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Hurt in Houston- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist
About 20% of drivers in Texas are uninsured. That percentage may not seem significant, but it means that 1 in 5 Texas drivers does not have insurance.
Why are drivers uninsured? Some cannot afford auto insurance. Others cannot get it. Maybe they have
- DWI convictions
- Multiple accidents
- Suspended license
In other words, uninsured motorists (UM) are riskier than other drivers. So, if you get in an accident, there is a good chance the other driver will be uninsured.
Are Uninsured Drivers Always Responsible for Accidents?
It is illegal to drive without car insurance. A driver who does so may face criminal charges. However, it does not impact who is at fault. To determine who pays for the accident, you still need to look at who caused the accident.
Potential causes include
- Uninsured driver
- Other drivers
- Auto manufacturers
- Government agencies
In many cases, multiple parties share responsibility. The rest of this article explicitly discusses UM and underinsured motorists (UIM). But we will consider all responsible parties when evaluating your case.
Do you know what basic liability insurance is in Texas? It is 30/60/25.
- $30,000 per person for bodily injuries
- $60,000 per accident for bodily injuries
- $25,000 per accident for property damages
Those policies are enough to cover most fender benders. However, damages from a severe accident can easily exceed $30,000 per person. One night in an intensive care unit is about $30,000.
If you are in a wreck with a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover the damages, it is UIM. Unlike UMs, UIMs have the required liability coverage. Their coverage is not enough to pay for your injuries.
Ways to Recover from Uninsured Motorists
How do you recover for damages when the other driver does not have insurance?
- You can sue the UM.
- You can file a claim on your UM/UIM coverage.
- You can claim under your comprehensive coverage.
- You can use your health insurance.
Sue the Driver
Even if a driver is uninsured, you can still sue them for damages. While some people do not have insurance because they cannot afford it, that is not the case for all UMs. If they have the resources to pay a judgment, it can be worthwhile to sue them.
A lawsuit is often a waste of your time and money if they do not have resources. An unenforceable judgment has no monetary value. However, it may have other value to you. For example, if UM or UIM killed your family member, a wrongful death judgment may bring you comfort.
Use Your Health Insurance
If you need immediate care, you will probably start out using your health insurance. However, health insurance comes with
- Out-of-pocket maximums
For many of us, that means we pay out-of-pocket until we hit our deductible. Then, we pay a percentage of costs until we hit the out-of-pocket maximum. It can be thousands of dollars.
We encourage using your health insurance to get immediate care. UM and UIM claims can take a long time to resolve. You do not want to delay care until that happens. But why should you be responsible for the out-of-pocket costs?
Health insurance may be a great way to get immediate care, but it is a terrible long-term solution. Plus, it does not cover damages to your car.
Use Your Comprehensive Coverage
You may have “full coverage” auto insurance. If you have a car loan or lease, you are required to cover the car fully. Full coverage means that your insurance covers your vehicle’s cost and damages in an accident. When both parties have insurance, it protects you when you are at fault. It can also cover you when the other party is uninsured.
Full coverage might include medical bills depending on your policy’s terms. If so, you can get your vehicle and your medical bills covered.
However, there are downsides.
First, you will have to pay a deductible. For most people, the deductible is $500 or $1000, and it comes out of your pocket.
Next, you may still be in the hole. Right now, the used car market is crazy! Will your insurance give you enough to cover medical bills and repair or replace your car?
Finally, your insurance premiums will probably increase if you claim under your comprehensive coverage. That is not true for all policies. Some policies offer accident forgiveness. That means they do not increase your rates after one accident. However, even if your rates stay the same, your category as a driver does not. If you have another accident, you may see a significant rate increase. You will also see rate increases if you comparison shop with other insurers.
File a Claim With Your UM/UIM Coverage
In Texas, many insured people have UM/UIM coverage. It is default coverage in Texas. You have to submit a written form to opt out of the coverage. If you did not, then you probably have it.
If you have UM/UIM coverage, you can claim your insurance without impacting your insurance rates. The UM/UIM coverage is a substitute for the other driver’s insurance company.
What does that mean?
It means that, just like with an insured driver, you have to prove that driver was responsible for the accident to get damages.
What Can a Lawyer Do to Help Me?
If you have an accident with a UM, it can be essential to talk to an attorney. We can help you
- Investigate your accident
- Determine fault
- Help you prove the other driver was negligent and is liable
- Examine your insurance policies
- Examine the uninsured driver’s assets
- Help you determine the best way to proceed
- Document your losses
- File your claim(s)
- Negotiate settlements
- Proceed to trial if we cannot get a fair settlement
How Much Can I Recover?
Just like in other accidents, your damages depend on several factors. The fact that the driver was uninsured is not really one of them. Instead, damages depend on things like
- Why the accident occurred
- The injuries you received
- Your short-term medical expenses
- Your long-term prognosis
- Your earning ability
- Your expenses
Considering those factors, we determine what types of damages to pursue. Potential damages include
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Lost earning power
- Medical expenses
- Mental Anguish
Family members may also have claims. If you lost a loved one in an accident, you could get damages for
- Medical expenses
- Funeral costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of Consortium
You may even be able to recover if a loved one survived. Some injuries lead to loss of consortium as well. Loss of consortium is a fancy way of saying the loss of your prior loving relationship. For example, if your spouse can no longer have sex, you can file a loss of consortium claim. It is not limited to spouses. Accidents can impact other relationships, too. For example, a child might file a loss of consortium claim if a parent can no longer play with them because of serious injuries.
Contact the Salazar Law Firm
UM and UIM cases are complex. We can help you navigate them. Contact us today for a free consultation. Our consultations are no obligation. We evaluate your case and give you options to proceed.