Getting into a car accident is bad enough, but to make it worse you’ve found that the other driver has no or minuscule insurance. They could have also just driven away, as a hit-and-run is quite common if the person who hit you has no insurance. If that happens many thoughts run through your mind, namely how you are going to be compensated for property damage and/or any injuries you may have sustained.
If you’ve been in an accident in the Houston area with an uninsured driver, contact Brian White, an experienced and knowledgeable car accident lawyer. Brian has the expertise to handle a hit-and-run accident claim and will ensure that you are compensated fairly.
Texas Uninsured Driver Statistics
In Texas, data from the Insurance Information Institute shows that 13.3 percent of drivers (although the Texas DMV notes that it could be as high as 20 percent) are uninsured, which is just slightly above the nationwide average. Nationally, the number of uninsured drivers has been in a downward trend over the past 20 years. One study showed that 82 percent of drivers with no insurance say they either can’t afford it, or the car is not in use.
The minimum allowable car insurance coverage for Texas drivers is $30,000 per bodily injury, $60,000 per accident and $25,000 for property damage. This is liability insurance, which is all that’s required by law, but there are many optional coverages available for purchase, particularly Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UI/UIM) insurance.
Penalties For Driving Without Insurance In Texas
Texas has very strict laws when it comes to driving without insurance. If you are pulled over and the officer discovers that you have no insurance, there are escalating variances of fines based upon how many times you’ve been caught. Penalties for driving without insurance and getting in an accident are worse. The fines listed represent the maximum allowable penalties by law.
- First Offense Traffic Stop – Up to $350 fine, plus a $250 annual surcharge which will be assessed for three years. There could also be a penalty the next time you renew your license, and it’s likely that the rates you are offered next time you try to sign up for insurance may be higher than they would be otherwise. For reference, car insurance costs an average of $886 per year in Texas. So already, you’ve paid more for the cost of one ticket than you would have for an entire year of insurance.
- Second Offense Traffic Stop – Fine of $1,000, plus the annual surcharge for three years. Your car can also be impounded for up to 180 days, at a rate of $15 per day; this figures out to $2,700 in total impound fees.
- First Offense Accident – Fines and the annual surcharge are the same as they are for a traffic stop, plus a 180-day impoundment. You would also have to file an SR-22 (which we’ll explain further) for three years after the accident, along with a suspension of your registration and license for up to two years. You would also accept 100 percent liability for the other person’s injuries.
- Second Offense Accident – Fines and the annual surcharge are the same as they are for a traffic stop, plus everything from the first offense in an accident.
- Offense Driving Without a License – $2,000 fine plus up to 180 days in jail.
- Accident Resulting in Serious Injury or Death – $4,000 fine and one year in jail.
All of these come with the potential of a license suspension for an extended period of time as well. If you are at or below 125 percent of the poverty level, you qualify for the indigency program. Your annual surcharge would be reduced to 10 percent of the total charge, and if you fall below the poverty level, you would only have to pay a $25 annual surcharge.
What Is An SR-22?
An SR-22 is not insurance, but rather “proof of financial responsibility.” Along with driving without insurance, you would be required to get one if you are convicted of a DUI, involved in a serious accident, your driver’s license is suspended or revoked, or if you have an excessive amount of violation points on your driving record.
Again, this is not insurance, but a certification of insurance. You do need to get this certificate through an insurance provider, however, which does feel a lot like the regular insurance process. You must file for an SR-22 for three years, after which you can just get normal car insurance, assuming you remain violation-free in that three-year span.
How Can I Be Covered Against Uninsured Drivers?
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UI/UIM) coverage is optional, and therefore not included on most basic car insurance plans. UI/UIM coverage only applies in specific situations, so pay attention to the details of your policy. You may very well have to carry additional insurance (such as collision damage) in order for this to apply in all scenarios. The two types of UI/UIM coverage are:
- Bodily Injury – Pays for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and permanent or partial disability. There is not a deductible with this type.
- Property Damage – Pays for auto repairs, a rental car, and damage to items in your car. There is a $250 deductible.
Each one of these covers you, your family, passengers in the car and those driving your car with permission. There are some limitations, such as if you were to be in an accident with a hit-and-run driver.
In this scenario, you would actually have to be hit by the car; being run off the road would not be sufficient for filing a claim. If you were in a hit-and-run accident, you would have to notify the police within 24 hours. Otherwise, your claim would likely be dismissed. Sometimes you would have to be able to identify the driver or at the very least any combination of the make, model or license plate of the vehicle. Here are some other provisos that apply to UI/UIM coverage:
- If you are in an accident during the course of your employment, then any payment for damages from your worker’s compensation will be subtracted from your UM coverage.
- If you have medical payments coverage and receive compensation for injuries from your insurance under that policy, the amount you are entitled to recover from your UM coverage will be reduced by what you got from medical payments.
- If you are injured by an uninsured motorist while riding in another person’s car, then that person’s UM coverage would be primary. You can collect from your own only what is not covered by the other person’s insurance.
Read your policy, we cannot stress that enough. Know exactly what you are covered for if there are any exceptions, and ask questions of your insurance agent. This can save a lot of extra headaches should you need to file a claim.
Filing a Claim Against An Uninsured Driver
If you were in a hit-and-run accident or one with an uninsured driver, you would likely file a claim with your own insurance in the same manner as you would for a normal liability claim. You must let your agent know right away even if you so much as suspect the other driver may not even have adequate insurance. The adjuster will discuss the other driver’s liability, the extent of your negligence as well as how bad your injuries are.
Because you are technically filing a claim against your own insurer, you cannot sue them if you disagree on their settlement. Instead, you would go to binding arbitration. This is a hearing in front of an arbitrator (or potentially a panel of three) and they would make the decision. The losing side has very limited rights to appeal whatever decision they reach and usually has to just live with what the arbitrator declares.
Why Hire An Attorney?
If you were in an accident with an uninsured motorist, hiring a lawyer should be one of the first things you do. Attorney Brian White has fought for fair compensation on behalf of many people, and he has handled car accident cases of all types. A lawyer can help you negotiate with insurance, file the proper paperwork, and ensure you receive payment for all damages. Call Brian White for a free consultation.