Texas law is clear that every driver must maintain financial responsibility (auto insurance). But, the truth of the matter is that there are thousands of drivers on Texas roads who are underinsured with a minimum policy or not insured at all. What this means is that if you are hit and injured in a car wreck by one of these uninsured or underinsured drivers, you may have to use your own insurance to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, lost ability to work and/or other damages.
What can you do to protect yourself if you are injured in an accident caused by an underinsured or uninsured driver?
We recommend that you carry a significant amount of uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) protection insurance. These policies, which typically only cost you a few dollars per month, ensure that if you are injured by an underinsured or uninsured motorist you and your attorney will have a policy to pursue to properly compensate you for your injuries.
What are the minimum requirements of insurance in Texas and what else can you do to protect yourself?
Texas law requires that a driver have at least $30,000 of coverage for injuries per person, and a total of $60,000 per accident. Insurance companies also offer an option called personal injury protection (PIP). While some states require that drivers carry PIP, Texas does not. PIP is an additional option that provides coverage specifically for injuries sustained in a car wreck. Most people carry $2,500 in coverage under their PIP – this is the minimum coverage required to be “offered” in Texas when you purchase an auto insurance policy. PIP not only pays medical bills but, 80% of your lost income and reasonable household duties. You can purchase even higher limits of PIP through your insurance company and you should get as much PIP coverage as you can. Most insurance companies will sell you at least $10,000 in coverage under PIP, some even more.
Ultimately, if you are injured in a car wreck, your own PIP insurance would be the first policy to pay towards your damages before you can start to pursue the driver’s insurance who hit you.
Why the minimum coverage (and PIP) typically aren’t enough.
Often times, when you’re seriously injured, using your PIP and having the minimum amount of coverage to go after against the driver who hit you just isn’t enough. This is especially (and obviously) the case if the at-fault driver is uninsured. This is where your UIM/UM policy kicks in. If you don’t have UIM/UM coverage under your own policy, then you could be out of luck.
With UM and UIM insurance, claims that exceed your own PIP and the at-fault driver’s insurance will be covered up to the limits of your UM/UIM policy. Because of the vast amount of driver’s in Texas who are either underinsured or uninsured, in many cases UM/UIM policies are one of the only coverages available for your attorney to seek to compensate you for your injuries.
Do you need an attorney for UM/UIM cases?
Yes you do. First and foremost, you need an advocate to make sure you’re getting the most out of your claim against the at-fault driver. But if the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured and you have UM/UIM coverage, that doesn’t just mean that your own insurance company is going to automatically hand over the limits of your own UM/UIM policy.
When a driver seeks to be compensated out of their own UM/UIM coverage, they are often times still met with resistance by their own insurance company. The insurance company will still do what they can to pay you as little as possible (they’re a business and unfortunately, you’re often times still treated more like a number than an injured person). An attorney’s job is to break this mentality and advocate for you to be treated fairly and be taken seriously by these insurance companies – not just treated as another number in their computer programs.
What can you do if your own insurance company is not fairly compensating you under your UM/UIM policy?
The first step is to retain our firm to represent you. We’ll advocate for you and work to maximize your claim not only against the at-fault driver’s insurance company but with your insurance provider as well if you’re covered under a UM/UIM policy. Ultimately, if negotiations do not produce a fair offer from your insurance company, you may even bring suit to pursue a fair outcome against your UM/UIM policy.
To speak with an attorney about insurance policies that might be available in your case – including UM/UIM coverage – please contact our office for a free initial consultation.