1 in 8 Texas drivers are not insured
Texas law requires every driver to have liability insurance in case they cause a crash. But many people drive without car insurance anyway. Some can't afford it. Some don't care who they might hurt. What happens if you are injured by an uninsured driver? What if they do have insurance but not enough to cover your losses? What if you are the victim of a hit-and-run?
These scenarios are covered by Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist, or UM/UIM. You probably have this coverage on your own auto insurance policy. This protects you if the driver who hit you has no insurance or too little insurance.
If an uninsured driver caused your crash
Normally, the other driver's insurance pays your losses if that driver was at fault. But according to insurance industry statistics, about 13 percent of all Texas drivers -- 1 of every 8 cars on the road -- have no insurance. You can file the claim under your UM/UIM provision. Your insurance company will pay your bodily injury losses (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, permanent injury), up to the limits of your policy.
If the driver who hit you was "underinsured"
The minimim liability insurance under Texas law is 25/50/25:
- The first number means that the other driver's policy will pay up to $25,000 per person for bodily injury damages.
- The second number is the maximum that the driver's policy will cover for one accident -- $50,000 total to be shared by all victims.
- The third number is for property damage -- up to $25,000 to repair or replace your vehicle and other personal property.
Hundreds of thousands of Texans carry only this legal minimum, which may not be enough in a crash. The monetary damages from a serious injury accident can easily exceed $25,000 for a single person or $50,000 for a carful of people. If the other party's liability policy falls short of your losses, your UIM policy should pay the difference, up to your policy limits.
If the other driver fled the scene
A hit-and-run accident is treated like an uninsured motorist. If the driver who caused your crash left the scene without being identified, your UM/UIM insurance should cover your losses.
Many valid UM/UIM claims are denied. Get a lawyer.
Insurance companies often reject uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) claims, or try to pay less than the policy limits. You need that money and you deserve it. A good car accident lawyer will know UM/UIM law and how to hold the insurer to its obligation. (The lawyer can also gauge whether to file suit against the negligent driver's personal assets.) Most personal injury firms offer a free consultation and work on contingency -- you pay no attorney fees unless they recover compensation. Without legal representation, it will be difficult to recover full compensation (if any) in an uninsured/underinsured situation.
One last thing. Do you know your UM/UIM coverage?
Most experts recommend you be insured for at least $100,000 per person/$250,000 per accident as a hedge against a catastrophic car wreck. Talk to your insurance agent. It is relatively cheap to increase UM/UIM coverage, and the protection is priceless if someone in your family is struck by an uninsured driver. One in eight -- those are scary odds.