medical Expenses: If you’re injured in an accident with an uninsured driver, UMC can help cover your medical expenses, including hospital bills, doctor visits, and rehabilitation costs. It ensures that you don’t have to shoulder these expenses on your own.
- Lost Wages: Being injured in an accident can result in missed workdays and lost wages. UMC can provide compensation for the income you’ve lost due to your injuries, helping you maintain financial stability during your recovery.
- Property Damage: UMC doesn’t just cover bodily injuries. It can also help pay for damages to your vehicle or other property that resulted from the accident with an uninsured driver.
Can You File a Lawsuit Against an Uninsured Driver?
You can file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver in Texas if you’ve been involved in an accident and sustained damages as a result of their negligence. However, it’s important to note that while you have the legal right to pursue a personal injury claim, there are several factors to consider before deciding to take this course of action.
- Liability: To have a valid lawsuit, you need to establish that the uninsured driver was at fault for the accident. This involves demonstrating that their negligence or recklessness caused the collision and your resulting injuries or damages. Even If you are partially responsible for an accident, you can still sue for damages under Texas’ modified comparative negligence standard. However, if you are found to be more than 50% to blame for an accident, you cannot recover any damages.
- Collecting Damages: Even if you win a lawsuit against an uninsured driver, the challenge often lies in collecting damages. If the driver doesn’t have insurance, they may not have the financial resources to cover the awarded damages.
- Personal Assets: It’s possible that the uninsured driver might have personal assets that could be used to cover the damages. However, this can be difficult to assess, and even if assets are identified, there’s no guarantee that they will be sufficient to cover your losses.
Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is highly recommended if you’re considering filing a lawsuit against an uninsured driver. An accident attorney can help you assess the viability of your case and guide you through the legal process.
What If The Other Driver Is Uninsured But Driving An Insured Vehicle?
In many cases, the insurance coverage of the vehicle involved in the accident may extend to cover damages even when the driver is uninsured. Auto insurance policies often provide collision coverage for permissive users, which includes individuals who have permission to drive the insured vehicle.
Texas has a concept called “negligent entrustment,” which could hold the owner liable for entrusting their vehicle to an unfit driver. Depending on the situation, you might have the option to pursue legal action against the owner of the car that struck you. Consulting with a personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal options and the best course of action.
Should You Rely On Your Health Insurance For Medical Coverage?
If you choose to rely on your private health insurance to cover your medical expenses after an accident with an uninsured driver, you would likely be required to pay your deductible and co-pays. These costs can add up quickly and place a financial burden on you, especially if your injuries require extensive medical care.
It is also important to note that health insurance policies often have coverage limits and exclusions. Certain medical treatments, therapies, or services may not be fully covered by your policy, leaving you responsible for those expenses. This can be particularly problematic if you have long-term care needs as a result of the accident.
Steps to Take After an Accident with an Uninsured Driver
Regardless of whether the negligent driver is insured or not, it’s crucial to prioritize safety after a collision. Contact law enforcement to report the accident, especially if there are injuries or significant damage. If you or anyone else involved is injured, seek medical attention promptly.
Other recommended steps include:
- Document the Accident Scene and Gather Evidence: While still at the scene, gather as much evidence as possible. Take photos of the accident scene, including vehicle positions, damages, and any relevant road signs or conditions. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver, even if they’re uninsured. You should also collect contact information from any witnesses and ask for a copy of the police report.
- Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company: Provide accurate and detailed information about the incident, including the date, time, location, the other driver’s information, and a description of the accident. Review Your Policy’s Coverage for Uninsured
- Motorists: Review your insurance policy to understand what coverage you have in place, especially if you have Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC). Your insurance provider can explain how UMC works, what it covers, and any potential policy limits.
If you’ve sustained significant injuries that could exceed any coverage, it’s strongly recommended to consult with a personal injury lawyer. An experienced lawyer can help you:
- Understand the legal implications of your situation and potential options for seeking compensation.
- Assess the value of your claim, taking into account medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering costs, and other damages.
- Deal with insurance companies and negotiate a fair settlement.
- Determine if filing a personal injury lawsuit against the uninsured driver or pursuing other legal action is appropriate for your case.
If you have suffered a catastrophic injury, having an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side can maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation and a smoother resolution of your claim.
Get a Free Consultation From a Texas Car Accident Lawyer Today
While the law in Texas requires auto insurance coverage, the reality is that accidents with uninsured drivers do happen. The prevalence of these incidents serves as a reminder of the importance of preparation. Uninsured motorist coverage offers a safety net, but in cases where it isn’t sufficient, seeking the guidance of a personal injury lawyer becomes paramount, particularly when significant injuries are involved.
At the Villarreal & Begum, LAW GUNS, our commitment to your claim extends beyond the legal aspects – we genuinely care about your well-being and want to alleviate the burden that these situations can bring. Let us guide you through the claim process and work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your case. To schedule a free initial consultation, call (512) 800-0000 or contact us online today.
Alex has tried over 50 trials to verdict and tried or settled over five hundred million dollars in cases. Alexander Begum is a founding shareholder of the Villareal & Begum Law Firm. Born and raised in Texas.