Have You Been in an Accident with an Uninsured or Under-Insured Texas Motorist? Our Law Office Can Help!
In Texas, numerous drivers are on the roads without car insurance or without the proper level of car insurance. The Insurance Research Council estimates that Texas drivers have a 14% chance of getting into a car wreck with an uninsured driver. What happens if an uninsured driver causes a car accident?
There May Actually be Coverage
Many drivers will simply pretend not to have insurance when they cause an accident. Some drivers actually do not have insurance but many more are simply lying and are trying to scam you to keep their own insurance premiums low. While this is certainly illegal, it is also hard for police to track and the responsibility to catch the defendant falls on you.
Scam 1: They Pretend That They Don’t Have Insurance
This is quite an effective little scam whereby someone will cause an accident, claim that they don’t have any insurance, the police will arrive and issue them a citation for not having insurance (or possibly, they will be arrested), and then they will simply take their insurance card to the courthouse at a later date and will get the ticket dismissed or charges dropped. Unfortunately, many people fall for this scam. The solution is to hire an attorney that can investigate the defendant. We have ways of tracking down their insurance information and holding them accountable.
Scam 2: They Claim There is no Insurance on a Particular Vehicle
In this scam, the person who causes an accident is borrowing a vehicle from a friend or relative. They will cause an accident and the car they are driving does not have insurance, but their own car does. When you have insurance on your own vehicle and you drive someone else’s vehicle, often time your insurance will cover that other vehicle as well. The way to determine whether the driver’s insurance is applicable to a car they are borrowing is to hire an attorney that can investigate and examine the policy for specific language and legalese.
Scam 3: The Owner Lets an Uninsured Driver Borrow Their Car
This is a scam that is really the handiwork of the insurance company. You will get hit by a car that the owner has insured, but the owner lent the car to a driver with no insurance of their own and that driver causes the accident. When you contact the insurance company to file your claim (you should never file an injury claim without an attorney helping you) they tell you that the claim is denied because the vehicle policy only covers the owner of the vehicle and not a friend that he or she lent the car to.
This is a perfect example of the insurance company using your ignorance of the law against you. While the insurance company is technically right (they only insure the negligent actions of the owner and not of other drivers) the borrower that causes the accident is not the only one acting negligently. The owner of the car may very well be negligent under a legal theory known as “negligent entrustment”, provided you can prove that they knowingly lent their vehicle to a driver that they knew to be likely to cause an accident. This is a very specific legal tactic that does not always apply to every case and if handled wrong may result in a countersuit against you so you must hire an experienced attorney to handle such a claim for you.
Scam 4: Excluded Drivers
The caveat to the material mentioned in Scam 3 is that people can specifically exclude certain drivers from their policy. For example, if the vehicle’s owner has a 16-year-old child living in their household, the insurance company will raise their rates whether the child is known to be driving the car or not, simply because of the risk of them possibly driving the car is considerable. However, if the vehicle owner amends their policy to specifically exclude the 16-year-old driver, then the insurance company is accurate in saying that the policy technically does not cover that driver. So if this minor driver does borrow the family car and causes an accident, the insurance company will maintain that they do not cover that driver and that your claim is invalid. By excluding such a driver, the insurance policy probably would not cover the negligent entrustment claim. In such a case, filing a suit against the vehicle’s owner or the guardian of the child (usually the same) may be your only option.
Scam 5: A False Claim That the Car was Stolen
The more you know about the law, the more you realize that friends and family that give pseudo-legal advice about the law are usually wrong. Most of the “conventional wisdom” about how to avoid liability is all nonsense. One such rumor is that if someone you lend your car and they cause an accident, you can just report the car as stolen and then your insurance company won’t have to pay anything and you can just get away without any hit against your insurance policy. That is not accurate. Unfortunately, the police don’t often have the time to delve into every such accusation far enough to determine that the vehicle owner is lying. By hiring an experienced Texas car accident attorney you can ensure that scams like this are uncovered and exposed. Our attorneys have helped thousands of car accident victims and we can typically help people who are the victims of these types of scams as well.
Another Option: Your Own Policy’s Supplemental Coverage
In the event that the other driver genuinely does not have any insurance coverage, you may be able to file a claim against your own policy. Many people are rather disinterested in this since they feel like they are hurting themselves by filing such a claim. On the contrary, that is precisely what certain portions of your policy are for and, if handled properly, you will not risk hurting your insurability. Not filing an uninsured motorist claim when the situation legitimately warrants such action is like buying health insurance and then paying your doctor in cash. It just doesn’t make any sense.
It’s Not Quite That Easy
However, filing an injury claim against your own policy is not the same, and filing a property damage claim. Your own insurance company will put forth great effort to keep you from receiving the compensation you deserve because, frankly, they sell the additional coverage to your liability policy (known as a “rider” or “add on”) hoping that you never use it.
The state legislature recognizes this problem with insurance companies trying to sell policies that they have no intention of paying out on. As such, they have passed laws that enable the plaintiff’s attorneys to sue an insurance carrier on behalf of their clients in the event that the carrier unfairly denies a claim that a policyholder makes on their own policy. But it’s a delicate process and certainly one that only the most experienced attorneys should attempt.
How a UIM or UM Claim Works
Texas car insurance law requires that all motorists carry basic liability coverage in the event a driver causes a car accident. The minimum level of insurance coverage is rarely enough to cover all the actual expenses of a car accident, including medical bills, lost wages or salary, property damage, and other general damages. Drivers without enough insurance to provide adequate compensation for actual damages following a car wreck are called underinsured motorists, or UIM for short. Drivers without any car insurance are called uninsured motorists, or UM for short. Uninsured motorists can also include hit-and-run drivers or unidentified drivers who cause an accident.
By law, your car insurance company is required to offer additional insurance coverage that covers your expenses if you are in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. This type of insurance is called UM/UIM coverage. Take a quick look at your insurance policy: if you have uninsured and/or underinsured motorist accident coverage, it will be on the face of your policy and lists three numbers you can recover from your own insurance company if the other party is uninsured or underinsured. These three amounts are known as bodily injury damage, maximum injury coverage, and property damage coverage. A policy that states “UM/UIM 20/40/15” is interpreted to make that the insurance provider will pay up to $20,000 for bodily injury to any one person, up to a maximum of $40,000 to all people involved in the accident, and up to $5,000 for any property damage by all parties combined if the other driver who caused the accident is uninsured or underinsured.
Bodily injury damage coverage provides for medical expenses, pain, suffering, disfigurement, mental turmoil, lost income, and permanent disability. There is no deductible to meet with bodily injury coverage.
Property damage coverage provides for damage to your car or most other property in the car at the time of the accident. This coverage also provides for a rental car while your personal car is with a mechanic for repair. Property damage coverage requires a deductible to be paid by you and is set by the state at a minimum of $250.
If you carry uninsured or underinsured coverage as part of your personal car insurance policy, these amounts are available to you in the event you are involved in an accident where the other party cannot meet their legal and financial obligations to you. However, your means of collecting these sums of money fall under the normal personal injury claim obligations whereby you have the burden to prove that your own insurance company has to compensate you. To perfectly clear, your insurance company will not just give you money. You have the burden to prove that they should compensate you. Technically, you have up to four years after the date of the accident to claim any UM/UIM benefits available to you through your own insurance company. But the primary way that your attorney will compel your insurance company to compensate you is to through the threat of filing a bad-faith lawsuit if they unfairly deny your claim. This lawsuit can only be filed within a year from the date of the unfair denial so the aforementioned four year period is largely irrelevant and the issue should be addressed sooner than later.
Be warned: even your own insurance company will be reluctant to provide you with any funds following your car wreck. It is strongly recommended you contact our Law Office to protect your legal rights to your own insurance coverage – or risk settling for much less than you rightfully deserve.
If you do not carry this type of coverage, other options may be available, depending on your personal situation. These options vary depending on the severity and necessity of your particular case but may provide you and your family with enough compensation that you need. A Texas car wreck lawyer experienced in cases of uninsured and underinsured motorists will help you get the compensation you and your family are entitled to following a car wreck in Texas. Call him today to determine the best options for your family and to get the compensation you deserve.
This Blog was posted By The Carabin & Shaw Law Firm. principle Office in San Antonio, Texas