Finding yourself in a car accident can be bad enough, but if the other person doesn’t have insurance or they hit-and-run, you may feel helpless and confused about what to do next. Not only that, but your car is badly damaged and you may very well have sustained an injury. How are you going to be compensated for something that was not your fault?
Briggle & Polan, PLLC are experienced Austin UIM auto accident attorneys who know how to handle insurance negotiations and can handle the entire settlement process so that you can focus on car repairs and healing from your injuries.
Texas Uninsured Motorist Statistics
It’s tough to pinpoint the exact number, but it’s estimated that the number of drivers in Texas without auto insurance hovers between 13 and 20 percent. The nationwide average is approximately 14 percent. One study suggests that 82 percent of drivers with no insurance say they either can’t afford it, or the car is not in use.
Most hit-and-run accidents stem from the perpetrator having no insurance, and bailing from the scene. It’s estimated that hit-and-runs kill 1,500 people per year; almost 60 percent of these victims are pedestrians.
Texas Auto Insurance Law
In Texas, the absolute minimum amount of car accident liability insurance you are allowed to have is $30,000 per bodily injury, $60,000 per accident and $25,000 for property damage. There are a plethora of additional coverage options that aren’t included in the basic insurance package, but are highly recommended. One of them is uninsured/underinsured motorist (UI/UIM) coverage, of which there are two types:
- Bodily injury UM/UIM – 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 UM/UIM – pays for auto repairs, a rental car, and damage to items in your car.
You, your family, passengers in the car and those driving your car with permission would all be covered under these plans. Texas law does stipulate that for you to recover damages under this coverage, your car would actually have to have been hit by the other driver; being run off the road, for example, would not suffice. Usually you have to report the accident within 24 hours otherwise your claim may not be accepted.
If you still owe money on your car, Texas requires that you have collision coverage. If you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist or a hit-and-run driver, then you would file a claim with your own insurance and recover damages from this plan. If your collision or UI/UIM coverage alone isn’t enough, then you would be able to recover from both plans together.
It’s imperative that you read over the details of your policy carefully. It will outline the many situations which could apply to you; for example, if you are a passenger in a vehicle which is in an accident with an uninsured motorist, then the UI coverage from the driver of the vehicle in which you were riding would pay for damages. You would only draw from your own if there’s can’t compensate fully.
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 is proof of financial responsibility) 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 Should I Do if I’m in an Accident with an Uninsured Driver?
This and the hit-and-run situation are very similar; in general you would do the same things that you might in any other accident. If your car is badly damaged or you are injured, dial 911 and seek medical attention immediately. Provide a full report to the police; if you were able to get a glimpse of the driver, or any combination of the make, model and license plate of the vehicle, include that information. Document the scene and talk to any witnesses if applicable.
Seek Council from an Austin Uninsured Accident Attorney
If you’ve been in an accident with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run, handling everything that comes next can be confusing and time-consuming. On top of that, your insurance may try to get you to accept a low settlement.
As the accident attorney team of Briggle & Polan, PLLC, we offer free consultations and you don’t pay anything unless we are successful in your case. Our diligent Austin uninsured accident lawyers will compile evidence, negotiate with insurance and take your case to trial on your behalf if it’s crucial to you being compensated fairly. Contact us today! 512-472-1926